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Guide

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Should You Consider a Progressive Web App for your Next Project?

Ian Naylor  //  October 24, 2017  //  5 min read

For any business in today’s marketplace, ensuring you have a solid digital presence is a must in order to compete with the competition and put your company in front of the eyes of potential customers.

There are a number of ways in which you can achieve this, from the traditional website to target desktop users, a speedy responsive design to hit the mobile market and even an app in all of the popular app stores to target customers from all angles.

However, there is a new player on the market in the form of the PWA, or progressive web app. Today’s post explores whether you should consider a PWA for your next project.

What is a progressive web app?

Essentially, a progressive web app looks and feels like a traditional app that you’d download from your mobile’s app store but instead is accessed through your browser; in exactly the same way as you would a responsive website.

As a result, you won’t need to be found via an app store filled with other businesses vying for consumer attention. Your PWA will allow you to have an online presence that is an amalgamation of app-like features; loading like an app, functioning like an app, being responsive like an app but being accessed through the mobile browser.

The benefits of progressive web apps

In today’s competitive environment, you need to offer something that stands out and is a cut above the rest in order to make an impression. A PWA offers the platform for you to achieve this.

Speed: The customer doesn’t like to be kept waiting and with an average 15x quicker load speed compared to native apps, your progressive web app will satisfy their needs.

Progressive web app speeds

Notifications: Keep the user up to date with the latest news, products, and offers through push notifications straight through to their device. Normally associated with a native app, this is a fantastic additional benefit of progressive web apps and something your regular responsive website simply wouldn’t be able to offer.

Immediate updates: With automatic updates whenever required, the user will not be prompted to perform an update and in turn your app won’t experience any downtime.

Less storage: Whereas a native app is likely to take a considerable amount of storage on a device, a progressive web app has been shown to take up on average of 25x less storage capacity.

Progressive web app speeds

Improved engagement and conversion: Ultimately, engaging with the consumer and getting them to convert, whether that be through the sale of a product or enquiry about a service, is the main goal. PWAs have been shown to provide an incredible 52% increase in conversions, with Forbes noting a staggering 43% increase in sessions when they switched to a PWA.

Progressive web app conversion

Less expensive: As with many decisions made in business, finances of course play a part. Compared to their native app counterparts, PWAs are less expensive to create with the programming less time consuming too.

Possible fallbacks to progressive web apps

It’s not all plain sailing for the PWA though as, like many other forms of technology, there are areas where improvements can be made.

Compatibility: As a new form of digital offering, it is very much the case that other pieces need to catch up. A format that is still constantly developing and evolving, its compatibility with some mobile browsers and operating systems still requires further testing.

Whilst fully functional with Android operating systems, as Google is a leading the line with the rollout of the progressive web app, much still depends on how iOS devices will facilitate this form of technology.

Native functions: Although it can’t be said that this will never happen, gaining full use of a device’s native functions including contacts, calendar and Bluetooth is not currently possible. It’s difficult to assess how a progressive web app will be able to delve as deep into a device’s operating system as a native app can.

Progressive web apps vs native apps

The question then arises as to whether you invest in the development of a PWA or the more traditional native app?

Whilst the idea of having your own native app sounds like a great one and can be a solid selling point to customers, there is the issue of visibility in the first place. In an increasingly congested marketplace, consumers will actually have to search and then download your app from their app store before they can start using it.

A PWA on the other hand is visible in exactly the same way as a website is, will be crawled and therefore rank in Google searches and offers similar features to an app. With a fluid operating style, without the friction that can occur in native apps, fantastic reaction times and the option for swipe navigation, the progressive web app offers all the benefits of the app whilst being accessible via their browser.

The potential of hybrid?

There is though a third option to throw into the mix- the hybrid app. The hybrid app sits directly in the middle of the native app and PWA in that they incorporate features of both.

They feel very much like a native app in that they are downloaded from the app store yet rely on a browser embedded inside the app to function.

Some advantages of the hybrid app include:

  • Quick development time
  • Access to a device’s native functions
  • Updates can be easily deployed
  • Can still operate with no internet connection

As with native apps and PWAs, the hybrid app also has disadvantages; not least the fact that functionality can be compromised as the app is built to function on two platforms. Rather than focusing on the experience for the user on one platform, they can attempt to do too much and therefore impact upon the end experience.

So, should you consider a PWA for your next project?

PWAs offer web developers the opportunity to enter a whole new development landscape and also allow businesses to offer a digital experience to customers that far exceeds what many competitors are able to offer.

Whilst there are areas of improvement, the advantages seem to be far outweigh the negatives. It will undoubtedly be a challenge to oust the established native app, however it seems that the progressive web app has all the attributes required to be the next trendsetting technology for the business world.

About Ian Naylor

Ian Naylor is the founder and CEO of AppInstitute, one of the world’s leading DIY App Builders (over 70,000 apps built). Naylor has founded, grown and sold 4 successful internet and technology companies during the past 18 years around the world. He gives seminars as an expert authority on startup mobile app trends, development, and online marketing and has spoken at numerous industry events including The Great British Business Show, Venturefest, the National Achievers Congress and numerous industry exhibitions around the UK.
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