Win Customers with Progressive Web Apps

Marcell Kiss
22nd February 2018
10 min. read

Today’s technology empowers developers to build web apps which are confusingly similar to native apps. At the same time native app downloads are declining and companies are looking for ways to mitigate the losses. (An average American downloads zero apps per month).

Today's technology empowers developers to build web apps which are confusingly similar to native apps. At the same time native app downloads are declining and companies are looking for ways to mitigate the losses. ( An average American downloads zero apps per month).

However, there's the New Big Thing out there, ready to disrupt the market, called Progressive Web Apps (or PWA in short).

The brief history and the future of the mobile web

2002 The mobile web was nowhere yet. Devices, browsers and the Internet just had to evolve.

2007 iPhone 3G changed the world; it was easier to access a website from a mobile phone than ever, however it was a UX misery because of the unoptimized websites.

For lack of a better solution, web developers started to duplicate the code of their sites for different screen sizes, boosting the costs for the affected businesses.

(Meanwhile, Apple Store was born and native apps were on the rise in the following years.)
2012 The Year of RWD - the Responsive Web Design that quickly became the very standard for how the mobile web is built.

2017 Mobile users are still showing a growing interest for mobile web, yet mobile web applications have some serious handicaps compared to native apps. They can't match them in performance, they can't work offline, they can't get push-notifications, and so on.

In the near future, PWA will be part of our everydays.
I'll explain everything below.

What is PWA?

(Note: If you know exactly what a Progressive Web App is, feel free to skip this section)

Progressive Web Apps are Web Apps on steroids. They are basically websites with a significant difference: they can be used just like native apps afterwards. They are much easier to install and they take much less space on your device which can be very appealing for users.

'PWA is a bridge between ordinary web apps and native apps.'

Progressive Web Apps have extraordinary attributes:

  • Easy to install - Statistics show that businesses lose a significant amount of users before the user would even download the app. PWAs can be installed in one single click, without wandering in the app stores, which requires a lot more effort.
  • Platform independent - You don't have worry about developing and updating your application individually on all platforms (iOS, Android or the Web). The PWA serves all your users from one single codebase resulting in much faster development and decreased production costs.
  • Responsive - Fits desktop, mobile, tablet, or whatever is next.
  • App-like - The real power of PWA lies in adaptability. With the correct implementation, the app looks and feels like a mobile app on portable devices and automatically switches to its desktop version as soon as the user opens it from a PC.
  • Re-engageable - Push notifications are supported.
  • Works offline - No internet? No problem. Your users can stay engaged even when the internet is gone.
  • Stays in sync - PWA is able to run in the background and synchronize changes elegantly, when the device is connected to the internet.
  • Safe - Uses the secure HTTPS communication protocol.
  • Linkable - The application or its content can easily be shared on every available media.
  • Discoverable - In addition to SEO benefits, Google Play is also listing these apps.

Are you looking for examples? Don't go any further, here they are.

Critical features

Why do we prefer the web over native apps or vice versa? Let's start with two questions to see our motivations clearly:

The 4 advantages of the Web

  • Downloading an app is tiresome
  • WEB won't waste my disk-space
  • It's easier to open linked content
  • It's always up-to-date, no 'update process' needed

The 4 advantages of Native

  • It's easy to access
  • It works offline
  • Push Notifications keep me up-to-date
  • More features (like camera, microphone, etc.)

Progressive Web Apps are a great combination of both worlds.

First of all, they are Web Apps, so they have all the advantages of the WEB.

On the other hand, thanks to the latest technological innovations, these web apps are ready to move one step closer to our Operation System. We can put them on our Desktop, they can work offline, they can synchronize in the background, Push Notifications are available and most of the native features are supported by modern browsers.

PWA is here and ready to close the gap between the WEB and native apps!

Who will benefit the most?

All this practically means that we can develop just one codebase (the web) and access all your customers on all the major platforms. This is not new, as Hybrid Apps have existed for years.

What really changes is that with PWAs, the installation is much smoother; it can happen directly from the browser skipping the different stores. And even if it's not installed, your Progressive Web App will be faster and it can work offline.

If your users attend your site regularly - the retention rate is high -, then statistics shows a PWA would be a huge hit, as it would take the user experience to a whole new level and improve the user engagement significantly.

The typical industries for such a scenario are the following:

  • E-commerce The potential is huge, AliExpress already implemented it's PWA and Google is cooperating with Magento to supercharge the webshop engine with PWA capabilities.
  • News Portals If content keeps coming, PWA is a good choice. Forbes recognized the opportunity very early. Content Management Systems are also a hot topic: no surprise that Wordpress' PWA plugin has more than 1000.000 downloads.
  • Social Sites Enough to mention Twitter as an early-bird adopter.
  • Gambling Sites There's no good example yet, but it would be a super smart move for bwin and similar sites.

The list is long. Travel sites, coupon sites, event sites, communication apps, productivity apps and many others could take advantage of today's web - and some of them do already.

Just look at your home screen and ask the question: Which of my current apps couldn't be built with web technologies? Well, we have never met one.

The numbers behind the innovation

What numbers support the 'PWA theory'? Let's see the following facts:

  1. Since 2014, the primary device for Internet usage has been the mobile
  2. Mobile web audiences are much bigger and are growing faster than apps
  3. Installing a native app takes too much time
  4. US app downloads declined 20% in a year
  5. PWA is driving massive conversion increases for the early bird adopters

Here are the details:

Access Time for Web and Mobile

PWA statistics :

  • Forbes' PWA saw 2x increase in user session length, 6x completion rate, and 20% more impressions.
  • Twitter's PWA saw a 65% increase in pages per session, 75% in Tweets and 10% decrease in bounce rate.
  • OLX experienced 250% more re-engagement using push notifications and 146% higher click-through rate on ads. Thanks to performance improvements the bounce rate fell 80%.

If you want to read more case studies, click here.

Summary

It can be clearly seen that the technology behind Progressive Web Apps is a huge innovation. Google is known for starting the initiative, as they were the first who implemented the required feature set and they advocate the technology very actively today - and this is really well understandable as WEB is the primary platform for the search engine giant.

On the other hand, Apple has been hesitating for a long time about accepting and implementing the new standards, as PWAs provide a way to bypass the App Store, which is an extremely valuable asset for the company.

Today, the PWA standards are officially accepted by all major players, Google, Apple and Microsoft. The industry leaders gave a huge push with their decisions to the web and PWA is ready to go mainstream, so stay tuned!

PWAs do not mean the end of the app era. There will still remain many-many apps which wouldn't make sense - or would be impossible to provide - as a web based app, mostly due to native capabilities.

One thing is for sure:

The WEB is improving lightning fast and early adopters will be the ones to win.

Resources:

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