Why build Progressive Web Apps?

By: Piyush Dankhra, Jul 4th, 2019 # PWA

Why build Progressive Web Apps

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) have certainly arrived with a bang. They are considered to be the best thing to happen in web development because they bring mobile-app like experiences to users on any device without them having to install or download an app from the store. 

But if you are already doing well with your web app or mobile app, then you might wonder what is your motivation to build a Progressive Web App? 

Why bother?

It is a valid question, and in this post, we attempt to analyze the real advantage of building PWAs whether you are an eCommerce website or a service like Airbnb.

The problem with the software

One of the critical challenges with software is distribution. App developers sometimes end up spending more on the distribution than what they earn. Web apps traditionally solved this problem to a certain extent.

But again, with the arrival of a plethora of mobile devices and OS, mobile started dominating the conversation. Mobile apps are far more easily accessible on-the-go and with the ease of push notifications, send reminders etc. they seem to do much more than web apps. 

With PWAs, web apps got a new lease of life and they became just as capable if not more than native apps. PWAs support features like push notifications, add to homescreen, etc. without compromising on the reach of the web.

Why PWAs are the best of both worlds

One study claims that on an average a user spends 80% of his total time only on 3 of his apps. The other apps are just idle most of the time, yet consuming a valuable portion of the memory. Building apps is also significantly more expensive than building a website. The cost is further elevated if you develop and maintain separate code bases for different platforms like the web, Android and iOS. 

Advantages of PWAs

  • PWAs take your standard web apps but add a lot of useful functionality to it. 
  • Offline access for web app even when network is flaky or poor
  • Better engagement with the user using push notifications
  • Unlike a regular web page, PWAs are full screen and can also be installed on the home screen
  • You can sync new information even if the app is closed.

It is this web-based nature of PWAs that gives them an unmatchable edge over native apps. That of discoverability. From the SEO perspective, it is easy to find and access your page by visiting a URL as opposed to having to search and download from an app store.

Website page speed

The other fundamental problem that PWAs solve is that of performance. Websites are constantly fighting bounce rates, that seem to be directly in proportion to load times. Time is money, and 40% of users bounce from the websites that take longer than three seconds to load. PWAs help because they increase the load times dramatically.

PWAMP

Progressive Web Amp combines the blazing speed of Accelerated Mobile Pages(AMP) and the rich functionality of PWA. This provides a single, seamless and fast web experience known as PWAMP. This means that even on the first visit, users get reliable speed and performance.

Google came up with the idea of Progressive Web AMPs. That is using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) as the data source for your PWA. This is killing two birds with one stone - delivering ultra-portable and embedded content units that are sure to load instantly.

With the friction-less experience of PWAs combined with the reach of the web, it is guaranteed to outperform conventional web and mobile applications.

Desktop support for PWA

With Chrome 73, Desktop Progressive Web Apps are supported on all desktop platforms, including Chrome OS, Linux, Mac, and Windows.

According to Google, desktop use is quite substantial and also growing along with mobile. It also drives more revenue than mobile. When shoppers jump from mobile to desktop and vice versa, the experiences need to be seamless and less jarring for the user.

It is this ‘unified experience’ that customers want, need and rely on to trust the brand. The unified experience across screens will be more of a norm now, especially since retailers are looking for better ways to market across devices.

By closing the capability gap between how apps perform and behave, developers can build superior shopping and browsing experiences.

Google Chrome for the desktop will soon have an install button for PWAs

Very soon, the Chrome desktop browser version will have a new feature that enables users to install PWAs with a single click easily. This feature is available in the latest Chrome Canary. This means whenever a user launches a website that is a PWA; it will show them a new ‘Install button’ in the address bar. This button is right next to the bookmark button. Previously this option was available via the menu and was not easily visible. The apps that are installed can then be accessed by clicking on the Apps button beneath the address bar.

Several websites that converted to PWAs in the past have found that user engagement increases significantly. Such as Alibaba - the site experienced a 76% increase in customer conversions and a 400% increase in interaction rate with a PWA.

Even the visual discovery engine - Pinterest noted a dramatic increase in the time spent on the website when it converted to a PWA.

Microsoft has released version 2.0 of its PWA Builder tool

Microsoft too has jumped on the PWA bandwagon for the past couple of years. PWA Builder is one such utility that helps turn websites into apps. Now the release of a second iteration of the PWA Builder has a new design, new “snippets” for integrating web programming interfaces and many more features.

Version 2.0 includes all the features from 1.9 and the addition of Mac desktop platform driven by Webkit; Webhint integration and many more service worker options.

The idea for PWA Builder 2.0 is to encourage developers to go beyond the manifest and service worker. They can build PWAs with added cross-platform features like authentication, system integrations and many more native-like UIs using Microsoft Graph interfaces.

To sum it up…

Progressive Web Apps are not only here to stay, but they can make a remarkable difference to your web app’s performance, reach and user experience. With further development and updates to the technology, PWAs will soon be the way of the web.