As a business owner you’ve probably been in contact with a web developer before, and are more than likely to work with one in the future. Websites are now essential in the world of business, but at what point does a website become “software” or “apps”? There are various terms thrown around and if you’re not a tech geek it’s easy to get confused. You might know what you want or need, but how do you communicate this effectively if you’re not sure which term is the correct one?
Website developers are generally great at telling you that you need a better website, and there are brilliant web developers out there who will genuinely help you with your needs. But as with most industries, there are plenty of awful web developers out there simply preying on your lack of knowledge. With the right techie on your side, you can have everything you need and want, without wasting any time or money. We’re going to help you understand the difference between a website, web software and a web app. So hopefully, you will know exactly what to ask for when you’re investing in your digital solutions in future. This should also help you to identify the right kind of techie to work with.
What is a website?
These definitions don’t really help to get a clear idea of what websites are, but it’s much simpler than it sounds. Essentially, the chief purpose of a website is to provide information to the public – it’s called the World Wide Web after all.
You may be thinking “but my website is for B2B (businesses), or “but I have a niche type of customer”, and that’s absolutely fine. You don’t need to appeal to the general public with the content of your website. The key point is that anyone in the public can still access your website – it’s out there, it can be googled and searched for, and dismissed by those that it isn’t aimed at.
Perhaps you’re wondering about websites that include online shops. E-commerce websites are arguably providing more than just information. They are much closer to being web software (more on this later), but e-commerce websites still primarily provide information to the public.
What is web software & how is it different to a website?
Web software is made using the same technology as websites. The main difference is there will also be a non-public side for managing information, as well as a public page (usually for logging-in or creating an account). While web software is not separate to a website, the focus of web software is to provide a way for the business or individual to manage information privately and securely. Many websites will have a “back-end” side to them, and you may hear this term when speaking with web developers. The back-end is simply the non-public stuff, such as customer’s order details, contact details, or log-in details.
If this sounds relevant to you, have a read through our guide to understanding SSL certificates too.
What’s a web app?
A web app, or website application, is the same as web software. It’s not to be confused with a native mobile app (article coming soon on this). Native mobile apps are different as these are downloaded on iPhone or Android devices through the built-in “app store”. They don’t use a web browser so they work differently.
To summarise, the customer facing side is the website, and the private administration area is the app. It’s like a traditional shop with the customer-facing section – the nicely decorated shelves containing products, the store assistant providing information and answering questions. The behind the scenes stuff in the back office is software – the filing cabinet, the receipts, or the logistics.
Other terms you may come across are: Cloud app, Cloud software, Online software, App, Software. But these are all generally different words for the same thing.
Still need to understand what the main differences between websites, web software and web apps are?
Rather than seeing websites and web software as black and white, it’s actually much more of a spectrum. The main distinction is not the technology – as they all the use the same tech. The difference is the purpose they’re used for.
Imagine an office and a shop – they’re both made of bricks. The bricks can be compared to the technology. They’re all made of the same stuff, but the purpose is very different. A shop can be occupied by any member of the public that fancies browsing your goods. An office, however, is usually just for workers of that business. You wouldn’t allow anyone off the street to walk into your office and take a peek at your customer’s information, would you?
The lines can be rather blurry however, and there are definitely hybrids, which is where the confusion can lie. A tech system can have both public and private components and in reality most businesses will use a mix of both. You may have a website that has a bespoke CRM (customer relationship management) system, or CMS (content management system).
A brief overview of the “web tech spectrum”:
Static Brochure site
This is hard coded which means the web developer is in full control, and you have no access. Even if it’s your business’ website, you’ll have to ask your web developer to update the content for you.
Content managed brochure site
A non-techie can update and add content to this type of website. This could be a basic WordPress site without added plugins, for example.
This can be an “off-the-shelf” website such as a WordPress site with added plugins. It can also be a simple bespoke site that isn’t too complex. With an interactive website there’s a bit of 2 way flow of information, so it will have a “back-end” and contain web software as well as the website. E-commerce websites, and appointment booking sites are good examples of this.
Fully interactive system with a 2 way flow of info
These are websites that have more going on in the background. Hotel booking websites, price comparison websites, and property search websites are good examples of this. The system pulls info from different sources and collates them. This is beyond WordPress and is definitely bespoke web design, as it needs to be created for unique needs. Software plays a much bigger part in this type of website, and you will need a developer with good software skills in order for the system and website to work effectively.
Internal online system
This type is mostly for business use, rather than for your end customers. There can be a customer facing part of the website but the primary tools are for internal business use. Off the shelf examples are Xero, HubSpot, and Trello. Bespoke options can include a CRM or CMS built around your needs, and this can be discussed with us or another skilled software developer that you trust.
Hopefully you now understand much more about the differences between a website, a web app and web software. If you’re still not sure, feel free to drop us a message with any questions. If you’re struggling to find a techie you can trust, we will happily point you in the right direction.
Here at Source Code Software, our specialty is the higher-end systems (link to case studies coming soon), such as internal online systems, fully interactive systems, or interactive websites. Our mission is to automate the frustrating parts of your business, so you can do more of what you love. If you’d like some help, we’re a friendly bunch and are happy to chat. (Link to contact pg)