Let’s Compare: Websites and Web Applications

Hey guys! In this article, we are going to compare websites and web applications! As a beginner web developer, say you have built a simple portfolio site using HTML, CSS and some JavaScript. Does that make your portfolio a website, a web application or both? Let’s find out!

What Are Applications?

WhatsApp Messenger, Microsoft Word and Google Chrome are popular examples of software applications (‘apps’ in short) which are designed to serve a specific purpose of the user. They require the user to interact with the app’s user interface and such interactions produce useful results.

Related: Let’s “Like” A YouTube Video using Pure JavaScript!

Representational image showing mobile apps

Apps Are Also Written for The Web

The world of application software can be classified into 3 main platforms:

  1. Desktop (Photoshop, Visual Studio and others),
  2. Mobile (Instagram, Uber and others) and finally,
  3. Web (Facebook, Gmail, Amazon and others)

As such, websites like Gmail and Facebook are applications written for the web and accessed with a web browser.

Static and Dynamic Websites

On the website side of things, they can be divided into two groups, static and dynamic.

Static websites contain fixed content (static) which does not change to a user’s interactions with the website. Examples are blogging websites, portfolio sites, recipe sites etc.

Dynamic websites, on the other hand, are interactive and almost always manipulate data in some or the other way based on the user’s actions. For example, flight tracking websites will show live data of flights and the user can filter to find a particular flight to track.

Related: Let’s Customize A Bootstrap Button!

Representational image showing a web application

Dynamic Websites Qualify As Web Applications

If your project contains parts that use some scripting language (client or server-side) to make the site interactive for the user, then it is a web application. Just like mobile or desktop applications, web applications can be both simple and complex.

Simple web applications facilitate basic updation and deletion of data. For example, the admin portal of a library’s website.

Complex web applications, on the other hand, may facilitate many users to interact with each other (social networks), manage email (Gmail) or shop online (Flipkart and Amazon).

Wrapping up

Just like mobile and desktop apps, web apps also offer interactive experiences. The differences are:

  • They are hosted on a server,
  • Require a web browser for accessing and
  • Can be used without installation.

Their reliability has kickstarted the realm of Progressive Web Apps which are web applications that can be deployed natively on mobile and desktop platforms. You can read more about them here.

Related: Progressive Web Applications (PWA) Explained

Unlike mobile and desktop apps, web apps are easier to maintain and update without causing device-specific issues. They require significantly less storage space (LocalStorage, cookies, etc) on the client-side while being almost as featureful as their mobile counterparts.