What is a web app?

What is a web app?

For those outside the tech scene, you can be forgiven for getting a bit confused when people talk about web apps, websites and mobile apps and what if anything is the difference between them. We’re web and mobile application developers, so educating the masses on this topic is close to our hearts.

This is how the dictionary describes a web app:

“A Web application (Web app) is an application program that is stored on a remote server and delivered over the Internet through a browser interface. Web services are Web apps by definition and many, although not all, websites contain Web apps.”

Well if that sort of definition does it for you, then read no further as the intention of this article is to deliver an explanation that’s a bit more.... human.

The term web app is definitely more broadly used than it used to be, back in the day when it was less popular the simplest way I could describe the difference between a web app and a website is;

“A web app is a website that does something you can interact with, websites generally provide static information, kind of like an online brochure.”

Whilst that definition is still reasonably correct, with the growing sophistication of platforms such as Wordpress, Squarespace and Shopify, even basic websites are becoming quite interactive. Throw into the mix mobile apps and it’s a heady combination.

Below are some examples of each to get them into more relatable terms:

Website : Legal and accounting firm sites

The online presence for most of these guys is purely informational. Telling you things like: who’s on the team, what they do, clients they’ve worked with and how to get in touch. A number will offer a client portal (somewhere where you can log in and find or submit information specific to yourself), but frequently the portal, which is a web app, will direct you to an entirely different site.

Web App: Airline booking sites

There’s lots of information on there about the airline, their terms and conditions, promotions and specials, additional services and a bunch of other stuff – however the primary purpose of those sites is to help you book a flight.This sounds simple, but there are a lot of moving parts and there’s a lot that can go wrong.

In order to offer this online service for you, the airline site needs to, provide flight times and destinations, dynamic pricing and availability, a payment gateway where you can part with your cash, an email confirmation and usually a mobile app. But most important, they need to present all of this is in a seamless way that’s easy for you to use and understand.

Mobile App : Google Play or Apple App Store

Whilst many web apps and websites will automatically rearrange the way information and actions are presented when viewed on a mobile device, it doesn’t make them mobile apps. One easy way to work out if it’s a mobile app or just a responsive web app or website, is if it’s on either the Apple’s App Store or the Google Play app store. If it is, then it’s a mobile app! Voila!

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