The future of progressive web apps

The future of progressive web apps

In past few years, the use of mobiles has risen to the point where people now spend twice as much time on mobile devices as they do on desktop, and in many African countries mobile phones are the only devices they use.
When native apps first came to market, people couldn’t get enough of them. It changed the way people interact with their mobile devices, each other and with companies. The recent trend, however, shows that people are turning away from apps.
This should come as no surprise, and come July 1st, 2019, Google mobile-first indexing will now be the default index used by Googlebot for all new websites.
Even though users are downloading less apps, they are still an integral part of many users daily live and many brand’s digital marketing efforts. You’d be hard-pressed to find a company that hasn’t thought about developing an app. Given the tremendous benefit and impact that an app can have, why are so many companies not investing in app development?
The answer shouldn’t come as a surprise: cost. It can be an incredibly costly gamble if users don’t take to it.
The price of mobile app development is undoubtedly the main underlying reason why many companies, especially small businesses, are not investing in the app game, but it isn’t the only factor.

The Business Case

The need for businesses to target customers on mobile devices is no longer a discussion point. The question is no longer if they should do it but how and what is the cost?

As a business you have 3 choices if you want to appeal to mobile-based customer:

  • Build a responsive website,
  • Develop a native app, or
  • Create a progressive web app (PWA).

Mobile websites are quick and easy to access, but they tend to be less focussed on great user experiences. Native apps provide great user experience, but they are costly, can be expensive to maintain and require a user to download it. Meaning as a brand you need to generate quite a considerable buy-in from consumers first. Sitting right in the middle are PWA’s. First introduced in 2015 it combines the best elements of mobile sites and native apps while mitigating their disadvantages.

What is a Progressive Web App (PWA)?

Have you ever seen an “Add to Home Screen” banner, or “Install this web app to our phone”, while browsing a website on your mobile device? When you click the button, the “application” installs itself quietly in the background, while you continue with what you were doing. When you open this application, you can navigate and browse with the same experience as you were doing on your browser, but now right in your mobile phone.
This is what is called a Progressive Web Application or PWA.
A PWA lets you install the application from the browser window itself, is available on your phone like a native app, and works offline, just like a native app. The only difference is you did not have to download and install it from an app store.
The term Progressive Web App was coined by Alex Russell and Frances Berrima and simply put the are:

“Websites that look and feel like apps, with a wide range of functionality available at low cost and in easy-to-update formats.”

Here are some of the key characteristics that makes them different from traditional web apps and defines a PWA:

  • Most PWA’s work on all modern smartphones, irrespective of operating system.
  • They are discoverable by search engines.
  • They work offline.
  • They generally load faster than mobile websites and can be installed on your home screen.
  • Importantly, there’s no need to visit an app store. Users can download PWAs directly from their web browser.
  • Most PWA’s work on all modern smartphones, irrespective of operating system.

How is Progressive Web App different from Regular Web App?

There are several differences and advantages to using a PWA or a native app, we will explore these in more depth in our next blog post.

Following is a short overview of what a Native App is:

A Native App

A regular web app, in simpler terms, is a website that is designed to be accessible on all the mobile devices. It is designed using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Ruby, etc, and is downloaded from an app store. They offer various native-device features and functionalities, such as access to camera, contacts and photos that PWA do not.

What is the future of PWA or Progressive Web Apps?

Since being introduced in 2015, PWAs have slowly been gaining popularity. But with Google, Apple and Microsoft, the three main phone operating systems, all driving the transition to PWAs due to their inherent flexibility, PWAs are set to become the best way to stay ahead of the curve in the mobile industry.
Results have been quite impressive; users of Pinterest’s PWA spend 40% more time on the site compared to the previous mobile website. Lancôme saw an 84% decrease in time until the page is interactive, leading to a 17% increase in conversions and a 53% increase in mobile sessions on iOS with their PWA.
What makes 2019 so important when it comes to progressive web apps? Here are our top reasons for optimism:

  • Microsoft and Google have since early 2018 been backing PWAs heavily.
  • Apple has finally accepted PWAs.
  • More and more companies are shifting towards PWAs and are seeing success.
  • PWA’s are no longer a proof of concept or a side project, as more and more web developers are now engaged in progressive web apps development.
  • Progressive Web Apps are a mobile-first approach
  • Progressive Web Apps (PWA) create mobile web experiences that are closer to those delivered by native apps.
  • How Progressive Web Apps improve browsing experience. They offer user a fast and streamlined site, a better user experience, increased customer engagement and offline access

In Summary

Progressive Web Apps are the future of web development without any doubt.

If you’ve been holding off on developing a responsive website or a native mobile app, you are at a unique turning point. Many established businesses have already started the transition from native web apps to PWA’s to effectively replaces a company’s mobile site, its native app and maybe even its desktop site.

In other words, it’s a mobile-first approach to connecting with your customers.

In the future, e-commerce sites, restaurants, and media sources will transition from native app to Progressive Web App.