Websites vs Web Applications

As a beginner web developer, you may be wondering if your web project qualifies as a web application. Traditionally we grew up using applications (apps) on our smartphones and PCs which do not require a browser to run. Still we find many instances online where a website, that we access and use through a web browser like Google Chrome, is regarded as a web app.

What are applications?

WhatsApp Messenger, Microsoft Word and Google Chrome are popular examples of software applications 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.

Applications Are Also Written for The Web

The world of application software can be classified into 3 main platforms: Desktop (Photoshop, Visual Studio and others), Mobile (Instagram, Uber and others) and finally 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 which do not change to a user’s actions on 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.

Dynamic Websites Qualify As Web Applications

If your project contains parts that use some or the other scripting languages (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, facilitating basic updating and deletion of data (the admin portal of a library’s website) and complex, facilitating 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 are the same interactive experiences, the only difference being they are hosted on a server, they require a web browser for accessing and can be used without installation on the client side. Unlike mobile and desktop apps, web apps are easier to maintain and update without causing device specific issues, they require significantly less storage space on the client-side while being almost as featureful as their mobile counterparts. Their reliability has kickstarted Progressive Web Apps, web applications that can be deployed natively on mobile and desktop platforms. You can read more about them here.