There’s a little bit of confusion surrounding the difference between an App & a Website. This especially is true when it comes to the latest explosion in no-code technology, that allows non-coders the chance to create software without involving a developer. With the introduction of these new superpowers, & without a background in technology, people can choose the wrong platform to develop what they actually want to. The end result: people on sites like Webflow that want to make an app & other’s on Adalo that are looking to make a website.
While the technical capabilities are present on both the aforementioned sites to create what you’re looking for, it’s a little like eating cake with a spoon. There’s a better tool to accomplish what you’d like. Let’s explore some of the differences.
What is a Website?
A website is a collection of pages that is connected to the internet and hosted on the World Wide Web. Pretty simple. This blog you’re reading is a web page… on a website (www.adalo.com). Chances are if you’ve found this site, you have a pretty good understanding of what a website is.
Websites are perfect for displaying information, selling products, or for any other static purpose.
What do I mean by static?
That the content does not change based on who’s viewing it. No, I’m not talking about A/B testing your site, but instead that the content largely stays the same no matter who is looking at the website. For example, the Wikipedia page about No-Code Development Platforms will contain the same information for me as it will for you.
Looking to display different information based on the user? That’s where an App comes into play.
What is an App?
An App, short for application, is a piece of software that can be installed directly on your phone, tablet or computer & used. While a website is hosted on the Internet, an application lives on your device.
That seems pretty straightforward, so where’s the confusion?
Thanks for asking. Another distinction between an app and a website is how your user will interact with it. In my example above, a website typically displays the same information to everyone that views it — while an app will contain a different instance for each user.
Applications, whether on mobile or a computer, will change the information that is shown based on actions, information, user type & more. You can typically differentiate between an app or a website based on whether or not you were required to enter log-in credentials in order to access most of the benefits of the platform.
While the definition of an application is about installing it directly on your device, things have changed over time to include a broader range of applications. For example, many applications are now hosted “in the cloud” and do not need to be installed on my device in order to work properly. You’ll notice when you are on a mobile device though, that many sites you now visit that are actually applications will prompt you to switch to the application for a better experience. See how this can get confusing?
Let’s Take a Look at a Few Examples
At first glance, most people consider Facebook to be a website — especially those that were around when Facebook first launched. However, while Facebook lives on the Internet, it is actually an App. Upon log-in, your Facebook feed looks entirely different than my Facebook feed because we’re friends with different people, like different pages, and interact differently with the content. While all apps do not have to be run by very powerful algorithms, this example still holds true: Facebook is an app.
This one is tricky! If you said “Website” — you’re right! If you said “App” — you’re also right! Adalo has a public facing website. The information displayed here is the same for anyone that visits our site. Once you log-in you’re taken to another site: app.adalo.com and that is our app! You must log-in to access any information & the information that is displayed changes based on whether you’ve made an app, who is a part of your team, what you’ve done with your app and more. No two instances of the Adalo app are the same!
Just a plain old website. Dictionary.com is the same for you, me & everyone else. This is the perfect example of a website — it’s there to display information and that information is the same regardless of who is trying to access it.
So…. Now What?
Now that we’ve looked at some of the differences between apps & websites, it’s probably pretty understandable that building an app would add a layer of complexity to your project because different information will be available based on user type, privileges, actions, and more! While a lot of that is controlled by the database, it’s important to note that different tools will enable different types of creations. Since there is a difference between a website and an app, choosing the right tool to build is of the utmost importance. While an app building platform can handle building a website, a website builder cannot (alone) handle building an app.