One of the most common misconceptions we hear is that designing for websites and designing for applications are more or less the same. On the contrary, each addresses different purposes: one caters to the unidirectional flow of information while the other one is transactional in nature. Therefore, each requires a different process and approach.
In order to create meaningful eXperiences that people will love, whether it is a website or an application, it is crucial to understand these fundamental differences.
It is consuming and judging the information (websites) as opposed to doing something with it (applications).
- Prasad Kantamneni, Founding Partner at UXReactor
Websites: To inform and persuade customers.
Websites primarily offer a one-way conversation where a customer consumes information presented by the website and eventually makes a decision to buy, subscribe, contact, like, share, etc.
Websites address eXperiences where a customer seeks to discover and learn about any product or service.
Applications: To simplify tasks for customers by receiving input and producing an output.
Applications enable transactions to happen within entities — for example, software, a human being — or both to complete different tasks such as booking a ticket, making a payment, navigating to locations, etc.
Applications address eXperiences where customers seek to engage with the product or service to complete tasks.
Let’s take, for example, the Uber website vs. Uber application.
The uber.com website addresses the part of the eXperience where a customer seeks to learn information about the product.
Whereas the Uber application addresses the part of the experience where a customer is trying to book a cab by interacting with the UI by giving inputs and getting outputs.
Websites: A larger audience of customers who seek information to answer a question or find a product/service to fulfill their needs.
Applications: A specific group of users who have a recurring need to perform a task.
Storytelling and empathy play foundational roles in both websites and applications. Since the intent of customers of websites and applications are different, the way information is presented and the way customers are guided through their journey must be tailored to each intent.
Websites: The task is to
Designers should have a deep understanding of the customer’s journey, needs, and pain points to achieve this. The end goal is to create a seamless journey that follows the customer’s natural train of thought as they go through discovering and considering the offering. In some cases, a single page can even cover the entire journey, while in other cases, each page can represent a specific part of the journey.
Applications: Storytelling is equally as important but in a much more subtle way. The key task here is to
Websites: Breadth-first with clear information architecture.
Websites cater to a larger audience, so the task is to
Strategizing on the content and defining the information architecture effectively is crucial. The primary questions addressed in designing websites are “What kinds of information will customers need?” And, “How do we guide them to what they need?”
Applications: Depth-first with clear workflows
Applications serve specific needs for specific customers, so the task is to
In this case, it’s more important to identify the workflows that a customer would require in order to complete a task. The primary question to ask is “How might we help the customer complete their task in the most efficient and effective way?”.
Now that we understand the key differences, we must appropriately align our focus to the right design problems.
For designing websites:
For designing applications:
So just to clear the air, between websites and applications, neither one is “easier” to design for than the other. Each poses its own unique set of challenges, but by understanding the different intents of each and starting off by identifying the right design problems, you can better set yourself up for success!