Why Apps Are More Personal and Websites More Collaborative

Websites run code on servers and apps on devices. These simple facts have major implications. Let's dissect the differences from a user's perspective:


Apps must be downloaded from the internet, before you can use them. The web has much less friction. Just enter the URL in the browser.

Offline Access

As code is executed on the device, apps offer offline-first experiences with relative ease. They can just launch and show cached data until fresh data arrives. For websites, this doesn't come as naturally, as they require an internet connection to load the user interface.


Sharing is seamless on the web. Simply copy the URL from the address bar or the link and you're all set. App developers have to actively define what pieces of content can be shared. They also have to create so-called 'share extensions' so that content from another app or website can be shared with your app. Unfortunately, this makes it easy for app developers to forget to offer sharing functionality on some screens.


OS Vendors provide platform design systems, like Apple's Human Interface Guidelines or Google's Material Design. They also provide developers with software tools (SDKs) containing UI components that already follow these design systems. For users, this means that apps behave similarly, and once you learn to use one app, it is easy to use another one on the same platform. On the web, there is no common design system. Each company creates their own and users have to learn to navigate and use each new service.


The tradeoff of being able to execute code on device is that you have to get the code there first. With the App Store you can either update apps manually or turn on automatic updates so that the updates get installed overnight. This assumes, of course, that you remember to plug in your device. If your app doesn't come from an App Store (e.g. on desktop), you often encounter this (anti-)pattern, where opening the app immediately prompts you to update it. On the web, these kinds of problems don't exist. When you open up the website, you are automatically on the latest version. Only when you had the tab open for a long time, there might be a prompt that asks you to refresh the tab.

OS Integration

Apps can easily offer what I call a 'Deep OS Integration'. Developers use app extensions, like Push Notifications, Widgets, Siri / Google Assistent, Spotlight, Calendar, Shortcuts, Photos and others, to achieve deeper integration into the user's life. Websites just don't have access to this level of integration.

Live Collaboration

For apps, it is more difficult to offer live collaboration. Not only does the data need to be synced across devices, but developers also have to ensure that all collaborating users are on the same app version. On the web all data is on the server and the latest version is at most one click on the refresh button away. This makes it much easier for web services to offer these kinds of live collaboration features.


Apps are an extension of the device. They are more intimate. You visit a website, but you have an App. Apps can integrate themselves more deeply into users' lives. But that level of intimacy has to be earned. Users have to go through the trouble of downloading the app from the store. They must trust enough to grant access to push notifications, calendar, Photos, File System etc. The reward is that Apps can foster long term relationships between companies and individual users very well.

The web is more open. Websites are not optimized for the device they are running on, but can adapt to new devices and platforms with little effort. They are easier to discover and foster transactional relationships very well. Most importantly, the web has a natural advantage when it comes to building services around sharing & (live) collaboration between users.

Apps have an advantage when it comes to satisfying the needs of individual users and foster long-term relationships between businesses and users. The web is better at discovery, sharing and live collaboration between users. This also explains why B2B SaaS applications, like Figma, Slack, and Notion, tend to build their services with web and hybrid technologies.

What do you think? Are there other ways to contrast Apps & Web? Do you come to a different Conclusion? Let me know at feedback@vidugloeck.com. I am here to learn.