Do You Need a Website or a Web App?

Aaron Marquez is with us in the studio again as we discuss the difference between a website and a web app: their different goals, functions, and elements. We also share with you how to figure out which one you need for your project.

Full Transcript Below:

Cris:

So it’s providing some information for a customer and then allowing marketing efforts.

Aaron:

I’ve built a little over 500 websites.

Cris:

An interaction that tells you if you’re on a website or you’re on a web app.

Aaron:

When we build a website for clients, they own the website. It’s theirs.

Cris:

All right, Aaron, here we are. We’re talking websites versus web apps. So I kind of want to unpack those a little bit about maybe some differentiating factors between those but then also how that would fit in well with what you do at your agency, what we do at our agency, and kind of go from there. So tell me a little bit about your expertise building and kind of optimizing websites, and if you have any as far as web apps are concerned, let’s talk about that. So what’s your expertise in kind of building and optimizing of websites?

Aaron:

Yeah, so I think I kind of guesstimated it. I think in the last 10 years, I’ve built little over 500 websites, so obviously the first website and the last website are going to look totally different. But we use a platform called WordPress, and it works great. It’s very extensive. I mean, enterprises use it. The New York Times uses it, but also, a local plumber can use it. And the reason we choose that platform is because it’s open source, meaning when we build a website for our clients, they own the website. It’s theirs. If something happens to us, they can easily find another WordPress developer, or they can edit it themselves. So there’s no lock-in, and there’s that component of ownership.

Cris:

Gotcha. And for us over here at Bixly when we’re building things and the way I differentiate a little bit between, I think, websites and web apps is I think of websites generally more as informational and really serving two purposes, providing some information for a customer and then allowing marketing efforts and ways for that information to get out in front of the customer. When we start talking about a web application or a web app, for me, that’s talking about, well, I need to do you less as a customer than just looking at this information. I need to now take this information, interact with it in a certain way, and then actually have a result spit back at me.

Cris:

So for instance, Wikipedia, I would say that’s a website, cnn.com, just informational-type stuff. But when you’re talking Facebook, Instagram, things of that sort, those are web apps because there’s a lot of user interaction that plays into actually interacting with that web app as opposed to just pulling up a website and looking at some information. Is that kind of how you have seen the apps that you’ve built in the past, and do you have experience working with what I would define as a web app, the more connecting points and touching pieces?

Aaron:

Yeah. So I would say a website is primarily to get traffic, and like you said, it’s informational, primarily. There’s limited functionality, request a quote. There can be a little bit of functionality there.

Cris:

Yeah, for sure.

Aaron:

But oftentimes, there’s things that are clients or the businesses behind these websites need. It can be internal stuff. It can be customer-facing stuff, a portal to log in and check their appointment, and that’s stuff that would be better served as a web app or an application.

Cris:

Yeah. Yeah. Generally when you’re dealing with a website, there’s not user login credentials and authentication pieces. A web app is for the company that needs to have user roles. So it’s like this user has to have a username and a password, and they can access this portion of the site. And so that’s being validated against something else. And so this is all the stuff at Bixly that we do, where we can take ideas that generally were more informational and start to plug in those pieces to build it out to a more full-fledged, interactive application. It’s that interaction that I think is a big differentiating part for the customer interaction that tells you if you’re on a website or you’re on a web app. Amazon.com. That is not a website. That is a web app.

Aaron:

Exactly.

Cris:

Yeah.

Aaron:

Yeah.

Cris:

For sure. So what are some of these goals that as you’re building out a website for a customer? What are some of the goals that you are kind of keeping in mind as you’re building their application for them? And what is that kind of pivot point for you where it kind of pivots from maybe being a website and moving into the web app field where it makes sense to talk with someone like us?

Aaron:

Yeah. Great question. So when we build a website, our goal is to build it as modern as possible, not only on the front end. We want to have the latest design trends, but also on the back end, code quality. We’re looking at speed. We’re looking at scalability. There might only be a couple hundred people visiting the site at this time a month, but what if, in a year, there’s 10,000 people? Is your website still going to work well under that pressure? How easily can we adapt and make changes if Google rolls out a new update or there’s a new requirement? So everything we build, it’s with the intent that things are going to grow. This business is going to grow. It might be a five-man team, but it might be a hundred-man team in a couple years. And things need to evolve, so we kind of build with the future in mind.

