The rise of the Mobile web creates new opportunities and challenges for web developers – and I’m excited to see what’s next. According to Statista, over half of all website visits so far in 2018 occurred on mobile devices. However, to businesses in today’s competitive marketplace, that’s not surprising. As users continue to turn to mobile devices as their primary source of information, their expectations of what that mobile device does for them will also increase. Web developers must not only deliver seamless experiences from mobile to desktop, but they must also ensure that mobile navigation and interaction work for all – regardless of finger size, screen size, and user experience..
To rise to this challenge, progressive mobile apps are becoming increasingly popular. Google first introduced this concept in 2015, when it foresaw the explosion in mobile search and use. Today, progressive web applications are becoming an increasingly popular choice for ease of use in development, combined with a superior user experience.
Yes, but what is a progressive web application and how do you leverage it for your business?
A progressive web application, or PWA, leverages the latest available technology to marry the best aspects of both web and mobile applications – and it can be a boon to SM businesses. A PWA functions like a website and uses popular website technology, but it looks and feels like an app to the user. Recent browser developments from Google and other tech giants make it possible for website developers to easily create products that allow users to receive push notifications and install web applications, even using some of the capabilities offline.
Progressive web applications use a much more sophisticated system than native applications, more in line with a website. They use complex plug-ins and tools, yet they’re easier to deploy and maintain. That’s because they can run on your website’s code, so developers are only maintaining one overall product between the app and the website. This creates less stress on the IT department and improves the user experience.
Let’s talk about what you need for a progressive web application.
When you’re ready to leverage progressive web applications for your business, understand that a PWA must be:
- Progressive in web design means it should work the same way for everyone, no matter the browser or device choice. A PWA is inherently progressive because it has progressive enhancement in its code.
- It must work seamlessly from desktop to tablet to any mobile device, unlike a native application.
- Independent of connectivity. With a PWA, a user can work offline and access core functionality, even in low-quality network environments.
- Like an app – this is because a PWA effectively separates content from functionality.
- Tampering with content should be difficult, thanks to HTTPS servicing.
- Kept up to date with a continuous update model.
- Easy for users to find. In other words, it can be found as an application because of a W3C manifest and the service worker registration that makes it available for search engines to list.
- Users can find and install a PWA without all the steps of downloading from an app store.
- Re-engagement is simple for users, thanks to push notifications.
- Users can simply share the application via a URL, without the need for a complex installation process.
A product can only be considered a progressive web application if it meets all these requirements. But why should developers consider it in the first place? Because it matters to your consumers.
Here are some examples of what I’m talking about. Check out these real-world PWAs.
Considering taking the plunge into the world of PWAs?
Take some time to look at how the pros leverage PWAs:
The Twitter progressive web application has it all – it’s intuitive, simple to use, fun to play with, and installs easily onto your home screen without navigating to the app store. Access the responsive tool from mobile.twitter.com, not the actual website.
Washington Post PWA
A good news source should be easy to access, simple to navigate and get users to the information they desire quickly. The Washington Post PWA checks all the boxes and allows users the opportunity to interact with full website content, with the intuition and ease of access inherent in a native application. It also works 24/7 thanks to the Offline Google Analytics Library.
Let’s talk about how a progressive web application benefits you and your business.
A progressive web application has the benefits of an application and the powerful ecosystem of a website. There are a few other compelling reasons to consider a PWA over a native application:
- An application, on average, can lose 20% of users for each step between a user’s first contact and actual use of the app. Consider the steps: First, a user must find the app in his or her respective app store. Next, he or she must download it and install it, and then open it. By contrast, a progressive web application allows a user to find your app and start using it immediately, without any conversion-risking steps in between.
- A user can also enjoy the benefits of a native application with a PWA. Push notifications, for example, can lead to an increased retention rate of almost 300% compared to applications that don’t use them. Since PWAs also leverage push notifications, both users and developers can enjoy the best of both worlds.
In other words, the main benefit of a PWA is that it uses a mobile app’s most convenient aspects but combines them with the power and the simplicity of a website. This leads to better performance, better retention, and easier methods of deployment and maintenance.
Here’s what I want you to know about next steps and the future of PWAs.
The most important question now is: Are PWAs here to stay? A few compelling reasons point to the answer being “yes”:
- PWAs eliminate many of the issues inherent in native applications. Native apps, when designed well, can be fast and efficient. However, there are many times when developers cannot account for all contingencies. The Accelerated Mobile Pages project worked to solve slow connection issues, but what happens on a low-quality network? Native apps may be out of luck, but PWAs will continue to work in any environment.
- Mobile will be the dominant mode of search for the long haul. Based on research on mobile use, the number of mobile internet users is expected to reach 270.5 million by 2020, and over half of all internet searches occur on mobile devices. This will lead to more demanding consumers of content who want to access information from any device, any time, regardless of extenuating circumstances. PWAs are best suited to rise to this challenge as mobile internet use continues to increase.
- PWAs need fewer resources and less time to deploy and maintain. In other words, native applications cost around 10 times more compared to developing a simple website. A developer can create a more effective product in less time, and with less waste.
My advice for businesses that want to stay ahead of the competition is to invest in progressive steps when they happen, including PWAs.
Despite PWAs’ inherent benefits, companies seem slow to adopt. Progressive web applications combine the most powerful aspects of both native applications and traditional websites. They offer a lower cost alternative to native apps, but with similar retentive power in the form of push notifications and more. Businesses would do well to consider a PWA over a native application build, due to lower cost, easier maintenance, and more effective operation. However, it may still take a few years for this phenomenon to hit the mainstream and become the preferred method of mobile search and use. Companies looking to get ahead of the curve should consider a PWA in lieu of a native application.
Have you invested in PWAs? And are they working for your business? Tell me what you think in the comments below.