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Arslan Tayliyev
Arslan Tayliyev

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Website vs web application: what’s the difference and what to choose?

Do you know the difference between website and web application? This is not a problem if you don’t. Even experienced web developers can’t draw a clear line between the concepts. However, website and web application development require different budgets, teams, and marketing approaches. Let's find out what fits your business better and if a real app vs website standoff exists.

What is a website?

Website (Web site) is a digital product that exists in the Internet environment. From a technical point of view, it is a collection of interconnected web pages and multimedia files. A website requires a web server to store data and a domain name, which appears as its address.

All you could find on the Internet and Intranet is websites. They are accessed via Internet Protocol (IP) by a uniform resource locator (URL).

Websites are integral to the concept of the Internet. Theу are usually categorized by purpose: personal websites, company websites, public organization websites or those of the governmental authorities. Sites may also appear as simple and complex structured objects. Simple websites usually include static pages created for informational needs. Example — Built Things, Once A Unicorn and others.

Complex websites, such as online stores and media portals, have dynamic content. For example, Google, Amazon, and Netflix. Web sites which content can be affected by its visitors through a browser are called web application.

What is a web application?

Today, app vs website opposition takes place both on technical and marketing battlefields. While web application performs the new approach of how to carry your customers, it is also a new and yet not technically perfect way to give them additional services online and get an extra revenue.

Web applications (web apps) perform the new website generation. Like websites, they run in your browser. At the same time, web apps are more technically complicated and have the ability to adapt their consent to particular visitors’ needs.

The key feature of web applications is interactivity. Web application looks different for each user and, moreover, the user could create web application content with the help of the browser.

A web application can be called a client-server computer program, which runs in a browser on a client’s computer. However, today there are also hybrid web applications called Progressive Web Apps (PWA). Those apps stay closer to traditional mobile apps then the rest of web applications. To use the app user must download the program first. A distinctive feature of most modern web applications including PWA is also offline access. Traditional web applications and sites need constant access to the Internet.

Web applications support business on the Internet. While traditional sites perform information functions and help promote someone’s offline business online, web applications serve their users on the Internet.

The most profitable web applications categories are online stores and social networking, as well as mailing and online banking services.

Another characteristic feature of web applications is the ability to integrate with third-party services. For example, social networks can export data from YouTube or Giphy libraries, and online stores provide users with the opportunity to sign up via Facebook accounts.

Website vs web app: how to choose?

At first glance, web apps are nothing more than the website evolution stage. But, no matter how blurred the boundary between a website and a web app is, the second one is harder to establish and is more costly in development than the first one. At the same time, web apps, unlike websites, keep customers better and usually bring bigger profits to their owners.

Let's look upon the benefits of both options and find out who is the winner of app vs website battle at the moment.


The purpose of creating a website is to inform users, while the purpose of creating a web application is to serve them. Here is the key difference between website and web application.

Users almost cannot influence the website content, while the content of the web application looks different for different users. Agree, the distinction is as great as between a monologue and a dialogue.

As a rule, web applications have an authentication system. To use the full range of web application features, you need to sign in. These are some advantages of web app interactivity:

  • You can study the preferences of specific customers and sell them a product adapted to their tastes.
  • You can communicate directly with the client and influence its behavior.
  • Users spend more time in a web application than on an information site, that gives you a chance to build strong relations with them.

Mandatory registration has negative consequences. According to the statistics, each registration step (including your offer to sign up) forces 20% of your users to abandon your platform. This is the reason why simple informational websites are more popular than most web applications.

There are no informational websites whose unique audience is wider than the one of the top web applications. For comparison: even the top global website Wikipedia has around 67 million unique visitors per day, while Twitter serves 4 billion users daily.


Web applications are very integrative comparing to traditional web sites. Web sites are used to work with CRM and ERP, and web app can be connected with various software products including online maps or banking.

It’ll be easier to define your side in the website versus web application discussion if you look through some real examples. Imagine two options of how a showroom can appear on the Internet. If we are talking about an offline store website, it will look like an online storefront where you can get information on colors, sizes, materials, prices and store’s opening hours but nothing more.

A fashion showroom in the form of a web application looks different: it serves customers online instead of inviting them to the offline store. The web application will offer you something that you may like due to your previous site activities or personal data, and gives you the opportunity to pay online.

Web applications can have various integrated elements such as social networks, email clients, banking, media resources, booking services or reviews. Web applications also monitor your behavior on the Internet using third-party analytical tools.


Authentication feature can be integrated into both a traditional web site and a web application. The difference is that the web application can’t work without user sign in.

The ability to identify users makes the content of a web application dynamic.

Authentication can occur through user’s login and password, social network verification, IP or fingerprints scanning. Most services offer multi-level authentication, which allows you to protect users' data better.

Having a web application account means that you’ve got access to app’s personalized features. At the same time, authentication on regular websites is needed in order to separate free static content from the paid one, or to enable users to comment on static informational articles. Also, authentication on static sites allows owners to block spammers.

Additional Web Application Types

Web applications as well as website versus web application standoff are known since 1995. But the full web application emergence is associated with the high-speed Internet spreading, computer evolution, and online business growth. Web application progress does not stand still, so every year new forms of web applications appear. Here, we’d like to mention the most significant of them


A single-page application (SPA) is a site that is updated independently. You do not need to go from page to page to update the content. The site constantly applies for new information to the servers and informs you when an important change has occurred. In most cases, that happens even when you are not in the site tap. SPAs are created with HTML, JavaScript, or CSS.

