The Future is the Progressive Web App (PWA)

  • by Vicky Reeves
  • 08/04/2019

When native mobile apps first came to market, people couldn’t get enough of them. It changed the way consumers interact with their mobile devices and with brands. The recent trend, however, shows that people are turning away from apps. According to comScore (via TechCrunch), the majority of consumers download zero apps per month. So in order for a native app to be successful, it needs to be exceptional, which is a tall demand for a business app.

While introduced in 2015, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) have gained popularity this year. Google, Apple and Microsoft -- the three main standards in terms of native app distribution -- are all driving the transition to PWAs. Because of their inherent flexibility, PWAs are the best way to stay ahead of the curve in the mobile industry.

From the Financial Times to Twitter to Starbucks, more and more business are moving to using PWAs.

As mobile consumption continues to grow, providing users with a fast and efficient experience is paramount in boosting impressions, conversions and engagement.

The issue with developing ‘traditional’ (native) apps is that they can be costly and often use a significant amount of data as well as storage on the users’ device. This is one of the reasons why Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) have risen in prominence and popularity over the last year. Many people are only now beginning to find out what PWAs are and this is the reason many businesses are switching from native apps. PWA bring many of the benefits of a native app experience without making sacrifices for devices that do not support them.

What is a progressive web app?

Progressive Web apps (PWAs) is a term – first used in 2015 – to describe the combined use of modern technologies, design concepts, and Web APIs to provide an app-like experience on the mobile web. More importantly, they are device-agnostic, and run inside modern web browsers, with no need to first download anything from an app store.

Some of the benefits of progressive web apps:

1. Data usage and storage

Native apps take up a lot of space. For many people, even though they would love to use these apps, just don’t have enough space on their phone, so they cannot install them or they remove them later. That’s not a problem with PWAs, which only take what they really need, making them faster to download. On average they take up to 25x less space than a native app.

2. Offline capabilities

PWAs can work offline or with a limited connection, just like a native app. Your content is always going to be available, no matter how poor the user’s connection may get. What’s more, with “pre-caching”, images and articles can be downloaded ahead of time, meaning that users have access to articles they haven’t viewed yet, even if they lose connection entirely.

3. Bypass the app stores

If you want to update your native mobile app, you need to go through the app store’s review process which can take days. With a PWA you can update your features immediately.

4. Reduced costs

Native app development is expensive and time consuming, mainly because each platform (namely Android and Apple’s IOS) use completely different specialised code so development has to happen at least twice. However, progressive web apps remove this complexity as the code is built once and is device agnostic. This makes it easier to develop initially and make changes to further down the line

5. Push notifications

Push notifications will appear in the user’s notification bar, in the same way that notifications of Facebook or Twitter does. You can also have push notifications to desktop too. Publishers have full control over what they want to “push” to users and when they want to do it.

7. Add to the home screen feature

PWA can be saved to the home screen. This is great for re-engagement. Users are prompted to add the website to their home screen, complete with icon and branding.

Once the PWA is on the home screen (with no installation required), it will look and feel just like any other app on their device.

8. New ways to share content

With PWA, users can share web content with any share enabled application that is installed on their device. If a new social network suddenly becomes popular, your content can be shared on it immediately. There’s no need to spend time and resource adding new features to your website.

Examples & Stats

Petlove saw a 2.8x increase in their conversions by switching to a PWA and the average session length on their site increased considerably too.

Tinder saw load times cut in half compared to its native app. This led to longer session times, more messages sent and more swiping! And with a PWA, users could access Tinder from either mobile or desktop devices, expanding the targetable market.

Users of Pinterest's PWA spend 40% more time on the site compared to the previous mobile website. Ad revenue rates also increased by 44%, and core engagements shot up 60%. Flipkart saw 60% of customers who had uninstalled their native app return to use the Flipkart PWA.

Debenhams customer journey time is now 50% less than it was with the old website, and has results in a double-figure growth in conversions.

Forbes readers now get to see content within three seconds of launching the PWA app and enjoy a more visually rewarding experience. As a result, Forbes is seeing an increase in readership of 12% and a sixfold increase in the number of readers completing articles.

More examples: https://medium.com/@the_manifest/11-examples-of-progressive-web-apps-944f6db25a5a

If you are interested in how PWAs could be used for your business – please do get in touch with me or the digital team at WPNC…

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