In our fast-paced world, mobile apps have become indispensable tools that streamline our daily routines, connecting us to information, services, and entertainment at our fingertips.
When you’re hungry and want to order food, you can do it effortlessly using the restaurant’s app. If you require government services, it’s just as straightforward, with many available through dedicated apps. And in case of a medical emergency, you can swiftly access dial services via a specialised app.
You can find apps for just about anything, whether it’s for banking, studying, shopping, or even trading. Almost every business has its own app.
Creating an app can be quite challenging and isn’t something everyone can easily do. Indeed, developing an app can be costly, especially for small businesses with limited budgets. So, how can they manage to provide their own apps to their customers and stay competitive in the digital economy?
That is where the new technological advancements come to the aid of small businesses. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) – merge app-like features with web development technology, making it an affordable option for businesses to provide enhanced services.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)
Table of Contents
A Progressive Web App (PWA) is a type of web application that utilizes modern web technologies and best practices to offer a user experience similar to that of a native mobile app.
A native app is a software application specifically designed and developed for a particular operating system or platform. These apps are written in programming languages and use development tools that are native to the target platform, such as Swift or Objective-C for iOS apps and Java or Kotlin for Android apps.
Native apps are often the preferred choice for businesses and developers when a high level of performance, access to device-specific features, and a seamless user experience are essential for the success of the application.
However, there are also some downsides to native apps, including the need for separate development for different platforms (iOS, Android, etc.), longer development timelines, and the requirement for users to download and install the app from an app store.
PWAs are designed to work smoothly across different platforms and devices, eliminating the need for separate development and reducing costs. PWAs have gained popularity for their ability to bridge the gap between web and mobile app experiences, making them a valuable option for businesses looking to provide a compelling and accessible online presence to their users.
They are easily discoverable through search engines, increasing accessibility to users, and bypass the app store approval process, enabling quicker updates. PWAs also have smaller installation sizes, reducing the impact on device storage, and can provide offline access, ensuring a seamless user experience even with limited connectivity. These factors make PWAs a cost-effective, user-friendly, and versatile choice for businesses looking to reach a broader audience while maintaining a responsive and engaging digital presence.
Capability vs. Reach between Native Apps, PWAs & Web Apps
Thanks to its ability to function seamlessly on both Android and iOS platforms with minimal disparities, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) have gained widespread adoption among top companies. Prominent examples of these companies include Twitter, Pinterest, Uber, TikTok, Spotify, Nikkei, Hulu, Lancôme, MakeMyTrip, Trivago, OLX and many more.
The statistics speak volumes about the effectiveness of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) for businesses.
- Twitter, for instance, witnessed a substantial 65% rise in pages viewed per session, a 75% increase in Tweets, and a noteworthy 20% reduction in bounce rate, all while drastically shrinking their app’s size by over 97%.
- Meanwhile, Nikkei experienced a remarkable 2.3-fold surge in organic traffic, a 58% boost in subscriptions, and a 49% increase in daily active users after adopting PWAs.
- Hulu’s decision to transition to a PWA from its platform-specific desktop experience resulted in an impressive 27% uptick in return visits.
- Lancôme recorded an impressive 53% increase in mobile sessions, showcasing how PWAs can attract and engage more mobile users.
- MakeMyTrip achieved extraordinary growth with a 160% increase in mobile sessions, demonstrating how PWAs can enhance user engagement in the travel and booking industry.
- Trivago witnessed an impressive 150% surge in repeat visits, underlining how PWAs can drive user retention and loyalty through improved user experiences.
- OLX experienced a staggering 250% increase in repeat visits, highlighting the significant impact of PWAs on user engagement and the likelihood of users returning to the platform.
These real-world examples underscore the tangible benefits and positive impact that PWAs can have on user engagement, performance, and business outcomes. According to BuiltWith, as of June 2023, PWA is used by over 21K customer websites globally, with nearly 1,000 of them located in India.
Characteristics of PWAs
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) exhibit several key characteristics that set them apart from traditional web apps and native mobile apps:
- Progressive Enhancement: Progressive Enhancement is a fundamental design and development principle in PWA creation. It revolves around the idea that PWAs should be designed and built to work effectively on any device or web browser, regardless of its capabilities. It places a strong emphasis on providing a consistent and usable experience for all users, regardless of the technology they’re using to access the PWA.
- Responsiveness: Responsiveness refers to a key design principle in PWAs and web development in general. It pertains to the ability of a web application, such as a PWA, to adapt and provide an optimal user experience across a wide range of devices, screen sizes, and orientations. The goal of responsiveness is to ensure that the PWA looks and functions well on various platforms, from small mobile screens to large desktop monitors.
- App-Like Experience: PWAs aim to provide an app-like experience, including smooth animations, gestures, and a home screen icon for quick access. App-Like Experience is a fundamental goal and characteristic of PWAs. It refers to the idea that PWAs should mimic the user experience and functionality of native mobile applications while being delivered through a web browser. This approach aims to make PWAs feel and behave like traditional apps installed from an app store, providing users with a familiar and engaging interaction model.1
- Improved Performance: While not as performant as native apps in all cases, PWAs have made significant strides in performance, providing a smooth and responsive user experience.
- Secure: PWAs are served over HTTPS, ensuring that data transmitted between the user and the app remains secure and encrypted, enhancing user trust.
- Discoverability: PWAs are discoverable through search engines, making them accessible to users without the need to download and install from an app store. They have unique URLs that can be shared and linked.
- Cross-Platform Compatibility: PWAs are built to function across different platforms, including iOS, Android, and web browsers, using a single codebase. This reduces development effort and costs.
