The website that you see on your browser may actually be a web app. Do not be surprised. It is a fact!
Many non-technical people still do not know the difference between a website and a web application. For them, anything which shows on their browser is a website.
But do you know that an e-commerce website that does business is actually a web app? Facebook is also a web app when viewed on your browser. So what categorizes as a website and as a web app? If you are interested to know what is the difference between a website and a webapp, here we have it for you.
What is a website?
When the concept of the website was first introduced, it was just a static website- meaning, the user would be able to read the informative content without any interaction.
Then came the dynamic websites, where information from the database was fetched, on request, to show to the user on the website.
Like, when your website has a blog section, it becomes a dynamic website because the blog is fetched from the database and displayed on the browser when the user asks for it.
Even for an e-commerce site, when the user clicks on a product, its specifications and price is fetched from the database and displayed on the website.
What is a web app?
The natural progression of the dynamic website was the web app. Dynamic websites are informative but provided for limited interaction.
The solution came in the form of web apps. A web app is different from a website in the sense that it provides interactivity. The user can read the content and manipulate it. The interaction is that the user clicks on something and gets a response. The response may be downloading an audio file, payment, online chat, resizing an image, and so on.
The web app is a client-server application that is stored in a remote server and runs on a web browser. Clients access this app from their browser without having to install it on their device.
Let us go back to the example of blogs on a dynamic website. The user can click on any blog link and that particular blog is fetched and displayed. The user can just read the blog but any changes are not allowed. So, it is minimal interaction.
Now, take this dynamic website a step further and include a chatbot. Is it not a full-fledged two-way interaction? The user can type in his queries through the chatbot. The chatbot will reply as needed. This chatbot is a web app component.
Let us recall the e-commerce website example. As long as it fetched product information from the database and displayed it on user request, it was a dynamic website.
But you need to sell it online to your users, right? So now, include a payment gateway so that users can purchase any product. Here, the transaction involves multiple to and fro interactions with the user, database, payment gateway server, and so on. So, the payment gateway can be defined as a web app component in the dynamic e-commerce website.
When such web app components are included and your website becomes more of an interaction site, it can be termed as a web app instead of a website.
Online banking, Facebook and Gmail are good examples of web apps. Here, these are interactive web apps. It exists because the interaction is what defines it.
A static website is a thing of the past. Websites today have at least some web app components in them.
While websites have more information content and less interaction, web apps are designed solely for interaction purposes.
A web app requires three things-
1. A web server to manage requests from the client.
2. An application server to perform the requested tasks
3. A database to store information (may not be required for simple tasks).
How does a web app work?
The user triggers a request (dynamic page) to the web server through his browser (HTTP)
The web server finds the page and forwards this request to the application server (app server)
The app server performs the requested task by scanning page for instructions
The app server may query the database or process the data.
The database driver executes the query.
The recordset is passed to the app server by the driver.
The app server sends back the generated result to the web server by inserting data in the page.
The web server displays the result of the requested information on the user’s browser.
Some popular examples of web apps:
Online form submission, shopping carts, video and photo editing, file scanning, email programs, file conversions, online calculators are all web apps.
Some popular examples of web apps are Facebook, Google Docs, Gmail.
What are the advantages of web apps?
1. Web apps run on compatible browsers on all the devices and operating systems
2. They need not be installed on the device thus saving space
3. Low maintenance cost when compared to mobile apps
4. Updates are quickly visible with just a refresh.
5. Users get the latest data access wherever they are located.
6. The data is more secure than mobile apps.
7. A web app is easily customizable and scalable.
8. It allows for easier sharing of data between different platforms and computer systems.
9. The in-built user-tracking system makes it easy to get an insight into viewer preferences.
10. Web apps can be cached so that even when the user is offline, some amount of static data is visible.
11. Since web apps need not be installed like mobile apps, users need to just log in and use it. Web apps have higher usage rates than mobile apps.
12. It helps users to access their professional work stored in the cloud from any location.
Thus, a website and a web app differ in the 3 main areas-
1. Interaction- A website offers more information. A web app offers interaction.
2. Authentication-A website requires no authentication. A web app requires user login and password so that unauthorized access and leakage of sensitive data is prevented.
3. Integration- A web app is more suited to integration with other software.
Now that you know the difference between a website and a web app, make a website if you need it just to provide business information. For online businesses where payment gateway integration is required, web apps provide useful customer interaction. Get in touch with an expert website development company to know which is best suited to your business- a website or a web app.