The content on the SPA pages can change itself in response to your direct actions (entering new information, changing the cursor position) and regardless of them (for example, you received a message from another user).

Examples — Facebook, YouTube, Gmail


Progressive Web App (PWA) is a hybrid developed in 2015 through the merging of a website and mobile app concepts. In fact, we are talking about a program that works just like any mobile application you know. PWA uses the Internet, but if there is no Internet connection, your request is saved, and the application goes offline.

PWA exists because there are still some browser restrictions faced by web designers and web developers including speed limits. Web PWA (don’t mix with mobile or standalone ones) needs a browser, which work could be support with additional programs on user’s computer and cash technologies. Sometimes PWA application also appears as an independent program that you need to install on your computer. An early example of PWA is Skype.

Examples — AliExpress, Telegram, Spotify, PayPal

The list of special web application types is not full. It is also common to divide web applications by the level of complexity:

  • static web application like interactive portfolio on HTML and CSS
  • dynamic web applications like searching platforms on PHP and ASP
  • online store or e-commerce platforms
  • portal web app like social networks
  • animated web application
  • online content management systems for corporate and other websites

Not sure if web application or traditional website is appropriate for your business?

Get an audit from LANARS and plan a budget without a doubt.

Additional Web Application Considerations

A reason for you to give the preferences to classic web site following the web app vs website discussions is security. Web applications closely interact with users. Unlike static sites, web applications always collect, save and analyze visitors’ data. However, web applications interact with third-party analytics services. That increases safety risks for your customers’ data and you own reputation:

SQL, OS, XXE, and LDAP injections

An attacker can send malicious commands to your web application using data entry fields. The consequence of that action is non-system commands that the application will perform in the interests of the attacker.

Authentication failures

You may lose users if the registration system on your site is faulty or there are some errors in your authentication script.

XSS errors

Web applications work together with other sites and databases. If your application is connected by hackers to their database, then irrelevant information will appear in the user's browser, and access to your web application may be blocked.

Access control, data protection, and API

If your databases are not secure enough, attackers may find the accounts of other users and use them for their own purposes. Also, they may access confidential users’ data, including banking information and personal photos. The same flaws can be found in the databases and the loading system of the user media content. APIs, including JavaScript, are not always well-protected.

Low attack reaction

If your application does not block virus or hacker attacks, there is a risk that one day it will simply stop working and you will lose access to your databases.

Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

HTTP protocols have weaknesses. In particular, the user can send a fake cookie request to your server and force the application to execute commands that are not beneficial to you as the owner of an application.

Your reputation, as well as your confidence of not being pushed to respond to clients’ ship suits in the future, depend on your web application security level. An important difference between website and web application is that you’ll probably need more money to develop app security than to make your static web site safe for users.

LANARS web applications pass extra security tests that guarantee you would not lose your customers after a certain attack. Contact us to learn more.

Web applications with special names

Web application development resulted in an app based service market growth. The two main types of high-demand web applications are communication and online retail platforms. There, the leader of the website vs web app standoff could easily be found. If your business is based on communication or ready-to-use product selling, most likely you need a web application.

Web portals

Examples — Twitter, Instagram, Medium, Western Union

Web portals provide us with the opportunity to see the content that is useful to us or that we are likely to enjoy. Such platforms process our requests, study our behavior and form the content based on the results of this analysis. You can also change the configuration of the content, add new content, and communicate with other people.

Web portals store your personal data and perform certain functions for you. For example, they allow you to manage finances, communicate with friends, lead a team or even have fun. Login to the web portal is possible through a basic start page where you need to enter your username and password.

Online stores

Examples — Amazon, Etsy, AliExpress, WizzAir

Web applications sell products and services. If an online store knows customer’s tastes, it’s more likely that it will sell something when the customer turns to it next time. And even more, the web application can automatically notify user about a new product the person was waiting for.

Web applications examine personal data put to the account, including gender, age, and place of stay. Depending on how a user searches for the product and on which parts of the site he or she focuses attention, the web application generates content that the user will see first in future.

Online stores web applications also accept online payments, allow you to arrange delivery and order something in addition to the product you’ve already purchased.

Authentication in the online store should be reliable since it is a question of the client’s financial transactions security.

What do you need: a website or web application?

Despite the fact that web applications and websites are almost brothers, there are a lot of reasons why only one of these options is suitable for your business. That’s why the web app vs website discussion yet exists.

The first thing you need to take into account making your choice is your business objectives. If you do not plan to dive into e-commerce, and the bulk of your business is concentrated offline, choose a traditional static website. A website will become an additional information platform for your business. If you want to sell or provide services on the Internet, then you can’t operate without a web application.

The second thing you need to consider is your budget. Web application development services is much more complicated and expensive than static website development. Your team should include experienced UX / UI experts, testers, and programmers. At the same time, a static website can be assembled on a designer without programming knowledge. As a result, the price of the web application development is 5 times higher than the one of the static sites.

The third factor that can determine your choice is your desire to improve your marketing approach. Compared to a website, a web application is a significant step forward. The web application will give you the opportunity to stay in constant contact with your customers, study their behavior and increase their loyalty.

Choosing between a web application and a website, keep in mind that security level of the application need to be high and directly influences the budget. A web application also loses 20% of users on each authentication phase. However, it is likely that the e-commerce future belongs to a web and mobile application.

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