WHAT ARE PROGRESSIVE WEB APPS?
First introduced as a concept by Google in 2015, PWA (Progressive Web Applications) today is among the major trends in IT development. Progressive web solutions are built based on familiar JS, CSS, and HTML, which deliver powerful advantages for the construction of both regular websites and pieces of native software when combined. This method is taking the industry by storm, allowing to provide an impressive new level of UX. Let’s discuss the aspects of this relatively new software implementation concept and analyze its nearest future prospects.
Specifics of Implementing PWAs
In the long run, the ‘selling point’ of Progressive Web Apps is correspondence with three major parameters:
- Reliability (because PWAs work even with the slowest Internet connection);
- High speed (all interactive elements respond to user actions without delay);
- Engagement (the advanced, in-depth UX implementation approach allows for the smoothest UX out there).
In order to meet these key aspects in the field, the development process must involve such tech solutions as push notifications (a crucial feature that conveniently keeps users up-to-date), HTTPS (one of the main PWA requirements that guarantees user data security), App Shell (a GUI template), Service Worker (an intermediary between frontend and backend that operates in the browser, processing user requests), Web App Manifest (a JSON file that defines a number of PWA-related parameters: the title, icon, representation format, and others), etc.
Employing the above-mentioned features, PWAs become similar to native software not only in the visual aspect. They operate similarly as well: just like native apps employ their dedicated OS as a virtual machine, so do PWAs use a web browser for that purpose. Resources of an app are accessed in the same way, too: a common HTTPS protocol is used in both cases.
Technical nuances aside, however, a few words about the compatibility history of the PWA format.
When PWA first appeared on the market, they were only compatible with Android OS through Google Chrome. Apple devices’ support was introduced only recently - about a year ago - so now you can also use PWAs on your iPhone through the Safari browser. Another recent point of support for PWAs is Windows 10 - these solutions can even be distributed through Microsoft Store.
PWA Main Advantages
As a matter of fact, PWAs can be rightfully considered as applications of the new generation. They deliver a whole lot of benefits when it comes to both the implementation method and the UX optimization routine. In detail, PWAs provide:
- less coding. We all in the industry pretty much got used to the fact that if we need to cover an extensively wide user audience, we need to write two mobile apps at once: one for iOS, another for Android. With PWA, this necessity disappears because you get the opportunity to create a basically cross-platform solution using specially dedicated platforms, such as React, Angular, jQuery, Vue, and others. This allows you to save at least 30% of the budget as compared to standard native development and make easier further technical support (when the need for code or other updates appears, you can employ a single developers team instead of two for each platform);
- autonomous mode support. As opposed to traditional web apps, part of PWA functionality can be accessed by users offline just fine;
- smaller app size. Due to PWAs actively employing web browser capabilities, the need in processing certain operations by the app itself is decreased. This, in turn, reduces the total size of the software to be developed, allowing users with packed-to-the-brim device memory to install your solution without issues;
- integration with third-party solutions via APIs. PWAs are full-blown digital applications, which means that you can effortlessly connect them with a required API in order to expand the basic functionality with new web services;
- enhanced security. High level of protection is among the key characteristics of PWA. It is reached due to the involvement of SSL-certificates which help implement protected server connection;
- simpler promotion. On top of uploading your PWA to the App Store or Google Play, you can use some common SEO methods and promote your product throughout regular search engines.
You cannot overestimate all the advantages PWA principles provide for developers, project owners, and users. Nevertheless, there are still cases, with which it may be better to focus your developmental preferences towards the standard way of building native apps, like:
- solutions that involve a device SIM card in certain operations;
- solutions requiring the involvement of contactless data reading modules - NFC;
- apps that must interact with configurations and storage of a particular OS.
Some developers also consider PWA implementation problematic:
- when a calendar synchronization is necessary (which still can be achieved via Google API);
- when an app should be able to send SMS messages and make calls (which still can be achieved via integration with Twilio REST API);
- when push notification for iOS must be implemented (the realization of this feature is still available to developers through Safari, however).
As you can see, in 9 cases out of 10, you still can find a way - whether direct or roundabout - to implement the functionality you have in mind with PWA. One particular reason to go for native development instead? Simple: when you need access to all sensors and hardware functionality of the native OS (like atmospheric pressure sensor, accelerometer, flashlight, magnetometer, Bluetooth, GPS, etc), you will have to build a separate app for each targeted platform.
Progressive Web Applications from the Marketing Point of View
Perhaps, the main question from the product owner perspective is: how PWAs can really interest users and what is the ultimate, ‘selling’ reason to develop such an app? Let’s figure this out.
For starters, by the likes of Google AMP back in its time, the PWA concept is promoted by none other than its founders - the Google company - online, during themed conferences and meetups, among influencers, etc. This means that those actively interested in technological news and innovations will probably want to check out at least one such apps to get the taste (and understand how this kind is different from regular cross-platform or native products). This is where their choice will come out to be quite restricted: despite the fact that the technology is almost 4 years of age, there are not a lot of apps based on it which are now available on the market (especially, on official marketplaces).
Going deeper into the topic, notice that PWAs can be downloaded straight from a browser, outside of any marketplaces. This provides a range of possibilities for promoting and distributing apps that don’t correspond with all the marketplace rules (for instance, gambling-related products). In such a manner, you won’t be restricted as to the number of symbols in the product description and use many renowned SEO methods, as we have already mentioned above.
All in all, if you come up with an attractive ad campaign for your software, it will be much easier to push up the forefront of search engine results than in the case of regular apps placed on Google Play and App Store.
And you still can cover those marketplaces as well. It will just require some additional work - particularly, creation of the app wrapper in Cordova (this must be done for major mobile marketplaces, Microsoft Store accepts such solutions by default).
Can We Say That PWA is the Future of Mobile Software?
Do you know the thing that’s been happening on the global scale lately? Smartphone and tablet owners gradually become increasingly reluctant to install new applications on their devices. Moreover, a huge share of software that has already been installed is not long after its initial download. This tendency, by the way, is explicitly confirmed by recent research. In fact, such dynamics are caused by a) limited card memory capacities and b) modern users generation’s oversaturation with all kinds of digital novelties. As a result, without an expensive ad campaign for your product, you are most unlikely to get the top positions on mobile marketplaces.
What should developers do? Are there any chances to attract TA without spending huge sums of money? Here’s where the PWA concept comes to the rescue. You can already create web apps that are compact in size (unlike most native solutions), boast the high speed of performance, and bring all-around UX enhancements, eventually increasing conversion rates by 7% on average and boosting the web page loading by 850 milliseconds.
As a cherry on top, notice that such world-renowned mobile apps as Tinder and Uber are of the PWA nature. You can take a look at their performance readings and other important technical parameters here and here.
Progressive Web Apps Development: Summary
The advanced concept of PWA can be rightfully regarded as a significant step forward in terms of serving your target audience. As compared with native, hybrid, and standard cross-platform apps, they provide increased speed, accessibility, and security while being quite compact in size.
Deciding on the PWA development for your project, basically, means going hand-in-hand with time. We can help you implement the process and let you experience personally powerful advantages of this innovative software construction approach.