Website vs. Web Application


Typical of the 1990s and early 2000s, a website helps you ‘talk at’ site visitors by providing relatively static (rarely changing) information. Websites forever changed the way people consume information, but they are rapidly being replaced by web applications that deliver two-way communication and true ‘engagement’ with visitors.

A cloud with VS in the middle of it to indicate a comparison of a two different objects.

Web Application

Web applications were the cause of the late 1990s ‘dot com’ boom, but most large corporations only started widely adopting web application technology in the 2010s to better connect with customers. Despite the considerable technical complexity, web applications are becoming a business requirement. Customers expect the ability to do far more than browse your website. They want a customized experience. They want to interact with you. They will leave your site and go elsewhere if you don't rise to the occasion.


Website vs. Web Application Breakdown

Website Web Application
Purpose To provide static content to end-users. It is publically accessible by all users. A web application provides interaction with the end-user. The interaction could be customers or people who work for your organization.
User Interaction A website provides visual and text content, but users cannot react and or respond to content. The user cannot only read content, but the user also provides information by filling out forms, information requests, or even passively providing information through the user’s behavior.
Authentication (Logging In) Authentication is not necessary or common. Authentication is optional. If users are providing information, authentication could be ideal, so you can identify who is providing the information. Authentication could also empower you to share some information to be available to specific users (like customers orders and communication, etc.)
Task and Complexity Because a website is static, the data can be complex, but information generally changes infrequently. Web applications offer more functionality and the potential for dynamically updated content.
Lead Generation Websites, at best, only provide minimal lead data. You don't usually know who is visiting your site. It is also difficult to determine, in hindsight, if your customers found you from your website or somewhere else. Web applications can generate leads like websites and more. Web applications could try to understand who is viewing your web application and package the data for utilization elsewhere. Web applications are also designed to encourage users to interact, generating leads that can be attributed to the web application validate that leads coming from the web application.
Lead Qualification Websites are generally can only provide information, and you cannot usually determine if leads are qualfied or not. Web applications have the potential to qualify leads, meaning ‘Are they a good potential target?’, and ‘Are they ready to make a purchase?’ Web applications have the potential to collect information actively and passively, making qualification possible.
Plug-ins Websites sometimes can have plug-ins made by third parties. The plug-ins are usually stand-alone, meaning that one plug-in usually is not designed to work with other plug-ins. Plug-ins designed to make a website act kind of like a web application. One of our customers described plugins as “a ‘bandaid’ rather than a long term solution.” Websites sometimes can have plug-ins made by third parties. The plug-ins are usually stand-alone, meaning that most plug-ins are not designed to work with other plug-ins. Plug-ins are an attempt to make a website act kind of like a web application. One of our customers has described plugins as “a ‘bandaid’ rather than a long term solution.”
  • Information on websites are not usually updated regularly, which can lead to stale content.
  • Contact form may invite lots of unwanted spam emails, decreasing your productivity.
  • Websites leave you blind because you are unable to learn more about your visitors, their preferences, and how to better serve them.
  • It can be very expensive to build a custom web application. Unless you are using a web application platform like DigitalArchitect.
  • It can be expensive to maintain and add functionality. At DigitalArchitect, we handle web application maintenance for you, and modules are a turn-key solution.
  • Authentication and security must be handled by a professional. At DigitalArchitect, we handle authentication and security for you.

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