Most people are familiar with web and native mobile apps but less are familiar with progressive web apps. A web app works through a web browser on the mobile device and requires either a cell signal or wi-fi to function. A native app is installed directly on a smartphone or other mobile device and works, for the most part, without a connection to the Internet.
UNIQUE FEATURES OF PWAS
There is no need for an app store. You would first navigate to a PWA in the browser of a mobile device. From there, you then have the ability to install it on your smartphone or desktop PC just as you would a native app. This feature means you don’t have to first search through an app store and then download the app.
This structure also keeps the release process of the app in the hands of the app builder. The builders no longer have to go through the hassle of submitting an app, waiting for a review and dealing with the possibility of rejection because the app is not compliant with one app store rule or another. For those selling products or offering subscriptions, there is no requirement to pay a company like Apple 30% of the revenue earned.
End users appreciate not have to deal with app stores in order to search for and install apps they might need only once or twice. In addition, PWAs don’t use up the storage space on a smartphone, they spare your mobile data volume, and don’t require constant updates. On the other hand, the lack of a validation service means a greater potential for the existence of less tested functionalities, malware, and other possible security risks.
There is potential for offline usage. You can run PWAs offline because, depending on the operating system, PWAs can store a certain amount of data for a certain period on a device. So, there is no absolute necessity for a cellular or wi-fi connection. Or, when a network glitch occurs, you can still access the content on the app.
There are similarities to native apps for those who prefer that option. PWAs have the same look and feel like native apps. When you go to a PWA in your browser you can install it as a stand-alone app. For example, PWAs show an icon with a title and a splash screen when they load. PWAs also run in an immersive full screen mode so you don’t see any browser controls.
The latest content is easily available. After a PWA is installed, the content can be updated in the background any time there is an Internet connection. Consequently, each time you launch a PWA, you have the latest version of the content. The state is also kept which means that when you leave a PWA at a certain point, you are returned to that specific screen when you go back into the app.
There exists a better user experience. A higher quality of user experience is offered by PWAs than most responsive desktop websites. They can make available all HTML5 features such as camera access, geolocation, 3D visualization, audio and video playback as well as most mobile gestures. This feature provides a user the impression that he is using a native app that is optimized for his devices. The interfaces feel much more responsive while a user is scrolling because of the caching and preloading.
An SEO advantage is inherent in the nature of this type of app. PWAs are entirely web based which means they are findable by search engines. There is no longer a need for App Store Optimization (ASO). This previously required and time-consuming practice of creating different screenshots and descriptions in all resolutions and languages is gone. Also, your Google page speed score will improve, which will result in a better ranking in the Google search index.
DOWNSIDES TO PWAs
One downside is a lack of visual presence in the app store. Some brands might need to be in the app store simply because their target audience expects it as is the case for the Apple App Store. Recently this past year, Google has announced, PWAs may now be uploaded onto Google Play Store. This increases the potential for the discoverability from the perspective of customers and simplifies the process from the point of view of app owners. The challenging part, however, is the Play Store only allows APK files of Android apps to be uploaded.
Another downside is the narrow field of availability for support. PWAs are mainly buoyed by Google so Chrome browsers and Android devices are well supported. Apple does not seem to be in a rush to provide PWA support in iOS. In 2018, Apple launched iOS version 11.3 which extended the basic PWA support and offered better support of the Web App Manifest and Service workers. In version 12.2, released in March 2019, Apple fixed some critical issues like preserving states during sessions, PWA-in app browsing when a hyperlink is clicked, and web sharing. Despite these releases, there are still a number of functionalities not yet supported on iOS.
Safari is also running behind Google as there are still not available features that need tight hardware interaction like NFC, Bluetooth (used for app payments), ARkit, Touch and FaceID, motion sensors, altimeter, and webRTC for the camera stream. In addition, iOS users have to take a manual action to install the PWA in Safari and there is no PWA support on the Chrome browser for iOS devices because service workers are not supported for web views.
If you are still interested in the potential of a progressive web app for your brand, read on for a couple of examples that may further inspire you to dive into this technological possibility.
Building a PWA has benefited Pinterest in a number of ways. The time users spend within the app has increased by 40%, core engagement has increased by 60%, and ad revenue has increased by 44%. As an added bonus, Pinterest has also seen an increase in its conversion rates.
Starbucks has created a progressive web app to encourage users to access its brand, even when they are offline. The company’s PWA offers features such as browsing the menu, order customization, and cart management. As a result, Starbucks is seeing a significant success by replacing its mobile app with a PWA. The company also says they have doubled the daily number of people who use their website to place orders.
PWAs were first introduced in 2015 and have continued to be a buzzword in the IT community. Quickly became popular in markets with low or poor connectivity because they utilize less data than a traditional mobile app, challenges still exist. That being said, 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 a device’s functionalities, can send push notifications, and sit on a user’s home screen. With all of the benefits of a website tied to the convenience of a mobile app, PWAs have the potential to be the next wave of consumer convenience.
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