Website vs Web App

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 15, 2022  •  6 min read  •  Tech
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Comparing a website and a web app might seem important in today’s world. With the explosion of apps on smartphones, tablets, and computers, they could be viewed as the next big thing. Whether you’re looking at the comparison of a website and web app for your business, or for another reason, it’s important to know what these are.

Before you look at the differences between the two, understanding each can help. Let’s look at what each of these is and how a website and a web app are different.

What is a Website?

Computer Hope defines a website as “a central location of web pages that are related and accessed by visiting the home page of the website using a browser.” Unless you’ve been living without technology, you already know what a website is and this definition probably seems overcomplicated.

You likely visit multiple websites every day. You might look at them as home pages, but that is just one page of the website. While a homepage can be the only page of a website, often, websites are made up of several pages.

What is a Web App?

A Web App or Web Application is, “a program allowing better communication between businesses and their customers.” This is according to an article from Indeed.com. With the internet continuing to grow, more web apps are being used than ever before.

Another way to put it, a web app is a website with interactive elements and more functionality. For example, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and YouTube are actually web apps, not websites. They are dynamic and built to create user engagement, which makes them quite different.

Website vs Web App: The Key Differences

It’s not uncommon for people to think a website and a web app are the same things. Many might not even realize what a web app is and may think it’s the same as an app on their smartphone. However, there are some key differences between the two.

Interactive Elements

While a website can be very engaging, it won’t have any interactive elements. A website can be very large and allow you to go very deep into a topic, but it won’t provide any interactive features.

As soon as a website goes from providing content to providing an interactive feature, it becomes a web app. However, a website can link to web apps and still remain a website. For example, a website might link to a payment web app that you go to when it’s time to process the payment.

Web apps offer interactive elements, while websites only offer static content.

Complexity and Design

When it comes to how complex a website is vs a web app, there’s a glaring difference. There is another difference found in the way both will be designed.

A web app is going to be very complex, while a website has very simple functionality. If you design a web app, it will need to be precompiled before it goes live. A website can be live while it is being designed.

Websites don’t have to do much more than provide content for the user to read, watch, or listen to. However, a web app will likely process something, provide interactive elements, and offer other tools. This makes a web app much more complex than a website.

Authentication

You won’t need to provide any authentication to visit a website. For example, if you go to a marketing website, you can simply go to the website and browse around.

With a web app, you will need to provide some authentication, in most cases. You may be able to browse around, but at some point, you will need to log in or provide some sort of authentication.

For example, if you go to Facebook or any other social media website, you will need to log in. Without logging in, the functionality is limited or you may not be able to do anything.

Who They Are Created For?

While it’s easy to look at both a website and a web app and say they are created for the public, this isn’t exactly true. A website is created for the public. Anybody can access it from anywhere with an internet connection.

However, a web app is created for the end-user. With a web app, such as Twitter, you become a user in order to use the application.

Cost

If you’re looking to develop a website or a web app, you will find a big difference in the cost, as well. Websites are often much cheaper to develop than web apps.

WebsiteBuilderExpert.com states in an article updated in January of 2022, that the average cost to build a website can range from $200 to $10,000. This doesn’t include the ongoing costs of maintenance or hosting. It’s cheaper if you do the work yourself, compared to hiring a professional website designer.

While you can build a web app for around $2,000, if you only need something simple, a full-featured web app will start at a cost of about $10,000. Clockwise.Software puts the cost of a SaaS web app at anywhere from $8,000 to $100,000. If you need to develop an ERP system, expect the cost to come in between $15,000 and $50,000.

Even a marketplace app, which can be rather common, has a high price tag. You can expect to spend $25,000 to $50,000 if you want an app similar to Etsy.

Websites and web apps are similar and often people will call a web app a website. This happens all the time because you need to get on a web browser to access both. However, they are very different.

If you’re trying to figure out which one is best for you, starting with a website probably makes quite a bit of sense. Even if you plan to develop a web app, you will likely need a website. However, if you have no desire or need for a web app, a website will likely fit best.

Most small businesses will have a website in today’s world. Some will also have web apps. Understanding the differences can help you make the right decision.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.