Cris:

Yeah. And because websites are so marketing based, informational, but they’re meant to be marketed and ensure that people are getting eyes on them, they do need to be following those modern standards, whereas with a web app … which, at Bixly, we build lots of websites and lots of web applications, primarily focusing on web applications. Depending on the industry and the use of the web app, we’re not going to make them ugly. But design is maybe not as important if I’m building a web application portal that’s sitting behind some firewall that a hundred sysadmins are looking at in a very large company, and that’s it. They’re going to be the only hundred people to look at it. They don’t really care if it looks super pretty and if it’s easily marketable, and SEO of finding that web app and kind of making it work doesn’t necessarily really matter as much to them. So I think that’s kind of a bit of a differentiation between the web app and the website and how you’re interacting with some of your customers and how we’re interacting with our customers.

Cris:

So budgets wise, you got customers coming to work with you. They want to build out a website. What kind of budgets and timelines are we talking about? We’ve touched on this in previous videos, but I think it’s always good to reiterate this. What kind of information do they need to bring to the table, and what’s the timeline and budget that they need to expect to get something useful from you?

Aaron:

Sure. So we have a couple different options. Our primary service that we created for local and small businesses, it’s retainer based, and that starts at $300 a month. And the other option is a one-time project, usually has more custom requirements, more custom design, maybe a little bit of functionality integrating with a CRM, things like that. And those projects are typically the $8,500 to $15,000 range. Yeah, and if someone doesn’t have tens of thousands of dollars, they can come to us. We’ll help them get that.

Cris:

Exactly.

Aaron:

And they can come hire you.

Cris:

Hey, hundred percent. Well, and I always tell people they’ll come in, and sometimes, they’ll describe all these things that they want to do. But they don’t need it right now. So where their business is right now, they don’t need the web app. They need website. They need to put some information out in front of people, and they need to market it because like you said, there’s only about a hundred people maybe right now that actually are interested in this. But there is a very clear marketing strategy to get thousands of people interested in this, hundreds of thousands of people. So sometimes, it is, go build the website. Go get the energy. Ensure that the market is there and then start building in the feature sets of your customers.

Cris:

And you know now that you have someone that’s interested in it and they have input into what they want the site to do … I would much rather spend my time as the customer building what I know my customers want than building what I think they want and then going and trying to market it.

Aaron:

Right. That kind of goes into that whole mindset of sell before you build.

Cris:

Exactly. Exactly. When we are building projects with customers, we always ask them, hey, what’s the market share look like right now? What’s the interest in the market for this particular product, whatever it is? What’s the industry doing right now? What does it look like it’s going to be in six months, eight months, 10 months down the road? Because we want to determine that you have a customer base that’s leveraged to not only exist now but exist six months, eight months down the road and grow, because if you don’t, you’re going to spend a lot of money. And again, this is minimum $50K to build a custom web app. You’re going to spend a lot of money for something that may not be here in a few months.

Aaron:

Right. I think one of the things I’ve noticed too, over the last couple of years … and you can probably attest to this … is that there’s a huge opportunity for businesses to build web apps for internal use.

Cris:

Yes.

Aaron:

And so instead of trying to find customers and users out in the wild, there’s plenty of use cases within their own organization, scheduling, just tools that their team can use to help them be more efficient. And I know if someone were to run the numbers, that $50,000 could probably well pay itself off by improving efficiencies and maybe even reducing jobs needed.

Cris:

Yeah. There’s a lot of ways to go about it. So we always tell our customers, yeah, here’s the web app that we’re trying to build, but also, let’s make sure that we are answering that much more simplistic website piece of giving information to your customers, having a clear marketing strategy for it, making sure that your SEO is strong. So you’re continuing to backfill that load of customers that are coming in to possibly interact with your web app or not, because again, the web app is internal facing.

Aaron:

I think something could be said too about web apps versus just apps that people download on their phones. I remember when smart phones came out, and it was a craze to download apps. People would just download as many apps as they could, and now it’s shifted. People are stingy with their screen space, and they’re not just so prone to download apps. So I’ve had people come to me thinking that I can design them an app, and they want to create the new Airbnb or something similar. And my advice has always been start with the web app because it’s more scalable, and it’s more dynamic. You can change things a little bit better. Airbnb started off as a web app.

Cris:

It did.

Aaron:

I mean, it still is.

Cris:

It still is. Exactly.

Alexandra:

Thank you for joining us for this episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday. I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Chris and Aaron as they discussed the differences between a website and a web application and which one your project might be. So if you have any questions at all about what they talked about today, go ahead and leave them in the comment section down below, and don’t forget to check out the description box down below. We have a couple of really helpful links in there for you, including our free custom software guide, which will walk you through how to plan out building an app or a website for yourself as well as a link to Aaron’s website and our own, bixly.com. And if you check out bixly.com, you’ll be able to find a button right at the top that says Start My Roadmap, and that gives you a free 60-minute conversation with Chris to talk all about your app idea, strategize how to build it, estimate it out, and get our expert feedback on it. Until next time, this has an episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday.