Web Application vs. Website

By: Dave Nicosia

July 26, 2016

“I Need a Website!”

When a company or an individual is looking to create a web presence beyond social media, the first thought they have is something to the effect of “I want someone to build me a website!”

But is this the correct assumption to make?

When looking for someone to help you with your web presence, one of the most important yet most underrated questions you can ask yourself is this: Do I need a web application or a website?

Different companies sometimes specialize in one or the other, which means that when you are shopping around to find someone to bring your idea to life you need to be able to use the correct terminology to make sure that your agency understands your needs.

While we can do both here at Vibethink, knowing better what you are looking for will allow us to give you the information and the product that you need in the timeline and budget that you bring to the table.

Do I need a web application or a website?

So What’s the Difference?

Web Application, or web app: A program that is located in your browser (i.e. Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc.).

An example of a web app would be Google Docs, a word processor. It’s desktop program analogue is Microsoft Word.

Website: A series of documents that are designed to show up in your browser and impart information to the visitor.

Examples of websites would be vibethink.staging.wpengine.com, virginia.edu, or wikipedia.org.

To put it simply, a website displays information such as text, images, or videos. Most websites could be printed out on paper and bound into a book, because they are intended to be informational to some degree.

To put it simply, a website displays information … A web app does things

A web app does things. In reality, you can create a web app to do anything a native program can do. Examples of popular web apps would be social networking sites such as Facebook, video streaming sites such as Netflix, and photo editing software such as Pixlr.

This is not to say that a website cannot be interactive, most websites are. However, they also tend to be primarily informational despite their interactivity.

If your ‘website’ does not distribute a service other than information in some manner, it is likely not a web app.


You can combine these two. In most cases, a Web Site will be connected to a Web App so that it can use its functionality.

A popular usage is when a website pulls their Facebook posts on the main page. They are using the information from the web app to add to the experience of their web site.

E-Commerce, or selling goods and services on the internet, is also a melding of these two things since so much of the site tends to be informational, yet there is an aspect of it that is distributing a service.

Obviously, there are many different ways to use both websites and web apps. As technology changes, these definitions become more and more blurred. The melding of websites and web applications will continue.

However, the difference is still important, both on the side of the user and the side of the developer so that your website, or web app, will be tailored to the needs of your company and your audience.