Are you busy creating something new for the web, but unsure what form it should take?
Before you invest your time and money into building that new feature, it’s important to understand the difference between a website, a web app and a downloadable application so that you make the right choice about what you’re going to build. Each has its uses, but a web app adds some essential features to your business’s web presence.
Websites, Downloadable Apps, and Web Apps: What Are They?
Let’s start with a simple website. If you’re reading this, then you know what a website is — an online display of information that you access through a web browser.
Chances are you know what an application (or app) is, too. It’s a piece of software that you download via an app store that runs on your mobile device or personal computer. Apps and websites are the standard tools that most people use every day to conduct their online lives.
So then…what is a web app? They fall somewhere between a website and an app, and there are many advantages of web apps.
A web app is application software that runs in a web browser, as opposed to computer-based software that runs locally on the operating system of your device. That means you don’t have to download or install it on your mobile or desktop to use it, but you do need to be online and using a browser for access.
Many companies have all of the above in their offerings. For example, if you are using Zoom for a meeting, you can go to the company’s website, then either use the Zoom desktop or mobile app, which have to be downloaded and installed on your device or open Zoom in a browser window and use it as a web app.
Web App vs. Website: What’s the Difference?
Because you access web apps in a browser just like a website, the distinctions between the two can be murky. However, there are several clear differences between web apps and regular websites that should help you clarify your planning.
A simple way to think about it is that web apps are designed for user interaction, while most websites are just there for the presentation of static content. On a web app, users generally log in and manipulate the content on the page to reflect their unique needs. On a website, you don’t need a unique login to access it, and the content is the same for everyone who’s consuming it.
Websites with content management systems can be easier to edit and customize than web apps, except if they are hardcoded. Typically, web apps are custom-coded applications, and making modifications requires a developer to modify code, test and deploy the changes before they are live.
Pros and Cons of Web Apps
Web apps come with many advantages — and a few disadvantages.
- A web app is an affordable and accessible way to provide an online service to anyone who has a connection and a browser.
- It does away with all the hassle around getting users to update the app locally, as the changes are made on the server and appear automatically whenever a user re-opens the web app.
- System requirements are more or less irrelevant to web apps. Not everyone has a state-of-the-art smartphone or a great laptop. The horsepower of hardware isn’t usually important for a web app — all you need is a stable, decent internet connection.
- They may be more cost-effective and faster to develop than downloadable apps.
- The security requirements on a web app are greater than they are on a downloadable app. Cloud security is improving all the time, but there is a security vulnerability that needs to be addressed when your web app lives on the internet.
- The fact that it is a web app means that it is inaccessible if you are not online with a stable connection.
As you can see, the benefits of a web app far outweigh the drawbacks. The only question is how a web app can benefit your business.
What Can a Web-Based Application Do for Your Business?
There comes a time where every business wants to grow its web presence beyond being merely informative. Most websites are there to simply provide information, but they don’t offer the interactivity that your customers require. Or they simply won’t allow you to build a more competitive, dynamic web presence.
Perhaps you have developed a few interactive elements that will teach you more about your clients, or you have new functionality that goes beyond what your website can offer.
That makes your business the perfect candidate for a web-based application. This was the case when Orpheus was asked to redesign the Commission Express website and created a searchable, interactive map with pins at every franchise location. We used the same approach when we built a booking form that integrates with a third-party booking API for Grasshopper Adventures, a company that offers immersive and experiential cycling tours in over 15 countries across Asia and Southeast Asia.
So, if you’re ready to deepen your web presence and offer the kind of tools that build customer loyalty while staying within budget, then it may be time to consider adding a web app to your suite of online products and services.