When you should use Progressive Web Apps?

By: Keshav Pandey, Jun 18th, 2019 # PWA

Blog banner of when you should use progressive web apps

If you are a software developer or web developer, there is a slim chance that you aren’t aware of the benefits of Progressive Web Apps.

But many business owners are still not completely familiar with PWA and its many possibilities and benefits.

As the likes of Alibaba, Pinterest, BMW, OLX, and Debenhams have found out, PWA is the best way to appear as an app on the user’s device without actually investing in a mobile app.

That PWA is a responsive website but skinned like an app. That’s not all. It carries a number of extra features and benefits that enhance its position past that of regular, native apps.

Bringing the best of native apps

The cost of building a native app is very expensive. The average price of building an iOS app is anywhere between $28K to $50K and higher if you are a bigger brand with specific demands. To cater to both iOS and Android users, you will need to manage and update your app for both the ecosystems.

Considering that the average user barely installs one app per month on their device, you are practically burning your money.

PWAs solve this problem by bypassing the app stores completely. For instance, if you visit the Twitter website from the Chrome browser on your phone and click on the Add to Home screen prompt, the Twitter PWA will start appearing in your app library. It will look, behave, and function like a fully native app.

PWAs bring the common elements for web development – JavaScript, HTML, or CSS. But they are easier, cheaper to build, and have a rapid development cycle. Plus, they are non-intrusive.

The user can install them with a single click, and since they don’t eat up the precious mobile space, it is a win-win. Compared to the heavy-duty native apps that use up precious MBs, most PWAs are so light they take up a few KBs of space.

Further, PWAs use content caching. This makes it easier to use them in areas that have low connectivity or even with airplane mode. They load at a blazing speed and use relatively little data.

The SEO advantage

While there is no direct SEO benefit of PWAs, the usability and time spent on the website increased dramatically. For example, Pinterest observed that the time spent on their website went up by 40% compared to the mobile app experience.

Not only did the Pinterest app load much faster on 3G networks, but their user-generated ad revenues went up by 44% and their core engagements by 60%.

For eCommerce websites, this difference means big money!

Take the case of Flipkart, which is India’s biggest eCommerce platform. When Flipkart transitioned into a PWA, they reported an increase in customer time on the website by 3x.

Another benefit of PWA that is useful for online retail is that no transaction fees need to be paid for in-app purchases since they have bypassed the app stores altogether.

All in all, PWAs combine the portability of the mobile app with all the benefits of the web, making it a winsome proposition.

But if your app or website is already doing very well, has great SEO, and low cost per user acquisition and you never face performance or reliability challenges, PWA might not make a big difference to you.

So the big question? When is it ideal to use a PWA?

1. When you are struggling with performance

The critical thing about PWAs is that they should be built with a progressive enhancement strategy. That is, responsive, fast and connection-agnostic.

This means that instead of displaying the loader bar or blank screen when the app is loading, the App shell can display minimal content.

Also, the advantage of advanced caching done by Service Workers is that you can specify the rules stating how a cache should work. That is whether it should be network-first or cache-first.

This gives you more control over the cache.

2. When you want to deliver native experience via web

Not only can you add the app to the device’s home screen and launch it full screen with a single click, but you can also do many more native things with the PWA.

  • Find out user’s geolocation
  • Send push notifications
  • Use camera and microphones
  • Access Accelerometer sensors
  • Check internet connection

In fact, the list is too long and comprehensive but suffice to say it covers most use cases that users care for.

3. When you want to leverage HTTPs

With PWAs, you can serve all your content over HTTPS, which has the following advantages:

  • Provides encryption to user data
  • Google promotes HTTPS as an SEO ranking factor
  • HTTPS helps in multiplexing(better performance and caching)

4. When you want blazing fast speed

Did you know that 53% of users abandon websites if they take longer than 3 seconds to load? Once loaded, users continue to expect a fast browsing experience – sans janky scrolling or slow UIs.

Take the example of COOK who increased conversions by 7%, decreased bounce rates by 7%, and increased pages per session by 10% when they reduced average page load time by 850 milliseconds.

In fact, every business should measure their web performance. To see the potential of performance on revenue – you can use the Impact Calculator tool.

5. When you want to provide access with the poor network or no network

Regardless of network access, service workers enable the loading of the website/web app instantly. Your app works and loads whether an internet connection is stable or unavailable.

6. When you want your site to be discovered easily

More than 90% of all online activity originates in a search engine. Not an app, nor on an app store. This is why SEO services never go out of trend.

The web’s strength is its reach and discoverability. If you have ever tried to sell or promote or your app on an App Store, you know how difficult this is.  A good SEO program helps you net anywhere from thousands to millions of visitors for your website. Imagine what you can do with paid. Paid advertising for the web can cost less than a nickel per user.

A good search engine optimization program will net you thousands to millions of visitors each month for free. Paid advertising for the web can cost less than a nickel per visitor.

PWA’s superpower is its native app like behavior with all the SEO/discoverability benefits of the web.

7. When you want conversions and engagement

With increased engagement, better access, and the lightweight, blazing experience of the PWA, you can deliver excellent user experiences that help increase conversions across devices and browsers.

What’s more, you can use Lighthouse, which is an open-source, automated tool for testing your PWA. It can be run against any web page to audit for performance, accessibility, and several other features. It provides users with a set of metrics to help build PWA with a full-app like experience for your target audience.

Conclusion

Hundreds of major brands have transitioned from native apps to PWA, and it is not difficult to see why. As Google and Microsoft both put their money behind it, the future is only going to be bigger and brighter for PWA.