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Website, Web app & Mobile app: What are the differences? 

Sigma School
27th February 2024

Introduction

It’s typically hard for an end-user to know the differences between a website and a web app, or a web app and a mobile app. The most important thing for them is that they get the results for what they are searching for. 

However, as a developer, you’re the one who does the building for these products. One of the first decisions you’ll make when setting out to build a digital product is whether you’ll create a mobile app, a web app, or a website. So, can you tell the differences between these? 

Here’s what you need to know about the differences between mobile apps, web apps, and websites so you can make the right choice for your business.

different examples of websites

What is a Website?

A website is a set of connected web pages you can access with one web address. It can be created and managed by individuals, businesses, or organizations, serving diverse purposes.

These pages are stored on servers and can be seen using the internet or a local network. Websites have different sections with text, pictures, and videos. You need a browser like Chrome or Firefox to look at them.

Example: a restaurant’s web page where you can view the menu, hours of operation, etc. Or, a forum or blog.

Programming Languages for Web Application Development

Best programming languages for attractive and useful websites, web pages, and web apps, along with some tools you should understand to fully use these programming languages.

  • HTML/CSS
  • PHP
  • Python
  • JavaScript
  • Java
  • Ruby
  • Swift

illustration of how complex web app is

What is a Web Application?

A web application is a program stored on a distant server and accessed through a web browser. While it shares similarities with a website, it goes beyond displaying content.


While websites mainly present static information like portfolios or brand pages, web applications are designed for user interaction. Take Instagram, for instance. You can scroll through posts, send messages, and share content, which goes beyond what a website typically offers.

Unlike websites, web applications require authentication and use both server-side and client-side scripts to handle data and user interactions. They rely on servers to process user requests effectively.

Example: Google Apps, Amazon, YouTube

Programming Languages for Web Application Development

For a smooth and flawless experience and surfing, specific programming languages are used to develop the web application. Some of them are:

Some of the popular web applications built using the mentioned programming languages are Pinterest, Twitter, Yahoo, MailChimp, Spotify, and others.

Differences Between Website and Web Applications 

Here are some core differences between websites and web apps for your better understanding. 

  • Website has static content, with the main focus of informing users about the business, products, or benefits. While the web app has dynamic content, designed for interaction with end-users. 
  • Website’s functions and purposes are quite simple. Web app has more complicated functions and purposes. 
  • Website only has read mode, the users are unable to alter the information. Web apps on the other hand, have read and write modes, the users can change, and make adjustments to the information. 
  • Websites do not need to be pre-compiled before deployment, unlike web apps. 
  • Website doesn’t require user authentication. Most web apps require this. 

Benefits of Web Apps and Responsive Websites

  • Cost-effective development — Web applications are more economical to develop compared to mobile apps. They do not require multiple builds for different operating systems, and the development process is faster and requires fewer specialized skills.
  • Improved search engine visibility — Web apps are indexed by search engines like Google, making them easily discoverable to users searching for solutions to their problems.
  • Enhanced accessibility — Web apps can be accessed across various devices through web browsers, irrespective of the operating system.
  • Effortless updatesWeb apps and websites share a common code base, simplifying the update process. Developers can quickly push updates to a server, and users will instantly see the changes.
  • Cross-device accessibility — Users can access web apps across various devices through web browsers, regardless of the operating system.
  • Increased traffic — Visitors to your website can seamlessly transition to your web app on mobile devices without the need for downloads, boosting traffic automatically.
  • Simplified launch process — Unlike native apps, web apps do not require approval from app stores or marketplaces, allowing for a swift speed-to-market.
  • Efficient content sharing — Web apps enable users to easily share content by simply sharing the URL with others.

illustration of an iPhone, with different mobile apps around: facebook, twitter, instagram

What Is a Mobile Application?

In simple terms, a mobile application is a software program created to offer services on mobile devices. While mobile and web applications share similar functions like displaying content, providing tailored responses, and ensuring a smooth browsing experience, there is a significant difference between the two.

Mobile applications are exclusively designed for use on mobile devices and can only be installed and accessed through them. On the other hand, web applications can be accessed via any web browser on both desktop and mobile devices.

To illustrate this difference further, let's consider Instagram, a widely used mobile application with over a billion users. While Instagram offers quality services on mobile devices, it cannot be downloaded and used on a PC. For PC users, there is a separate version of the application specifically designed for desktop use, highlighting the distinct nature of mobile applications.

Programming Languages for Mobile Application Development

Mobile applications have a vivid and interactive UI and deliver an optimal performance tailored to user interests. The following are the programming languages used for developing mobile applications:

TikTok, Spotify, Amazon, Whatsapp, Telegram, and Snapchat are some of the popular mobile applications used by millions of users and are well known for their delivery of optimal performance.

Differences Between Web and Mobile Applications 

  • Mobile applications are specifically designed for use on mobile devices, while web applications are intended to be accessed from any device using a web browser.
  • Unlike web applications, mobile applications must be downloaded and installed from the respective app store.
  • Mobile applications have the advantage of being accessible even offline, whereas web applications require an internet connection to function properly.
  • In terms of speed, mobile applications generally offer faster browsing experiences compared to web applications, which may take longer to load.
  • Mobile applications undergo approval processes from app stores, while web applications do not require such approval since they are accessed through browsers.
  • Mobile applications often feature more advanced security measures than web applications.
  • Additionally, mobile applications typically require frequent updates, whereas web applications handle updates automatically.

Benefits of a Mobile App

While mobile apps typically require a higher investment for development compared to web apps, they offer several advantages worth considering, although with certain limitations:

  • Enhanced functionality: Mobile apps can access built-in features like the camera and GPS, although this may vary depending on the app's specific capabilities.
  • Better personalization: Mobile apps allow for tailored communication based on user behavior and preferences, enabling users to set their own preferences for a personalized experience.
  • Ability to send push notifications: Mobile apps can send reminders and notifications to users, enhancing engagement and interaction.
  • Promotional opportunities: Listing your mobile app in platforms like the App Store or Google Play can expand your reach to a wider audience.
  • Offline availability: Many mobile apps can function without requiring a WiFi connection once downloaded, though this depends on the app's features.
  • Improved user experience: Mobile apps are optimized for specific operating systems, offering a more streamlined and user-friendly experience.
  • Design freedom: Mobile apps can incorporate advanced gestures like drag, swipe, and tap, enhancing functionality and usability for users.


Conclusion

The type of digital product you choose to build will ultimately be a reflection of your business strategy and budget, whether it's a website, web app, or mobile app. Each provides an enhanced experience to the user, in terms of delivering services.


We hope you understand the difference between a website, a web app, and a mobile application. Now, if you want to build one of these digital product by yourself, first, you need to learn some basic coding and work your way from there. Try out our Coding Jumpstarter Bundle where you can get access to 1-month learning materials for free, so you can try and build your first-ever web page after just a few weeks of studying. 

Want to learn to find out more about what we do?

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