If someone approached you on the street and asked you what you think the next big step in the digital world would be, what would you say to them? First, kind stranger, why are you even asking me these strange questions? And second, progressive web apps, of course. Asking for time would’ve been a harder question. Would it really be the answer you’d give remains yet to be seen. Progressive web apps still haven’t taken off, not completely, at least. However, they are becoming more widespread as the time progresses. What they are, their features and benefits, discuss in this article we will, young padawan.
What Are Progressive Web Apps?
A term coined in 2015, progressive web apps (or PWA for friends) portray the future of apps, an idea and a concept at first. Designer Frances Berriman and Google Chrome engineer Alex Russell coined it to describe applications that take advantage of the new features in modern browsers, such as Service Workers and App Manifests. Progressive Web Apps are a hybrid of mobile apps and websites, and as such combine the best of both worlds. The term denotes a very new software development methodology that, even though it was proposed in 2015, is just taking off.
The web is slowly, but surely being filled up by a sea of them. You can find them in many forms, shapes, and sizes. From Pokédex to weather apps and even an app that lets you throw paper planes around the globe. You can find most of them at pwa.rocks.
You shouldn’t confuse PWA with Hybrid Apps, while we are at it. A Hybrid App mimics mobile UX and requires a download. However, the biggest difference is that Hybrid Apps don’t use browser features while progressive apps, as already stated, do.
Features of Progressive Web Apps
For an app to classify as a progressive web app, it needs to have certain characteristics, according to Google Developers. While they many others, these should be the most notable ones.
- Progressive – The app needs to work for every user, regardless of the browser used (because they’re built with progressive enhancement as a core tenet)
- Responsive – As with websites, the modern times ask for adaptability and a PWA needs to perform equally on desktop, mobile, tablet, or any other forms yet to emerge.
- Connectivity independent – Because Service Workers allow work offline and on low-quality networks, a PWA needs to utilise this feature.
- App-like – Apps try to be as intuitive as possible, and a progressive app needs to follow that recipe and be user-friendly. In other words, it has to behave like an app.
- Fresh – Again, thanks to the service workers, it is possible always to stay up-to-date.
- Safe – It should be served via HTTPS. That way it can prevent snooping and ensure that the content hasn’t been tinkered with.
- Discoverable – They should be identifiable as applications. Thanks to W3C manifests and service worker registration scope, search engines can find them.
- Re-engageable – They should make re-engagement easy through features like push notifications.
- Installable – They should offer users the option to keep those apps from their home screen, without the need to go through an app store.
- Linkable – What’s more to say? They should love links and should adhere to the basic rule of link sharing. And, well, that is to be shareable via a URL.
Why Progressive Web Apps Over Web or Mobile?
And now to come to the meat of the body. Why progressive web apps over websites or mobile apps?
First and foremost, many studies have shown that an app (an ordinary, plain ol’ app) loses around 20% of its users between the user’s first point of contact with an app and the user’s start of app usage. We all know how it goes. First, you browse the app store, either with a goal in mind or out of boredom, then you decide to download an app that caught your eye, and then you need to sign up or sign in. Maybe it doesn’t work as smoothly as you had expected at first or maybe it crashed. Whatever the process, it becomes tedious once you’ve done it for hundreds of times. You don’t always have the patience to deal with some minor bugs, and when it runs thin, you hit that dreaded “uninstall” button. And, voilà, the app lost a user.
Now, with progressive web apps, those same steps are taken away. You don’t have to browse an app store, nor do you have to install the app. You can use it at your will, without it using up your storage. This alone increased the user retention, even without the better performance they boast.
Of course, a mobile app can use push notifications to increase retention, sometimes even up to three times more than apps without it.
Another big thing is that progressive web apps don’t have to be developed for three different platforms. Since you use a browser to access them, you don’t need to develop for Android, iOs, and web. And since you don’t have to develop for all of them, you also don’t need to maintain three separate codes bases.
Food for Thought
If you haven’t noticed it yet, Google loves progressive web apps. Loves? It adores them. Google goes even so far as to prompt users to add them to their home screen. Especially if all criteria are met.
Less data for initial page loads leads to many great things. Faster load times impact transactions positively, wouldn’t you say? We would. And Google seems to think so too.
These are only some of the benefits offered by progressive web apps. To tickle your thoughts or spark your imagination, think of how you could use them. A progressive web app as a homepage on your news site? A new and interactive way of blogging perhaps? Or small, but fast games for users on the go to make them stay and feel welcome on your site? Maybe. What we can say for certain, though, is that if apps made you feel as having unlimited choice, just think of how progressive web apps will make you feel.
Progressive web apps seem to be the future of applications. A natural occurrence in the digital world. Technologies and methodologies change as fast as the weather in London. An evolution as fast as that one makes it hard to predict the future possibilities. Hard, but not impossible (or improbable). While progressive web apps offer many features and benefits, they still haven’t taken off. The reasons for it vary, and could be anything from the industry not willing to change to progressive web apps not having a big enough pay off.
Whatever the reason for it, we predict an incoming increase in the next few years as more and more merchants find it helps their conversion rates. Developers at Gauss Development decided to rather adapt then let it go past them. It is one of many characteristics of our developers which helped us establish Gauss as a full-service development agency.
Think you have a great idea for a progressive web app? We can help, if you give us a call.
Don’t be a stranger! Leave a comment or contact us, we’ll be happy to introduce you more to the world of apps.