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My experience has been that we now see more of a discussion about apps than just a discussion about websites that was before. Do you agree? When is it more appriopriate to speak about apps as compared to web and websites? In general I'm much in favor of leaning towards to perspective of apps rather than web/sites/domains since the latter depends so much on name and you couldn't make a thing such as a whitelabel project as a website - it has to be an app.

So I seem to arrive at the conclusion that apps is the wider context and therefore is preferred, especially if the project is a whitelabel software development that a client should be able to take and "brand" for instance such as taking the stackoverflow project and banding it to a new forum which is the way I supposse things work when we get a new forum.

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closed as not constructive by Walter, Robert Harvey, ChrisF Oct 4 '11 at 19:14

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Have you ever confused a company or personal website as an app? There are many apps that allow the site to function, but the site itself is not an app. Word is an app. The document file is not. –  JeffO Sep 24 '11 at 0:59
Can you edit your question to be more precise if you're talking about web applications, or desktop applications? Actually, I've understood the same thing as Robert Harvey, but the first comment of his answer shows that there is another interpretation of your question. –  MainMa Sep 24 '11 at 3:36
Thank you for the interesting comments that make me understand how questions should be formulated. I supposse my question is about the questions "Is it web or apps?" when in fact yes many people confused the company Netscape with the app Netscape Navigator and a personal website can very well "be" a webapp with some JSP or PHP with an application server. So I think it depends on what you want to hear and I want to hear more about apps and less about websites for some reasons. –  Programmer 400 Sep 25 '11 at 11:01

3 Answers 3

Web applications have certain fundamental features and capabilities that websites do not: dynamically generated pages, and ability to accept input, for starters.

If your "website" doesn't have these things (i.e. it is a collection of clickable, static pages and documents), you can't really call it a web application. It has to do something, not just display text and graphics.

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I think the OP was asking for websites/ web apps vs. desktop apps, not websites vs. web apps. –  Saeed Neamati Sep 24 '11 at 3:22

Web development has some advantages over desktop development:

  1. Thin clients
  2. Client platform agnostic
  3. Higher scalability
  4. More flexibility in UI design (which leads to better UX)

However, desktop development also has some advantages:

  1. Incredibly faster and more responsive
  2. Usually more easy to be developed (I'm using my .NET experience for this)

So, I think the question is not about branding or stuff like that. As much as I've seen till now, this decision is made over technical issues, rather than business issues. So, my answer to your question is that, you as a designer and analyzer are in charge of selecting the platform, and there is almost no when for this process. It's just you thinking that something is better in the context of this project over the other.

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"faster and more responsive" is subjective. –  Raynos Sep 24 '11 at 12:20
No, faster can be expressed in terms of some empirical formulas. For example, how long the user should wait between his/her actions, without using the system. –  Saeed Neamati Sep 24 '11 at 12:23
What if I choose webkit as my rendering engine for my desktop application? How did the desktop become "faster" then a offline web application. Subjective –  Raynos Sep 24 '11 at 12:50
Come on @Rayons. How offline webkit can be regarded a website or web application? –  Saeed Neamati Sep 24 '11 at 12:54
@SaeedNeamatti HTML5 offline web applications. The bottleneck in those applications and the bottleneck in a desktop application using webkit as its rendering engine is webkit. I'm hard pressed to say either is "faster" then the other. It's subjective. –  Raynos Sep 24 '11 at 12:59

It's not about brand. If it's a web application, call it a web application. If it's a website, don't call it by a wrong name just to attract customers by a fancy terminology. If you're selling Cessna, don't tell it's a space shuttle. Also, "application" is not a wider term. Applications and websites are mutually exclusive.

It's more subtle than the difference between static and dynamic content. A website which just displays some content from a database and lets the users to submit a contact form is still a website, not a web application. If I can just submit a feedback, well, I wouldn't call it an application. It's rather a website with a feedback page. If the website contains news section which is generated dynamically, it's still a website, despite the dynamic property of its content.

A web application is much more complicated, and mixes input, dynamic content and is conceptually perceived by people as an application.

Compare a web application to a desktop application:

  • GMail for example is a perfect example of a web app: you can easily imagine a desktop version of it.
  • An e-commerce website is still comparable to an application: even if you get all the data from the web, you can still imagine using it as a piece of desktop software product.
  • A website which just says a few words about how a company is great, and let you contact this company through a contact form is not suited for a desktop version: you'll just not be able to use it as an ordinary application.

Is there more discussion about apps than about websites? Well, yes. In 1995, it was difficult to imagine a complicated web application. AJAX was not very known. Connection was generally terribly slow, and the browsers - terribly creepy. The model was to sell software on material support: floppy drives, CDs.

Today, we mostly have a decent, and sometimes quick and unlimited bandwidth, high quality and hugely fast browsers with hardware acceleration, etc., which makes web applications most popular. The new model is to sell software over internet, sometimes as a service, i.e. as a web app.

The evolution of the internet and the technologies and the birth of the most successful web applications (GMail among others) made it more and more interesting and easy to develop them. At the same time, websites can be done with WYSIWYG editors by people with no technical background: extremely badly, as usual, but done.

That's why companies prefer talking about web apps, not websites: they show that they are up-to-date, that they are working on hard stuff, and all this marketing bla-bla. Now, if they are talking about a web application when actually they are requested to make a visual design and paste some static HTML and CSS on it, they are using, intentionally or by ignorance, the wrong terms.

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