The Chasm Between Websites and Web Apps

19th September 2011
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The Grand Canyon is a famous chasm - so too is that between websites and web applications

Web application or website? This is a tough one to answer right now. The answer lies in analysing the usability problems of each.

I’ve been thinking a lot in previous blog posts here and here about the changing landscape of iPhone apps versus web apps. I’ve further narrowed down the decision between mobile and web apps with the question, is that app free or not.

Tech questions in general, because they involve more and more human interaction these days, are getting harder to answer with absolutes. Mobile usability expert Luke Wroblewski, breaks it down nicely.

A website is mostly about content ( text), and a web application is about function (javascript, etc.). These two formats when discussed as usability problems are answered in distinct ways, and it pays to start thinking about this. The mobile space isn’t going away, and no one really knows exactly how it’s going to develop.

This is exciting! But it also means that developers and clients need to communicate very clearly. Clients need help understanding what’s here now, we as developers can give them this.

As mobile devices become more accessible and more usage hours are completed, we’ll begin to find things to do in the space we never considered.

My advice? Keep the user in mind at all times and it’s hard to go wrong.


Nathaniel Flick

I'm a Front End Web Developer passionate about usability. My primary specialties are HTML5, CSS3, SCSS, LESS, and jQuery and I am very familiar with Foundation and Bootstrap frameworks. I've worked on top of and with Rails, Python, and back end frameworks.