A web site is typically a series of web pages designed
to promote or provide information about a certain business or subject. Although
the site may have dynamic content utilizing a database on the back end and application
code to process the information, this content is generally designed to be viewed
by the user and not modified or processed. Perhaps the occasional info request or
user registration page is presented.
A web application differs in that it is designed to perform some function related
to a business process as required by the enterprise. Accounting, Inventory Control,
and Scheduling, are all good examples of this. As a result, the user interface for
a web application needs to be optimized in such a way as to make data entry and
processing efficient and accurate. The interface should assume some level of expertise
on the part of the user in order to facilitate this.
For example, an online shopping cart may be designed as a wizard with several steps
to "walk you through" the process of making a purchase. Although this provides a
user-friendly experience for the average web goer, it may not be a good approach
for a web application that needs to process thousands of repetitive transactions.
Unfortunately, many web developers do not realize this and their applications are
neither efficient to use or convey the correct "image" of what a business application
should be. This should not be underestimated as the impression created in the mind
of the user of the application is affected greatly by the overall look and feel
of the interface.