What They Are
There is a fair amount of confusion as to how we can properly explain what exactly are progressive web apps. When in doubt of a starting point, we’ve found it never hurts to jump on an Internet browser to see if we can find some commonly held understandings.
Wikipedia defines progressive web apps (PWA) as follows: web applications that load like regular web pages or websites but can offer the user functionality such as working offline, push notifications, and device hardware access traditionally available only to native applications. PWAs combine the flexibility of the web with the experience of a native application.
The term was originally coined by Alex Russell and Frances Berriman and Alex refers to PWAs as websites that “took all the right vitamins.” With that thought in mind, PWAs utilize a set of best practices in order to make a web app function in a similar manner as a desktop or mobile app. The ultimate goal is to provide such a uniform experience that users can’t tell the difference between a PWA and a native app.
Have you ever been browsing a website on your mobile device and been shown a banner that says, “Add to Home Screen?” All you do is click the button and the app automatically installs itself, an icon pops onto your home screen, and the app is then available on your phone. That is a PWA. PWAs use modern technologies and web capabilities to give users an app-like experience through a website. There are advantages gained over traditional native apps by offering the PWAs via websites. We’ll get into those as we discuss the characteristics of a PWA.
Challenges of Native Applications
There are a number of challenges that exist with the use of native applications. Internet speed is an issue for much the world that is still using 2G Internet or even dialup access. Website load times are also an issue. Many studies have found that users will simply abandon a website if it is too slow to load. In addition, some people have an aversion to installing native apps and will look on other channels to get what they are seeking before they will install a native app. PWAs can help solve these problems and more.
Characteristics of PWAs
Engaging and Re-engageable
Mobile apps are often reused because of the easily available icon on the home screen and push notifications that provide alerts containing important information. PWAs provide the same benefits and can help increase engagement as well as re-engagement.
PWAs are hosted over HTTPS to prevent attacks from middlemen and to make sure that content has not been altered or tinkered with in any way.
PWAs are websites which means they are discoverable in search engines. This characteristic is one of the main advantages PWAs have over native applications.
PWAs should adapt to whichever screen size and orientation a consumer chooses to view the app with. A solid responsive design will also help ensure that a PWA will work with future devices.
In addition to working on any device, PWAs also take advantage of features available on the user’s device and browser. Essentially this means that a PWA will perform the same on a new phone as it would on an older generation phone. The experience is based on what is available without causing errors or poor performance because of the device being used. This helps to ensure an excellent user experience for everyone.
A PWA should work offline and in areas with low connectivity available. Some PWAs will work completely offline, others will allow you to access and work within the app and will handle connectivity once service is available. Regardless of network strength in your location, you are able to open the app and check or reply to messages. Your messages are automatically sent once your phone gets an Internet connection and background syncing happens.
PWAs look like native apps and use the application shell model so the navigation and interactions also function like they would in a native app.
The update process is such that when a user is connected to the Internet and new content is published, it is automatically available with the PWA.
PWAs can be installed and “kept” on a device’s home screen so they are readily available any time. They also do not require the user to go through an app store the way that native apps do.
Another advantage of the fact that PWAs are websites is that they may be easily shared via their URL without requiring the receiver to go through a complex installation.
Do You Need a PWA?
One of the issues for many companies is that multiple versions of native mobile applications must be built and maintained for different platforms. PWAs are more viable alternatives since they are, essentially websites, and can easily be built to be responsive and progressive, requiring only one version to be developed and maintained. This singular focus will allow companies to deliver better user experience and a better, overall application.
There are two considerations that will help your organization understand whether or not you might benefit from a PWA. First, if you have a website, you might benefit from a PWA simply because they represent website best practices. Certainly, if there has been a conversation about upgrading or overhauling your organization’s website, a PWA should be part of that discussion. Secondly, if your company earns money from e-commerce or advertising on your website, you’ll find that PWAs can have a substantial impact on your bottom line.
If you determine that you don’t want to completely convert your website to a PWA, you can implement some of the functions that benefit any website. If there is no need for offline functionality or push notifications, perhaps you might want to establish a more secure site with quicker speed. Every step towards a PWA is simply a step towards a better website. You also have the option of deploying your app as a PWA as well as a native app in order to take advantage of both channels.
Believe it or not, PWAs were first introduced in 2015 and have since been a buzzword in the IT community. They quickly became popular in markets with low or poor connectivity because they utilize less data than a traditional mobile app. While challenges still exist, PWAs have the potential to shift the way the web functions.
The integrated user experience allows PWAs to behave and feel like native applications. They have access to the device’s functionalities, can send push notifications, and sit on a user’s home screen. The benefits of a website tied to the convenience of a mobile app, PWAs are the next wave of consumer convenience.
The experts at Strategy Driven Marketing have a long experience of working with business of all sizes and across all industries on website design and development, all things marketing, and more. We’d love to help you take your organization to the next level. Whether you need an amazingly sleek and modern website, are interested in learning more about mobile applications, or are looking for marketing guidance and assistance, we are here for you. Contact us today and let’s get started!