A web application and a website – the differences

Web application (web) vs. website – differences

Both these terms are very often used interchangeably resulting in confusion and lack of understanding of both sides. Therefore – it is useful to know what the differences are and when they should be used. Let’s start with theory.

What is a website?

It is most often the visual layer visible to the user – the so-called. frontend. It is with it that the user interacts. All text fields, text, buttons, images are placed here. In a nutshell, we can say that a website is in most cases the visual layer itself, which allows the user to comfortably use the functionality that the website itself provides in a lower layer – the web application. All the logic is executed on the user’s computer – locally, so the moment the user enters the chosen address, the code is downloaded and then displayed.

Most commonly used technologies: JavaScript, CSS, HTML, React, Angular, Vue.JS, AJAX.

What is a web application?

An invisible element of a web page or an ordinary script that executes certain commands invisible to the user. The effects of these commands are displayed on a visual layer – a web page. For example: the user enters the website, fills out a form and clicks “submit” – at this point, the website displays “I am processing” information, and the web application in the background saves the form data on the server and processes it. When the processing is finished – the web application sends information to the website about the result of its actions and then the visual layer shows the message:

– “we sent your form” – positive result,

– “unfortunately we couldn’t, please try again in a moment” – in case of a problem.

Tasks are executed on the server – the application does not require installation on our device. In short, such an application can be described in one word: backend – the whole technical background, business logic, code performing calculations, commands and writing information to the SQL database located on the server.

Most commonly used technologies: PHP, Java, Python, Node.JS, CGI, ASP.NET, Kotlin, Scala, JVM, SQL, Azure.

Examples of types of web applications (very general)

1. Shopping applications – allow you to purchase products or services along with their delivery or create auctions. Have the ability to pay for an order using instant payments such as e.g. Blik, Przelewy24, PayU, Google Pay or Apple Pay. E.g.: Allegro, eBay, Amazon.

2. Announcement applications – allow you to add and view a list of services or products. E.g. OLX.

3. E-learning applications – focused on teaching, consolidation of knowledge, tests. Knowledge-related, e.g. Duolingo, Busuu.

4. Booking applications – focused on booking appointments or accommodation together with the possibility of paying for a selected date and reservation. E.g. booking.com, Airbnb.

5. Marketing applications – created for various marketing campaigns, promotion of various products, brands or services. Their main function is: sending information from users according to the established form.

6. CRM systems – Customer Relationship Management. Applications used internally in companies to streamline work and manage relationships with customers.

7. ERP systems – used to manage and supervise the state of the assortment, e.g. on warehouses.

The basic principles of creating web applications are m.in. readable and understandable code, simple and logical structure of the application – the programmer writing the code should make sure that it is understandable, readable, clear to any other programmer. Testing and monitoring of errors (reporting) – the software should have the possibility of monitoring so that it is possible to detect errors before the user reports them.

When should we choose to implement a website?

If our need is to present companies’ offers, contact details, portfolios, blog posts or articles. Generally when we don’t need advanced functionality.

When should we choose the implementation of a web application?

If we need more advanced functions than in the case of a website such as. Possibility of paying for orders, buying products / services or simply if the displayed data will not be static. It should also be remembered that such applications are much more expensive due to the degree of sophistication compared to a website.

Remember the differences

Website is a visual layer which can display static information e.g. company website, blog. A web application is an invisible layer that performs “background” tasks requested by the user through interaction on a website or other application such as. mobile.