Software Development

The Benefits of Progressive Web Apps

Coined partly by Google in 2015, the term ‘Progressive Web App’ (PWA) describes an app that bridges the gap between a website and a downloadable app for use on mobile devices.

An app on your web browser

Instead of going to a particular app store and downloading an app, a PWA enables you to achieve a similar, app like user experience direct from your web browser whether on your smartphone, tablet or PC. Examples of PWAs are X (formerly Twitter) and Gmail although both offer the ‘traditional’ mobile app.

PWAs offer several benefits over a conventional app so they may be a viable choice for your business either instead of or alongside a downloadable app. If you’re working with an experienced app developer they can help advise on whether a PWA is worth your while investing in.

The benefits of PWAs

Consider some of the pluses of PWAs:

No app stores or installation needed – as mentioned above, PWAs aren’t accessed through app stores so you don’t have to go through the process of building, submitting for review and marketing the app specifically and adhere to the various rules of the respective app stores.

Cross-platform compatible – PWAs work across various platforms and on different devices whether desktop, smartphone or tablet so you don’t have to make the decision of which platform to develop for – or whether it should be multi platform.

Offline functionality – PWAs can work offline or in low-network conditions so allowing users to access content and perform tasks even when they’re not connected to the internet.

App-like user experience (UX) – the familiarity of using apps is still present in PWAs – very important if users enjoy the app UX and are used to it – for example, using X or Gmail as an app or a PWA.

Speed, storage and data use – PWAs often load faster, and with pre caching can be reasonably quick even if connection speeds are slow, and they’re flexible and fast across various screen sizes – important with the multitude of devices in use from smaller screen smartphones up to larger screen PCs and tablets.

PWAs usually take up less device storage space compared to native apps, so if capacity is at a premium this is a definite plus point. PWAs also tend to use less data than a standalone app – a distinct advantage when users are in areas of limited network bandwidth.

Improved SEO – faster loading also means improved ‘searchability’  as search engines will reward a slick, fast loading PWA with higher rankings – enhanced by the fact a PWA is treated like a website from a search point of view.

Updating and security – there’s no need for manual updates as PWAs can update automatically so users have continuous access to the features, and because PWAs are served over the web they benefit from the advanced security features of modern web browsers (assuming of course these are updated and the latest version of the browser is used).

Analytics and usage tracking – powerful web analytics tools such as Google Analytics can be used to gather insights into how users interact with the PWA, so enabling swift response based on meaningful data thus helping improve the UX and conversions.

Potentially lower development costs – you may need to compare the options with your web development partner between a stand alone app and a PWA, but the latter could prove more economical compared to developing separate apps for different platforms.

One definite advantage as mentioned above is that maintenance will be less costly as updates can be made server-side.

Improved engagement – the caching and offline capabilities of PWAs mean users are more likely to keep browsing rather than abandon a standalone app if it’s taking a while to load at times of slow connection speeds. Also, push notifications and location tracking can make it easier to provide specific content to the relevant users at any time.

This ease of use and improved engagement can increase sales conversions as users are moved more efficiently through the sales process and thus more likely to click ‘buy’. Those who ‘slipped through the net’ previously can be more easily re-marketed to via push notifications and other techniques.

Combining the best of both app worlds

PWAs clearly offer the best of both web and mobile apps worlds in providing a versatile and cost-effective solution if your business requires a way of reaching and engaging with an audience via the app route. Whether to adopt the PWA or mobile app path or combine both is an important decision and one an experienced app developer could prove invaluable in helping with.