Website vs. Web Application: What’s the Difference?

Kenzie Academy grads learning UX design on a tablet

For the everyday user, the differences between a website and a web application may not be noticeable. The terms are often used interchangeably. And Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, for example, can be found in website and web application forms. However, for developers and other professionals in the tech industry, the differences are evident. But let’s be clear, there are plenty of particularities and incidental situations that are potentially cause for debate.

Learn about websites, web apps, what makes them different, and how you can prepare to work with each.


Websites are collections of web pages connected via hyperlinks and typically used for information. Essentially, they’re multiple pages all tied together by the same web address and identifiable domain. Some of the most common domains include:

  • Government sites that use .gov
  • Educational sites that use .edu
  • Organizations that use .org
  • Commercial sites that use .com

Websites, much like the one you’re currently on, are updated periodically, but not dynamically. That means components like the homepage, blog page, and even the navigation menu above are typically only changed any time an update is needed. Whether you’re visiting an online newspaper or an educational site such as this one, you’ll have access to plenty of information but other interactive features may not be as present.

Web Applications

Web applications are software programs that provide users with interactivity. The goal of a web app is to engage by allowing users to complete a wide range of functions, including shopping, messaging, money transactions, and content management, to name a few. Some examples of popular web applications include:

  • Google Docs: A web-based application suite used to create, edit, and collaborate on documents
  • Twitter: A social networking platform where users can post short messages and follow and interact with other users in real time
  • Shopify: An e-commerce platform where users can create and manage their own online store
  • Dropbox: A cloud storage platform that allows users to store and share files and folders
  • Zoom: A video conferencing application used to host and join virtual meetings

The Differences

Exploring the qualities and components of each platform highlights many of their surface level differences. But three3 factors make websites and web applications functionally and inherently different:

  • Integration: Depending on their purpose, websites and web applications must work in tandem with other systems to function properly. This is called integration. But, because websites are almost primarily a source of information, they don’t necessarily need to be integrated with other systems. Web applications, on the other hand, offer more dynamic functions by nature. This means they have to be integrated with other systems that facilitate shopping, sharing, collaborating, and many other functions.
  • Interactivity: Web applications are integrated with systems designed to facilitate some type of function, which offers a higher degree of interactivity compared to websites. For instance, web application users can type on Twitter’s dialogue box, download files on Dropbox, or make changes to spreadsheets on Google Sheets. In essence, web applications offer a greater scope of services that help you accomplish tasks rather than simply consume information.
  • Authentication: Authentication procedures are essential if personal information will be required in any type of web service. Because web applications offer a wider scope of services that require a user’s personal information, authentication procedures are more commonly seen there as opposed to websites.

Development Needs

The process of building a website is generally simpler than that of a web application by nature of the website’s straightforward core functionality i.e., websites display information. The development process for a website usually involves designing the layout and content of each page using static HTML pages, optimizing it for search engines, and ensuring it is accessible and user-friendly.

Web application development, on the other hand, is often considered a more intricate process. It involves the use of complex programming languages, comprehensive database design, the development of engaging interfaces, effective backend functionality, and extensive testing. Web application development has to ensure a responsive design that adapts to different devices and interacts with different systems such as payment gateways, social media platforms, or data sources. In essence, web application development requires a strong understanding of web development fundamentals, programming languages, and proficiency in adapting other systems.

Let’s Get Started

If you’re looking to invest in your future by working toward a tech career, Kenzie Academy from Southern New Hampshire University can guide you. Whether you want to design websites or build web apps, this program is designed to skill you and help you build relevant experience.

Kenzie Academy programs emphasize career readiness, flexibility, and experiential learning to teach you how to be a tech professional and prepare you for the job market in a year or less. Learn a programming language and development fundamentals, and hone your soft skills as you carve out a pathway toward your version of success. Apply today and get started.

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