Most people think of the internet as a great big collection of websites. But if you’ve been around the web development space for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the term “web app” thrown around a lot. 

But how exactly does this differ from a website? 

Since these terms are used differently by different groups of people, it’s pretty easy to get confused about what each concept means. 

In this article, we’ll clarify the difference between web apps and websites and help you decide which is right for your goals. 

What is a website?

You might be thinking, “OK, who doesn’t know what a website is?” 

But “website” is often a colloquial term for “anything online that I access via a browser,” which isn’t quite true. 

Technically speaking, a website is a group of related and interlinked web pages published by the same owner, on the same domain (e.g., Most websites are static pages typically used for information or marketing purposes. Website visitors are passive: They may read or view content on the website, but they don’t interact with the site data or create it. 


  • Websites have limited interactivity beyond displaying content, such as subscribing to a newsletter or sharing a post to social media
  • Only a website’s owner can add and edit content 
  • Websites deliver a standard experience to every visitor (each visitor sees the same information) 

For example, websites include sites like: 

Most local restaurants, small businesses, service businesses, and blogs qualify as websites. 

Some companies may have both a website and a web app, such as Hubspot or Bubble. They have static websites for marketing, with content and information you can access passively. But they also have a web app that allows you to log in, create and edit your own data, and have an interactive experience. 

What is a web app?

Sam Morgan, one of our internal Bubble Developers, sums it up well: 

A web app is an interactive piece of software that runs in your browser.” 

Web apps offer interactive features and complex functionality that allow the user to complete certain tasks. 

Web applications tend to also: 

  • Allow users to log in and take actions like making purchases, connecting with other users, adding and editing data, and so on 
  • Allow user interaction with content (i.e., creating and sharing their own posts vs. just reading posts) 
  • Allow users to create custom experiences based on their data and user input 

Common web applications include: 

  • Gmail (your email inbox is unique from everyone else’s, and you can add and edit emails) 
  • Facebook (everyone’s Facebook experience is unique, and you can add your own content and interact with others’) 
  • Bubble (you can use the tool to create and publish your own web apps, not just view static content) 
  • Airbnb (you can add your own listings, book trips, interact with other users, and so on) 

There’s no one “universal” experience of these web applications: Everyone’s experience is shaped by their own data and interactions with the product. 

In the next section, we’ll break down some of the nuances between the two to make it easier to distinguish them on a technical level. 

Web app vs. website: 7 key differences

In short: A website displays static content for visitors — every single person sees the same thing. A web app provides an interactive experience that allows users to accomplish specific tasks. 

Sam Morgan describes the difference like this: 

“A website is something that a user reads; a web application is something that they interact with. There are a lot of nuances to this, though. A simple contact form that a user fills out may not be enough on its own to make something a web app." 

This chart helps summarize some of the key differences: 

Websites vs. web applications


Web applications


Websites deliver a passive visitor experience. Visitors consume content; they don’t create it. 

Web apps deliver an interactive user experience, where users can add, edit, and interact with their own or others’ content. 


A website can accommodate many visitors, but it doesn’t allow you to scale a product. It may provide a solution for a single client or problem.

A web app is a scalable product that can accommodate a growing number of users. It can provide solutions for any number of users, clients, or teams.

User profiles

Websites typically only have one authenticated user: the website’s owner. Visitors to the site don’t log in (or if they do, it’s for very limited functionality), and the app experience is not shaped by their contributions.

Web apps have many users. Anyone can create an account to add and edit content. An Instagram user can add their own photos; an Airbnb user can add their own listings or book vacations.


Websites use static pages with limited functionality. Visitors may fill out a form or subscribe to an email list, but they can't edit or change content. 

Web apps include more complex functionality, such as allowing users to add or edit data, interact with other users, and so on. 

Underlying tech

Websites can be created with simple HTML or JavaScript. 

Web apps have more functionality, so they require more advanced programming. They require databases, frameworks, and a more extensive user interface. 


Websites can be developed very quickly and affordably, especially if you use a basic website builder like Squarespace. 

Web apps often require more resources to develop, especially if you’re coding from scratch instead of using a no-code solution. 


Websites can be developed simply using a website builder. They don’t require a lot of prior knowledge or experience. 

Web apps require more development knowledge, such as an understanding of UX, UI, frontend and backend technologies, and so on. 

Let’s break down each of these differences. 


This is probably the biggest distinction between websites and web apps. With interactions, you can consider both who can interact and how much interaction is possible. 

Web apps allow complex interactions from anyone who makes an account with the tool. 

Websites allow interactions only from the site’s owner, and basic interactions from visitors.

Website interactions typically include things like: 

  • Clicking on links 
  • Using menus to navigate between interlinked web pages 
  • Clicking to share a post on a social media feed 
  • Filling out a form 

Web app interactions are much more complex, and can include virtually anything. Some common examples: 

  • Creating a user profile 
  • Adding friends to your network or team 
  • Adding and organizing your own data (photos, to-do lists, posts) 
  • Clicking on buttons that allow you to accomplish tasks 
  • Adding products to carts or wish lists 

If you want your product to be interactive, rather than static, you need a web app. 


Scalability between websites and web applications highlights how many users you’re able to serve with your platform. 

Web apps can provide solutions for any number of individuals or users. 

Websites only provide a solution for one individual or team.

Andrew Vernon, senior Bubble Developer, contrasts them this way: 

“For instance, a real estate website might allow one company to post their home listings and take requests about those listings. Whereas a real estate web app (like Zillow) might allow thousands of companies to post all of their home listings, along with information about their business, and to dynamically take requests about any of those listings.

For founders and developers, it's the difference between being able to build a site for one company and their users, or building software that could serve many companies and ALL of their users. The opportunities and end results of the dynamic systems that come from web applications provide a massive opportunity to serve a much larger user base.”  

