The Next Big Thing: Progressive Web Apps

You may not have heard of them yet, but Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are about to change the mobile landscape. The need for businesses to target customers on mobile devices is obvious. The question is no longer if they should do it, but how. A business that wants to appeal to mobile-based customers has three choices: build a responsive website, develop a native app or create a PWA.

PWAs are a hybrid of native apps and mobile websites

Mobile websites are quick and easy to get to, but they tend to be less pleasant in terms of user experience. Many of our clients have a deep repository of content that is not always ideally designed for the mobile experience. Native apps provide the finest user experience, but they are limited to certain devices and have high barriers to adoption. Native apps require submission to the app stores and a download. Sitting between these options is the newest mobile solution: the PWA. It combines the best elements of mobile sites and native apps.

A progressive web application takes advantage of the latest technologies to combine the best of web and mobile apps. Think of it as a website built using web technologies but that acts and feels like an app. Progressive web apps take advantage of the much larger web ecosystem, plugins and community and the relative ease of deploying and maintaining a website when compared to a native application in the respective app stores.

A study has shown that, on average, an app loses 20% of its users for every step between the user’s first contact with the app and the user starting to use the app. A user must first find the app in an app store, download it, install it and then, finally, open it. When a user finds your progressive web app, they will be able to immediately start using it, eliminating the unnecessary downloading and installation stages.

The PWA Defined

  • Progressive: a progressive web app works on any device and enhances progressively, taking advantage of any features available on the user’s device and browser.
  • Discoverable. Because a progressive web app is a website, it is discoverable in search engines. This is a major advantage over native applications, which still lag behind websites in searchability.
  • Responsive. A progressive web app’s user interface fits the device’s form factor and screen size.
  • App-like. A progressive web app looks like a native app and is built on the application shell model, with minimal page refreshes.
  • Connectivity-independent. It works in areas of low connectivity or offline.
  • Re-engageable. Mobile app users are more likely to reuse their apps, and progressive web apps are intended to achieve the same goals through features such as push notifications.
  • Installable. A progressive web app can be installed on the device’s home screen, making it readily available.
  • Fresh. When new content is published and the user is connected to the Internet, that content is made available in the app.
  • Safe. Because a progressive web app has a more intimate user experience and because all network requests can be intercepted through service workers, the app is hosted over HTTPS to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks.

Our Prediction

While first introduced in 2015, PWAs have gained popularity this year. Google, Apple and Microsoft — the three main standards in terms of native app distribution — are all driving the transition to PWAs. Because of their inherent flexibility, PWAs are the best way to stay ahead of the curve in the mobile industry. Still need some convincing? Check out this PWA Stats page.

Look for PWA services from Apis Productions in June 2018.