What is the difference between a website, web app and mobile app?

Website, web app, mobile app. You have all heard of these terms before. They are often used interchangeably and share similar characteristics.What is the difference between the three? What makes a web app a web app as opposed to a website or a mobile app?

What is a website?

A website is single page or multiple page destination on the web, created for the purpose of presenting information. With small exceptions websites present the same information to visitors regardless of who they are.

Websites handle some data coming in and out such as data to present articles, forms, and media. Websites are used in hundreds of different ways. Some of these include: present information about a company, selling products, and building personal brands.

You can create a website for any reason and deploy it within minutes. They are usually low to medium complexity and require no reviews to get them up and running. This is one of the major benefits of a website - it can be very quick and easy to get up and running. There are no gatekeepers, approval process or committee a website needs to go through.

A website does not require a user to download or install anything in order to view its content. It can be access from anywhere as long as there is a network connection, and a browser to view it.

What is a web app?

A web app is simple or complex software that lives on the web which usually handles and manipulates data. Web apps generally present personalized information to the user and usually require authentication.

The capabilities to present and manipulate data means they have a heavy presence in the SaaS(software as a service) space.

Web apps are usually high in complexity. They can do everything from handle finances, to send thousands of emails, to tracking orbital debris. Web apps have few limits on what you can achieve.

Similar to websites, web apps requires no platform reviews to deploy. Often times a review is done internally by a team due to the level of impact a change can have on the end user. You can access them from anywhere as long as there is a network connection, and a browser to view it.

Similar to websites there is no need to download or install a web app by an end user in order to use it.

What is a mobile app?

A mobile app is an application that you run natively on your mobile device - a phone or tablet. You download and install mobile apps through the Play Store or the App Store which then run natively on your device.

Mobile apps usually bring a higher complexity. The options for developing mobile apps and what code you need to use are fewer than website or mobile apps. Pushing out updates or bug fixes is not as simple as just deploying to a server. Most of the time any modifications need to run through the approval process of the store that is enabling users to find and install your app.

Mobile apps requires reviews - whether through the App or Play store. This is the way that these platforms keep their standards somewhat in check and try to regulate quality of apps that are available to use. Each store has its own process for reviewing, testing and distributing mobile apps.

One of the major benefits of mobile apps that websites and web apps do not have is that mobile apps can utilize device hardware. This makes them a great choice for hardware intensive purposes, such as gaming or AR(augmented reality) applications.


The lines between a website and web app often times are blurry. The platform that you use for your project or product really depends on what your end goals are.

The classifications are also totally personal and subjective website vs web app. The following breakdowns are how I view each.

Website - present information.

Web app - present / interact with data.

Mobile App - native to your device.

If you have questions on the differences between the three, or which of these platforms would be better for your project - feel free to send me an email: edward@dock90.io