Designers tend to specialise in one specific area, and even when an individual has a wealth of experience across different platforms, types of coding and so on, it’s rare that they won’t be more comfortable with producing either a website or an application. Many aspects of these distinct areas may be related, but there are some important differences.
Catering to screen sizes
Although applications (even for mobile devices) and websites may both be accessed by users with various screen resolutions and dimensions, they will be presented in very different ways for the most part. A website needs to be more responsive and adaptive in today’s market, while an application can usually be optimised for a particular device.
When you build a website, you can assume that someone is taking the time to sit and thoroughly examine it. This affects the way you present information and media, since you need to capture attention but you can go into greater detail. With an app, functionality and convenience are likely to be a higher priority, so information and instructions will be tucked away while greater emphasis is placed on the user interface.
An application, being designed for a particular type of device, is more likely to make use of features built into that device. This will be especially true for things like mobile games which can use the accelerometers, cameras and other sensors built into smartphones and tablets to add to the user’s experience. This requires significantly more advanced experience on the part of the developer when compared to a website, which will typically have none of these functions since it’s more universal.
This is one of the biggest distinctions. Someone using your website is probably at a very different point in their “journey”, if you’re a business. You might also be referring to this as a funnel or a conversion chain. Whatever you call it, we refer to the step-by-step process that customers follow, starting with the moment they become aware of your brand and continuing until they make a purchase, sign up or whatever else it is you want them to do. The journey can go even further than this, when customers decide to promote you or stay in touch with your business, perhaps by downloading and using an app.
Designers will have to consider this entire journey and make sure the design of their website or app is entirely focused on delivering what the customer needs at this point in their process. A website is probably tasked with selling the product or service to the customer and persuading them. An application is more commonly used as a means of delivering said product or service, and probably comes later in the process, so its design should reflect that. However, in different situations, these roles can very or even be reversed. One thing you’ll know for sure is that your website and app will always be quite different, and it will take different skills to perfect each of them.