Often as a developer, I come across clients who do not quite understand the difference between web application and website. This article will explain in a simple non-technical way the main differences and similarities.
Next time you will understand why your developer can charge R5 000 for a website and R40 000 for another website. The more expensive one is most likely a web application.
Website general definition
A website is a set of related web pages located under a single domain name – according to the dictionary. The web pages are a set of files written in HTML, CSS and JS to communicate a message to visitors from the website designers or company.
HTML is a coding language written by developers and decoded by the browser to display the web page as intended and designed. The CSS supports the design and look of the web page while the JS supports functionality and other complex tasks.
In essence, a web page is a document. The web designer – designs and puts the document together, picks colours, images, fonts and message. The document is then hosted on a platform, a computer that makes the document available to anyone who wants to view it. That document can be accessed using the domain name on the internet. A user makes a request for the document, by entering the domain where the document is hosted through their browser. The document is then sent to the requesting browser on the internet. The requesting browser will then, decode the document and display the website to the end-user.
The most common type of website is a STATIC website. In this type of website, the document written by the designer does not change. A good example of this is a company landing page showing services, an image and maybe the company address. This information can be hard-coded in to the website document and sent to the requesting browser as is, every-time.
A static website consists of only HTML, CSS and JS. When a request is made, it is made on a HTML file
This type of website is constantly changing the information that gets displayed based on real-time information or who is viewing the website. A good example is Facebook, every-time I create a new status update – the website will change to display it. On the website, a user only sees data posted from their friends. The website has to do some computing, determine who is viewing, where they are viewing from and the user preference. This computing is performed in the back-end, before the HTML file is sent to the requesting browser.
In dynamic websites – there is always a middle computing later, called a server. The server receives page requests, computes the results and sends the appropriate HTML file.
The difference between Web Application and Website
A web application is a website, but a website is not a web application. A website is any set of documents saved on a host, served to clients. A web application, is a website plus more.
Typically a web application consists of a website, a server and database to store all the information.
Real Life Examples
Job Search Website
A client may request a job search platform, users should be able to search based on geography, job type etc. Employers can add and remove available jobs online. Applicants can also attach their documents, apply for the job and track progress.
This is a Web Application – You need a database to store job information, CVs, user profiles etc. Then you need a server to compute requests and serve the clients the correct web page or HTML file. If I am based in JHB, I should not see the same type of jobs as someone based in Cape Town.
A client may request a portfolio website showcasing all their projects. They might want the ability to add new projects on a regular basis, update their CV and showcase their talent.
This is going to be a static website. All the information will be hardcoded once. Even if the client want the ability to update information on a regular basis. To update, we will change the entire HTML file and add new information. The website will not serve different pages based on who is searching. We do not require a server to do any computing or a database
Read more on how to create your own website – It is not as hard as you think.