By Ankit Patel
How many apps do you download and install in your mobile device? How many times do you open your apps in a month? Other than the popular apps like Facebook, Instagram, and other gaming apps, it is highly unlikely that users pay much importance to mobile apps. Moreover, the apps require more memory space and hence the users restrain from downloading apps that are not useful.
For smaller companies, the cost factor comes in when building native mobile apps. Then what is the solution that can provide a good user experience but at the same time help the company to advertise itself? That is possible through the progressive web apps.
What is a progressive web app?
The so-called progressive web-apps are basically the internet-enabled apps that are accessible through the mobile device’s web browser. Its approach is midway between the mobile websites and the native mobile apps.
As per the Google developer, Alex Russell, a progressive web app is:
- Responsive—because it can fit any form factor and devices like desktop, tablet, and mobile.
- Connectivity independent—The service workers help it to be accessible offline or on low-quality networks through cached memory
- App-like interactions—The app shell model separates application functionality from application content. The mobile app like navigations and interactions are possible here.
- Fresh—The service worker update process helps to keep it constantly updated
- Discoverable—The search engines can identify them on the web as applications due to the service worker registration and W3C Manifests
- Re-engageable—Re-engagement of the user through push notifications just like the mobile apps is possible with the PWAs. The push notifications help it in engaging with the User Interface of the operating system.
- Installable—The PWAs can be installed to the home screen of the mobile device by browser-provided prompts. The user needn’t go to the app store to install it.
- Progressive—It is built with core tenet. Hence regardless of the browser choice, it works for every user.
- Secure—It is served through HTTPS to ensure that the content is intact and hasn’t been tampered with. This ensures the lessening of multiple types of security threats by utilizing secure connections.
- Linkable—They are easy to share and provide hassle-free installation. They can be shared through URL.
Simply put, the progressive web application is just like the web applications, but much progressive with enhanced user experience based on the browser capabilities.
What are the benefits of having progressive web apps?
- Installation: Unlike the native mobile apps, you need not go the Play Store to download or search the PWAs. They are directly accessed from the mobile web browser. Once discovered, they are easy to be saved on the home screen of the mobile app. The Android versions prompt the users to install the PWA. For iOS, you need to manually add it to the home screen.
- Offline Use: Yes, mobile apps can be accessed without having to be connected to the internet. But with the PWAs, work offline is possible with the cached data. With a PWA, certain parts of the app can be served to the users. But if you want to submit a form or edit, then you will be unable to do so without the connectivity.
- Updates: The PWA gets automatically updated from the user’s side. From a developer’s side of the equation, updating a PWA is much simpler than updating a native mobile app.
- Discovery: The PWA works like any other online website in terms of web search SEO. An average user visits about 100 sites per month. Hence, the chances of discovery are more than mobile apps.
- Cost: The progressive web apps are built in a number of ways with the addition of service workers. It is cheaper than building a platform-specific mobile native app.
- Access to new markets: The benefit of PWA is that it loads faster even in the low-connectivity network range. This is a boon to companies who want to get themselves recognized in the emerging markets that haven’t moved beyond 2G. Flipkart is an example that uses PWA because its target audience mostly uses 2G to access their website. This proved successful to engage with customers who didn’t want to download and install the app for various reasons.
- Faster load: Everyone knows for the fact that users abandon a website if it does not load in the initial three seconds. But with the progressive web apps, the loading is fast. The progressive web apps load faster because of its app shell architecture and utilization of service workers.
For a web app to qualify as a progressive web app:
- It must run under HTTPS—The service workers perform all the actions on the client side and can intercept the network request or modify the responses. A PWA runs under HTTPS to ensure that there is no snooping. The service workers and the other technologies in a PWA only work under secure connections.
- It has to have a Web App Manifest—The Manifest file is the JSON file and it contains information on the application. Take for instance, when the manifest file is present, the web install banner gets triggered and when the user agrees to the request, the icon is added to the home screen and the PWA is installed.
The progressive web apps are definitely smaller than their native mobile apps and can load faster. They provide a user-friendly interface with customer engagement made possible through push notifications. Alibaba analyzed that with its PWA, their user engagement increased by 60%. With a PWA, the search is easy and installation is still easier. It can be said as a scripted website with most of the capabilities of a native mobile app.
The progressive web apps are a fantastic opportunity for businesses keen on growing. The existing tools and applications can be utilized to build the PWA with an improved experience leading to greater engagement. Owing to its popularity, Microsoft has stated that the PWA will be supported by the desktop Windows 10 operating system.
With the mobile web reach almost three times that of the apps, it makes sense for companies to have their progressive web app so that they can take advantage of the users who don’t want to install their native mobile app.
Ankit Patel is a Marketing/Project Manager at XongoLab Technologies and PeppyOcean, which offers top-notch web and mobile app development solutions globally. As a hobby, he loves to write about new and upcoming technology, mobile development, web development, programming tools, business, social media, and more.
App stock photo by Bakhtiar Zein/Shutterstock