Progressive Web Apps

What’s All The Fuss?

Many people think that native apps are be all and end all of mobile solutions, but what if we told you there was another, more cost effective solution? Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, are becoming increasingly trendy online, but what’s all the fuss about? Are they really going to oust mobile apps?

What is a Progressive Web App?

Let’s start with the basics… what on earth is a Progressive Web App? Well, we’re glad you asked - PWAs are a hybrid of your everyday, run-of-the-mill website and a mobile app. The idea is to replicate the experience of a mobile app, using the features of a mobile website. Some are referring to it as “a glorified bookmark that has hit the sweet spot between the web and mobile apps” as you can save a PWA to the home screen of your mobile, access and interact with the website and send push notifications as you would an app.

A hugely successful example of a PWA in action is e-commerce giant AliExpress. Having found the process of getting users to install and re-engage with their mobile app rather challenging, AliExpress needed a solution that would create a comparable experience on mobile, without the rigmarole. Because a majority of their users were on mobile, however not on their mobile app, switching to a Progressive Web App was an instant success for the brand. AliExpress’ conversion rates for new users increase by 104%.

What we like about them

There’s certainly a lot to like about Progressive Web Apps. For starters, they are a whole lot cheaper to develop and maintain than a native web app. Why is that, you ask? Because PWAs will work across multiple devices and browsers, you don’t need to spend time creating separate apps for Android and iOS, nor do you need to update them every other week and resubmit to the Play or Apple store for approval. If you update your website, your PWA will update as soon as a user goes online. Simple.

They are also engaging, fast and reliable. In fact, they load instantly even if your connection is slow or you are offline. When designed and developed correctly, they respond well to user interactions and mimic, if not improve upon, the immersive user experience we have come to expect in native apps.

Because PWAs are actually websites, they are completely discoverable in search engines, a feat native apps have yet to crack. On top of this, the actual download of a native app is far more intensive and includes several steps from when you eventually find the app you want, to when you can download and use the app on your mobile device. In fact, native apps lose up to 20% of their users for every step between their first contact with the app and the user starting to use the app. In contrast, when a user finds a PWA they can download it to their home screen and start using it straight away.

What we don’t like about them

While they have come in leaps and bounds, there are still a few things about PWAs that we aren’t so keen on.

Unlike a native app, Progressive Web Apps aren’t able to harness any of the latest device hardware advancements such as Touch ID or Bluetooth. They also don’t directly fetch data from third party sites like Facebook or Google.

In terms of browser support, we’re making progress but it’s not quite there yet. You may still encounter bugs or reduced functionality when using particular device/browser combination. Good news is, we’re getting there. Significant progress was made in 2017 and chances are these won’t be a problem for much longer.

As such a new and underused technology, PWAs often cause confusion for users. What exactly are they getting? An app, a shortcut, a website? There purpose is still somewhat of a mystery to most.

In conclusion

If you’re that guy who has scrolled straight to the bottom to see our final recommendation, you’re out of luck. The use of Progressive Web Apps should definitely be determined on a case by case basis - they certainly aren’t going to completely replace native apps any time soon. Who your users are, what devices they are using, what you want to achieve through the app, how long you have to develop it and how much you have to spend upfront and ongoing are all going to influence your decision.

Finding an agency that does both and can identify your needs is imperative. You can catch us on +61 7 3257 3418 ;)

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