Website vs Web App: What’s the Difference?

Website vs Web App: What’s the Difference?

At Essential Designs, we often get mistaken for a web design company, which is an entirely different bag of worms than what we do (web application development). We have focused our business less on web design, and more on data-driven software development. This includes mobile applications, web applications, and custom software. Here?s a simplified rundown on the difference between a Website versus Web App.


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We know these. You?re on one! Websites, accessible through browsers, display useful content. They are navigable and can present digital content, images, video, and audio. Websites (vs web apps) are static, meaning the content doesn?t update dynamically. Most sites are built using HTML, CSS, and maybe some JavaScript.

Websites are one-way informational feeds, they do not allow viewers to interact or communicate back to the site. Mobile websites are designed specifically for smaller touch screens, and responsive design websites automatically adjust to the size and type of browser in which they are being displayed.

Web Apps

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Web applications are websites with functionality and interactive elements. Gmail, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. are all web apps that are dynamic, and built for user engagement.

Because web apps are extremely customizable and can perform a wide range of functionality, they are generally more difficult to build and require an experienced team of software developers. A web application is computer software accessed through a web browser, often connected to a database to provide an interactive experience specific to the individual using it. In Web Apps, Data can be referenced, stored, and accessed through a customized interface to simplify the delivery of information to your customer.

Examples of great Websites: ? while this could be confused for a web app because of the size and depth, there are no interactive elements to the site. To use interactive features like Paying a parking ticket, you are taken to an external web app link. ? a very pretty, but simple agency website. ? a beautifully functional portfolio/design site with an emphasis on responsive design for mobile viewers. ? filmmaking group with several locations, with video feed directly on their website.

Examples of great Web Apps: ? the Gmail web app is responsive for any device, and they?ve built connected native apps for Android and iOS devices as well. It is a powerful and simple app with functionality like Email, Calendar, Google Drive, live chat, and more. ? the social media platform who invented the 128 char ?tweet?. With a simplified layout, moderated content and powerful servers, it is easy to see how 13 years in the making, it is one of the most widely used social media platforms on the planet. ? while it can deceptively appear like a brochure, informational website, Wikipedia is actually a powerful, multilingual web app. The Wiki knowledge base enables users to view and collaboratively modify content and structure of it?s pages directly from their web browsers. ? a powerful aggregator of data, Kayak collects flight, hotel, and rental car information from a slew of websites then filters and organizes the content presented to the User based on their search criteria. ? one of the most powerful shopping platforms on the planet, Amazon is also one of the largest cloud computing platforms, as well as distributing video, music and audiobooks through various subsidiaries.

By Mary MacPherson, Digital Marketing Manager @Essential Designs

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Mary is a popular Vancouver DJ and has been working in the high tech field since her inception as a web developer at Newbridge Networks in 1996.


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