Web Site or Web Application?
Recently I've been thinking about what the differences are between web sites and web applications, if any, and what would be some examples for each. I know that many people, myself included, tend to use the two terms synonymously but after thinking on it, I believe this is a real difference there which hinges on the purpose of the thing and what it is used for.
web site is something that focuses on content. Most sites fall into this category (sorry, I'm going to use "site" to refer to web sites and web applications). Web sites should be designed to lure people in and make it easy for them to browse the content. Possibly after this you'll want to sell them something.
Some examples of web sites are:
- digg – Designed to allow users to submit their own content and rate what others have submitted. The sole purpose of this site is to create a place where a community can govern the content. The content is the submitted items.
- Amazon.com – Designed to be the best online shop ever. The purpose is to have as much information available about products as possible and to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy those products. Here the content is the items available in the shop.
- Ctrl+Alt+Del – It's a web comic so I hope it's fairly obvious that this is entirely about content!
- Ubuntu – The home page for the operating system. It's designed to be a source of information about the product, as well as trying to sell it to people.
Some examples of web applications are:
- Gmail – An application for viewing emails and, more recently, chatting with people.
- Basecamp – A project management and collaboration tool.
- PayPal – An application to allow people to make and receive online payments. It basically takes the place of a bank.
Hopefully, from this it's clear what I'm trying to get at. Web sites are intended to be vessels for the content, web applications are all about what you can do with them. If you're planning to start a web project, it's important to work out which camp it belongs to first.