The following article tries not to be overly techie, and will hopefully help give a useful, working knowledge of PWA, their benefits and potential positive functions for businesses.
What exactly is a Progressive Web App?
Technology companies have for years debated which is better – the mobile (responsive) website or native mobile app. In 2015 Google, encouraged by the possibilities, took up the subject and proposed what then became known as Progressive Web Apps (PWA). Just a few short years later, and already many global brands are using PWA such as Twitter, Uber, Instagram, Financial Times and Forbes to mention a few.
PWA are mobile websites that share many native app-like properties. Using a hybrid of technologies, they take the best aspects of both a web page and native phone application and blur the lines between the two to remove the friction for the client. An average user would most likely identify it as an application rather than a website.
At first glance, this doesn't look very exciting. You would visit a web page and be notified that the website can be added to your home screen. If the user agrees, the PWA is added to their home screen where it acts very much like a native app.
What is so special about that, you may ask? Well… did you notice that you do not have to visit an app store of any kind? Also, I haven't mentioned anything about what type of phone or device you are on. This is because a PWA does a load of preparatory work upfront and tests whether it can be installed. If it can't, the user remains none the wiser.
Once the user has your PWA on their home screen, you the business can give the user an app-like experience. The PWA loads fast, just like an app and faster than a web site. People may identify with the brand more easily because it seems to be like an app, not just a web site.
PWA can also work offline if that is important to your business. They can also show push notifications on some devices, plus the user never has to instigate an update again as these are delivered in the background.
If the above isn't enough to convince you that a PWA is incredibly user-focused, here is the kicker, the PWA doesn't require an internet connection to keep working!
Why Progressive Web Apps
Native applications are great, but there are many hoops to jump through just to install them: you must first find the app in an app store, download it, install it and then, finally, open it.
The more hurdles placed in the way of your audience, the more likely it is that they will not finish the process. When a user finds your progressive web app, they will be able to start using it immediately.
From a development point of view, there is only one code base to manage so no more coding for each type of platform. When developing native phone apps, each one has to be submitted to the relevant app store for validation. If you're formulating an app for both iOS and Android, you have two types of application to manage and get validated before it can be put in front of the customer. This can be a lengthy process, making the cost of developing a customer-focused application prohibitively expensive. Businesses can avoid the time-consuming process of app store approval by creating a PWA instead. I'm not going to pretend that PWA are cheap to develop, but they are definitely a lot more cost-effective than multiple native applications.
Customer notifications can be hugely helpful to businesses. For example, say your company deals in event management. You could alert customers about upcoming events to encourage sales, or if it sells out, you could promote other future events. Being able to push a notification to a customer in response to their needs and desires makes the customer experience much more personal and helpful.
Perhaps you sell goods online and wish to advise customers that a product is in stock, out of stock, on sale, whatever you like, the possibilities are endless. All delivered via a PWA. Well-designed push notifications can be a valuable and useful way to connect customers and brands. All of this reflects beneficially and constructively on your business.
It's not all about notifications - other benefits are:
- Comparatively low development cost
- PWA can be used offline
- No App Store necessary
- No download and installation required
- PWA can be found faster by your customers compared to native apps
- PWA does not consume valuable memory
- Backed by the web industry
- Enhanced Security
There are many applications and benefits of Progressive Web Apps for forward-thinking businesses. I hope you agree, Progress Web Apps have a bright future. They can boost conversion rates, load exceptionally quickly and mirror the features people love in their native apps. They can reduce your app development costs and your ongoing support and maintenance costs. Hopefully, this article serves to give a better understanding of PWA and some of their advantages.