Although a progressive web application is quite a new phenomenon, an increasing number of companies has already been capitalizing on its extensive capabilities. Improved performance and better user experience are the benefits of this type of an application over mobile or web software. In this article, we will get to know the pros and cons of progressive web apps and possibilities that PWAs open for businesses. Before we start, let’s find out what’s different about them.
As Wikipedia defines them, PWAs are “web applications that are regular web pages or websites, but can appear to the user like traditional applications or native mobile applications.” They combine those capabilities of websites and mobile software that allow creating an immersive user experience and increase user engagement and conversion rate. Research demonstrates that PWAs provide numerous advantages to companies, such as:
- 68% increase of mobile traffic
- 15-fold improvement of load and installation speed
- 25-times reduced use of device storage
- 52% average conversion increase
- 78% average session increase
- 137% engagement increase
- 42.86% lower bounce rate when compared to that of mobile websites
- 133.67% increase in page views
How Can PWA Help Businesses?
What do the above figures mean for business efficiency? They were derived from an enhanced user experience that progressive web applications enable. Let’s take a look at the key advantages of PWA for business and their capabilities to find out why businesses, from startups to market leaders, should opt for them.
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Low Development Costs
PWAs do not require different versions for various devices; a single progressive app meets the requirements of all endpoints on which it operates. So, it significantly reduces the amount of efforts that developers provide, and as a result, the cost to create a PWA decreases. The cost is three or four times lower than that of a native mobile app.
App-Like Look and Feel
Nowadays, mobile users prefer apps to browsers, and statistics prove it: the number of mobile app downloads worldwide will increase by 45 percent between 2017 and 2022.
Figure 1. The number of mobile app downloads worldwide in 2017, 2018 and 2022 (in billions)
Indeed, applications compare favorably with browsers, as they are more user-friendly, can operate offline and have a more attractive interface.
Progressive web applications provide an advanced user experience by combining the look and feel of mobile applications and the best of website performance. They have the design and settings that are very similar to those of native mobile software. Regardless of technologies, tools and frameworks on which PWAs are developed, they provide the same user experience as native mobile apps do, and it is considered to be superior to that of websites.
At the same time, they have the same speed, responsiveness and comprehensive capabilities of websites with database access and automatic data. As a result, search engines index them, which is why systems such as google.com or bing.com can find PWA pages. When compared to mobile software that keeps its internal data only for its own use, the pages of these applications can be found on the internet, which may have a favorable impact on the number of page views.
Unlike regular mobile applications, PWAs do not require a long and complex installation process, which significantly improves user experience. Users just download an app, quickly and directly to their devices, and they do not need to go to the App Store or Google Play. It streamlines the procedure and significantly reduces user abandonment. After users have downloaded an app, they can access it via a desktop icon.
Some browsers even offer call-to-action-like teasers that prompt users to download these apps when they visit respective websites. This functionality comes built into browsers and allows the apps to enhance their credibility and reliability. As this software does not require installation on devices, users can easily access the PWA via a URL, which significantly contributes to the high shareability.
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PWAs cache and serve text, images and other content in a specific, efficient manner, which enables them to operate like websites and significantly improves the running speed. Along with quick operation, impeccable performance is another attribute that has an impact on user experience and conversion rates.
Retailers and content providers should adopt this type of software as it enables a more positive user experience than mobile apps by improving retention and customer loyalty.
Platform- and Device-Agnosticism
Unlike regular applications that are very demanding on operating systems and the technical capabilities of various devices, PWAs work everywhere. A single app can satisfy the needs of various consumers and provide a uniform user experience on different endpoints. At the same time, this type of application enables cross-support to users that switch between their devices by providing them with a continuous experience. Users can access an app that has the same settings and data as that on another device.
This fact also significantly contributes to business automation, as companies that rely on PWAs know that the software their employees use performs seamlessly regardless of the platform or app version. Also, PWAs are highly responsive to various form factors, as they adapt properly to various screen sizes.
No Updating Issues
PWAs have a specific functionality that allows them to update automatically, without notifying users and bothering them with permission requests. These apps update themselves every time when users visit them, thus eliminating the need to download batch changes and install them. They just provide a renewed look with no human participation.
However, some of the producers of progressive apps send push notifications to users to inform them about the arrival of a new update. All the same, producers have full control of the information and content, to which users have access.
Seamless Offline Operation
The capability to operate offline or in compromised networks makes PWAs much more convenient than websites, which require a proper internet connection. Built-in service workers cache important progressive web apps’ features and information automatically, which eliminates the necessity to download it and allows users to access it without an internet connection.
It is based on the saving of information that users previously accessed, for example, pages. If they try to open those that they have not visited online, an app can show a custom offline page. This capability is crucial for retailers, as it allows them to prevent users from abandoning their catalogs and enhances customer retention.
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No Dependence on App Distribution Services
Usually, app distribution services, such as the App Store, Google Play or Microsoft Store, set high requirements to software that is included in their databases. Meeting their requirements may become quite a time- and effort-consuming process. Also, in some cases, services remove applications from databases without notice if a company fails to meet some of the requirements. So, PWAs allow producers to avoid complex reconciliation procedures as they do not need to be stored in similar services.
Push Notification Functionality
Like native mobile applications, PWAs have access to device-specific functionality, such as push notifications. This capability can be performed in various ways and allows companies to make the best use of content advertising.
Why are push notifications especially efficient when it comes to PWAs? According to some statistical data, almost 60% of users allow their progressive applications to send them notifications, which significantly increases opportunities to promote products or services. Moreover, these notifications are displayed on the screens of mobile devices, which is why there is a high probability that they attract users’ attention, especially when compared to email newsletters, blog entries or posts in social networks.
In such a way, a company can better access its target audience, and chances are, the audience will respond. Another valuable outcome is that these bouncing notifications, along with app icons on device desktops, considerably add to brand recognition, as they allow a business to draw attention to itself. However, users that have numerous applications installed on their mobile devices and that allow a great number of them to send notifications risk making their digital experiences cluttered.
PWAs rely on HTTPS to provide data safety and minimize the risk of security issues, as this protocol allows to preclude snooping and content tampering. Also, the applications take advantage of Web Bluetooth technology that includes certain security capabilities.
The Drawbacks of a Progressive Web App for Business
Despite all of these benefits of progressive web apps for businesses, some of them may turn out to be shortcomings, such as:
- Limited support of native hardware. Although they have access to the native functionality of mobile devices, they cannot make use of 100% of them. In these cases, only native apps provide a solution.
- No chance of promotion in app stores. Although this fact eliminates the need in excessive coordination with app stores, it also deprives companies of an efficient source of promotion.
- Lack of universal support. Certain browsers, such as Safari, do not support PWAs.
Be Progressive with Progressive Web Apps
By the elaborate combination of the most efficient capabilities of native mobile software and web applications, PWAs significantly improve user experience and increase retention rates. However, it is not only customer loyalty and satisfaction that adds value to businesses. Enhanced security, low development costs and platform-agnosticism are the features that also make these applications the go-to choice of multiple market players, such as Twitter, AliExpress and Forbes.
Progressive web applications are the way of the future, which is why you should consider switching to them now to get the most out of their capabilities for your business.