If you're currently considering giving your website a face lift, there's no question that you've come across the terms "website design" and "web app development." Some people use these two terms interchangeably; however, doing so is actually incorrect as there are very distinct differences between the two.
Probably the most basic way to differentiate the two terms is that website design is informational while web app development is highly interactive. To further illustrate this difference, let's look at an example.
If you visit the website for your favorite neighborhood pizza restaurant, you'll likely find the hours of operation, contact information, and a menu. This website is purely informational. In this scenario, the pizza restaurant has relied simply on website design to connect with its customers online.
However, if you take a look at Papa John's website, you'll not only find a menu, but you also have the option to place an order online, create your own custom pizza, split the bill with friends, and purchase a gift card. This website is highly interactive, and understanding its customers' desire to be able to quickly order a custom pizza online made it worthwhile for Papa John's to invest in web app development. By opting for web app development, Papa John's is essentially putting its customers in control of their orders, allowing them to interact with the brand in a way that they see fit (ordering a late night pizza and splitting the bill between friends, ordering e-gift cards for school fundraisers, etc).
So does your next big idea require web app development? Not necessarily. But if you're contemplating which route to take, here are some signs that custom web app development may be a smart choice for you:
1. You want to give your customers custom control over their product orders.
Let's go back to the example of the Papa John's website. The brand understands the importance of its customers' desire to be able to order a custom-made pizza. Therefore, instead of just listing off a menu, customers also have the option to create their own pizzas. Papa John's uses a custom web app to allow website visitors to literally build their own pizzas right down to the crust style, cut, and bake.
2. You want to allow your customers to complete documents and upload information securely.
TurboTax is a great example of a website that embraces custom web development. The entire platform that TurboTax uses to file taxes relies on custom web development. The custom web app allows for customers to securely complete forms and upload information to the IRS to make tax season go much more smoothly for both the customers and TurboTax.
3. You want to enhance the internal functionality of your organization.
Web apps can be just as beneficial for the internal teams of your organization as your customers. Important aspects of your business such as invoicing, warehouse management, and project management may be so specialized that an off-the-shelf solution simply won't work. By creating a custom web app for your business, you'll have better cohesion between teams, improved efficiency, and better visibility of information.
While custom web apps are tailor-made to your business's needs and offer the most flexibility, an informational template-driven website design is a cost-effective solution to consider when you have a project with a limited scope. It's also important to remember that as your business grows, the needs and functionality of your website will also change. Therefore, while you may not need web app development today, your business may require a custom website solution down the road.