By building a web app, you’re creating a customizable product that's scalable and can serve as many users as you want. And, unlike mobile apps, web applications are globally accessible via a web browser on any device, so your audience is virtually unlimited. 

User profiles and authentication 

Looking at how user profiles work is a good key to determining if something is a website or a web app. 

Web apps allow users to sign on and have a personalized experience based on their account.

Websites don’t allow sign-ons, or offer limited functionality once you’re logged in.

For example, many online publications (i.e., The Verge, The New Yorker) allow visitors to sign in, manage their subscription, and maybe comment on content. However, that’s not enough to be considered a web app. 

However, on a web application like Medium or LinkedIn, users can create their own profiles, add content, interact with other users directly, send messages, and so on. Their experience of the app is changed and shaped by their actions. 


Web applications offer much more complex functionality than websites. 

While websites may offer some functionality, they’re much more limited than a web app. 

Web apps have interactive elements and features that allow users to achieve certain goals.

Websites don’t have much functionality beyond displaying static content. 

John Carter, associate Bubble Developer, expands on this: 

“Both are accessed in a similar way. However, a web app allows far more complex and custom functionality to happen. You can participate in social networks (follow friends, share media posts), keep track of sales leads (create new leads and update existing), and view last month's sales metrics (change table filters and create new visualizations).

The way web applications shine is by giving the ability to the end user to truly customize their experience and contribute to the web app's ecosystem.”

Web app functionality is pretty unlimited. For example, on Bubble’s web app, you can: 

  • Sign up for an account to store your personal projects
  • Design wireframes and mockups of your own web app
  • Add databases and data to your own app 
  • Share your designs with other team members 
  • Launch and host your own web applications 

Underlying technologies 

The underlying technology of a website is much simpler than a web app. With a web app, more complex technology supports the increased functionality and interactivity of the app. 

Web apps run on multiple programming languages, frameworks, and databases. 

Websites can be built using basic HTML or CSS. 

For example, a productivity web application might have data types like users, projects, and teams. 

These data types will have additional data fields and relationships to allow them to interact with one another and create functional experiences. 

On Bubble, our visual editor makes it easy to create and modify databases. You can even use database triggers and workflows to let users edit and interact with data through your app’s interface. For example, database triggers and workflows allow you to: 

  • Connect different types of data 
  • Hide, show, or animate elements on the page
  • Create search functionality for your app 
  • Manipulate personal data and view other users’ shared data 
  • Add and edit their profile for your web app 
  • … and more! 
Learn more about Bubble’s database functionality in our manual to get started building your own.


Generally, web applications are more expensive to develop than websites. 

Web apps have historically required traditional development teams, which can be costly

Websites can be built with simple, drag-and-drop website builders.

Traditional development for web applications has to cover: 

  • The cost of development — which can require multiple developers over months or years
  • Ongoing maintenance and updates 
  • Hosting and server costs 

However, that’s changing in the world of low-code and no-code tools, which makes building a web application a cost-effective option. They provide support in the same way that Wordpress or Squarespace do for building modern websites.  

Tools like Bubble allow you to build and develop your web app for free until you’re ready to launch. Once you launch, hosting starts at just $29 a month

Development requirements 

Web apps are generally more complicated to develop than websites as well. 

Web apps require both frontend and backend development, databases, privacy and security, and more.

Websites are traditionally easier to build and maintain.

If you’re coding from scratch, building all of this out requires a team of developers and designers, plus servers, a hosting solution, and so on. 

However, with no-code tools like Bubble, you can consolidate all of your web app development into a single full-stack development platform. This makes developing a web application almost as straightforward as building a website. 

Website vs. web app: Which is right for you?

So, which is right for you? 

When thinking through whether you need to develop a web app or a website, start by thinking through what functionality you need — both now, and in the future. 

If you’ll only ever need a website, use a simple website builder so you don’t introduce unnecessary complexity. 

However, if you’ll want any interactivity or functionality now or later, it’s best to start with a web application right away to avoid lots of re-working. 

The following comparison chart can help you decide which is right for you: 

If you’re looking for….


Web app 

A static landing page that can be used for marketing or sales

An online presence that can be accessed on desktop or mobile

A tool that can scale and be used by many people

A customizable solution with complex functionality

An interactive tool where users can edit, add, and interact with their own content and others’ content

A tool that can use backend data and logic to help users accomplish tasks

A solution that can be built without code via a visual, drag-and-drop editor

In short: Websites are the right choice for teams who want a quick, static solution that delivers a simple, consistent experience for every visitor. 

Web apps are the right choice for teams who are looking to build a tool that solves a specific problem for users. Web apps provide a complex, multi-functional product that users can interact with and customize to meet their needs. 

Build your web app on Bubble 

While web application development is traditionally more complicated and costly than building a website, a web app offers way more possibilities and functionality than a website does. 

A no-code development platform like Bubble allows you to create your web app without an expensive development team or long development timelines. Our visual, drag-and-drop editor makes building your UI and databases simple. So simple, in fact, that you can do it on your own in a matter of weeks or months — without knowing how to write code. 

Don’t believe us? Just ask other founders who have built, launched, and scaled their web apps on Bubble. 

  • Messly's founders moved their web app to Bubble and say that app development is “probably 12 to 20 times faster than what we did before,” even with just their founder, Abrar, working on development. 
  • BluBinder brought on a Bubble Developer from the beginning. They developed their app in just a few weeks (as opposed to the 6+ month timeline a traditional development team quoted). 
  • CircleHome built the first version of their app in just four months — with a single founder working on it part-time. This V1 earned them a spot in one of Europe’s biggest startup accelerators, and €120,000 in pre-seed funding. 

Whatever your web app idea, Bubble can help you bring it to life.