- Low Installation Size: PWAs typically have smaller file sizes compared to native apps, which means they consume less device storage and are quicker to install.
- Automatic Updates: Updates to PWAs occur automatically in the background, eliminating the need for users to manually update the app. This ensures that users always have access to the latest version.
- Engagement: PWAs can send push notifications to deliver real-time updates, reminders, and personalized messages directly to users’ devices, much like native mobile apps. This capability allows businesses and developers to keep users informed about new content, promotions, or important events, even when the PWA is not actively open. Push notifications serve as a direct channel of communication, re-engaging users and encouraging them to return to the PWA, ultimately fostering a more interactive and user-focused experience.
- Linkability: PWAs can be easily shared via URLs, which simplifies marketing and distribution efforts. Users can access the app directly by clicking on a link.
- Reduced Development Time: Developing a single PWA for multiple platforms can reduce development time compared to building separate native apps.
- Cost-Effective Development: Developing and maintaining a PWA can be more cost-effective for businesses, as it reduces the need for separate native app development for each platform.
- Analytics and Insights: PWAs can leverage web analytics tools to gather valuable user data and insights, aiding in refining the user experience and business strategies.
These characteristics make PWAs an attractive option for businesses and developers looking to provide a versatile, accessible, and user-friendly digital experience to their audience, regardless of the device or platform they use.
Progressive Web Apps vs. Traditional Web Apps
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and traditional web apps share some similarities, but they also have distinct differences. Here’s a detailed comparison of the two:
|Progressive Web Apps (PWAs):||Web Apps (Traditional Web Apps):|
|Offline FunctionalityPWAs can work offline or with limited connectivity, thanks to service workers. They cache resources and provide a seamless experience when the user is offline.|
Traditional web apps require an active internet connection and do not provide robust offline access.
|InstallationPWAs can be installed on the user’s device or home screen, allowing quick access like native apps, without the need for an app store download.|
Traditional web apps are accessed through web browsers and do not have a native installation process.
|Platform CompatibilityPWAs are designed to work on multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, and web browsers, using a single codebase.|
Traditional web apps may require additional development effort for cross-platform compatibility, as they rely on web browsers.
|Push NotificationsPWAs can send push notifications, helping businesses re-engage users and encourage return visits.|
While traditional web apps can implement push notifications, it may require more complex development compared to PWAs.
|PerformancePWAs aim to deliver a responsive and app-like experience with features like smooth animations and gestures.|
Traditional web apps may have limitations in delivering a fully app-like experience due to browser constraints.
|File SizePWAs typically have smaller installation sizes compared to native apps, reducing the impact on device storage.|
Traditional web apps do not have installation files as they are accessed directly through browsers.
|Automatic UpdatesPWAs update automatically in the background, ensuring users have access to the latest version.|
Traditional web apps rely on users manually refreshing the browser to access updates.
|Development EffortDeveloping a single PWA for multiple platforms can reduce development effort compared to building separate native apps.|
Traditional web apps may require additional development for creating platform-specific versions if needed.
In summary, PWAs offer advantages in offline functionality, installation, discoverability, push notifications, and automatic updates. Traditional web apps are accessible through browsers but may lack some of the features that PWAs provide.
Basic Requirements to get started with a PWA Development
- HTTPS Hosting: PWAs require secure hosting with HTTPS to ensure data integrity and security. You can obtain an SSL/TLS certificate for your domain from a certificate authority or use hosting services that provide HTTPS by default.
- Application Shell: The Application Shell, often referred to as the “shell,” is like the front door of your app. It’s what users encounter when they first open or visit your app, and it’s responsible for creating that crucial initial impression. This visual and interactive foundation sets the stage for the entire app experience, making it essential to design it thoughtfully to engage users right from the start.
- Service Worker Understanding: Familiarize yourself with service workers, a critical component of PWAs responsible for handling offline functionality and caching. Resources like the Service Worker API documentation will be helpful.
- Manifest File: Create a manifest file (manifest.json) for your PWA to define metadata, including app name, icons, and splash screens.
- Progressive Enhancement: Understand the principles of progressive enhancement, which involve designing your PWA to work on a wide range of devices and browsers.
- Responsive Design: Learn about responsive web design to ensure your PWA adapts to various screen sizes and orientations.
- Push Notification Service: If you plan to implement push notifications in your PWA, choose a push notification service provider like Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM) or OneSignal.
- Audit your App: Google Lighthouse is a valuable open-source tool provided by Google that allows developers to assess the performance, accessibility, and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) readiness of their Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and websites.
- Analytics Integration: Consider integrating analytics tools like Google Analytics or Mixpanel to gather user data and insights.
The debate between Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and traditional web apps represents a pivotal choice in the evolving landscape of web development. While both approaches offer their own unique advantages, it is clear that PWAs, with their ability to deliver app-like experiences across various platforms, offline functionality, and streamlined distribution, are at the forefront of modern web development. They bridge the gap between web and native app experiences, providing businesses with cost-effective solutions and users with accessibility and convenience. As we navigate the digital age, the rise of PWAs signals a promising future where web apps not only meet but exceed the expectations of today’s demanding users, delivering a seamless and engaging online experience.
Embracing the latest technologies and utilizing the appropriate tools can pave the way for harnessing the potential of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), leading to enhanced sales and financial gains, whether you’re an individual or part of an organization. PWAs boast a multitude of advantages, such as speed, offline functionality, and native app-like performance. These features collectively contribute to delivering a superior user experience, ensuring satisfaction among your user base.