There are web applications. There are native applications. And then there are progressive web applications that bridge the functionalities of both.

By now, I am sure you would have heard about the term progressive web applications on the internet. However, this term still confuses a few.Those who are recently into web development from a different domain, tech enthusiasts like project managers who want to consistently incorporate new technologies into their workflows still find this as a buzzword.

That’s why I’ve decided to step in and clear all the misconceptions around this. This post will dissect and present to you what progressive web applications are in the simplest of language.

By the end, you will have a clear picture of the tech, its uses, and how to build one (on a beginner level).

Let’s get started.

What are Progressive Web Applications?

Progressive web applications are built to perform like an app while looking like a website. They have all the functionalities of a native app– those that you use on your smartphone – and still manage to offer the usability of a website.

Ever since Google proposed this concept in 2015, progressive web application development has been seen as the norm for the future for web and app development.

With companies looking to optimize user experience consistently, progressive web applications fall right into their requirements in terms ofbudgets, functionality, development time, and more.

The Best of Both Worlds

This technology offers the best of both worlds. The evolution of browsers and web development technologies like Push APIs, Cache, and Service workers have paved the way for the development of web applications.

These are the online counterparts of native apps that are capable of working offline, receiving push notifications, and delivering an experience of that of a native app.

Progressive web applications, on the other hand, are a step advanced.

  • They leverage the potential of a much larger ecosystem to function as a website.
  • They eliminate the need for developers to build distinct versions of apps for different operating systems, launching it on multiple app stores and then pushing individual updates.
  • Thanks to their functionality as a website, they can be built faster than a native or a web app and be instantly deployed.
  • The best part of a progressive web application is that it eliminates the need for backward compatibility, meaning, users from any platform or device can run one single code of your website.

This is a win-win for both developers and users as it makes it easier for developers to deploy and maintain and allows users to access all the features of a native app seamlessly.

Why Do We Need PWAs?

Whatever we discussed so far are only the benefits progressive web apps offer. If I further refine a customer’s journey in using a native app, one has to go through the following cycle:

  1. Identify the concern one faces
  2. Look for probable solutions online
  3. Realize that an app is an ideal solution
  4. Go to the AppStore or Play Store
  5. Search for the app
  6. Get recommendations and ads on multiple apps
  7. Try the most recommended one
  8. And then finally solve the concern

But this cycle does not end here. According to these statistics, 79% of users abandon an app after a day’s use. Besides, 29% of users abandon a downloaded app if they don’t find it useful. These statistics aside, there are other factors like the UI of the native app, load time, the amount of space it takes up in storage, offline capabilities and more that hinder app usage.

Even if any of the factors mentioned above fails, the app loses a user, triggering the customer cycle again.

So, why progressive web applications?

Simple, because the customer journey ends at the second step. Once the concern is identified, the user has to access the solution simply.

No downloads and no installations.  The user simply logs in and accesses information. The mobile version of Facebook is an ideal example of this. It mimics the functionality of a native app but is still a website.

Advantages of Progressive Web Apps

If you’re still not convinced, here are some more benefits ofPWAs.

  • Content on a progressive web app is available offline as well. Unlike websites, where no content is displayed when not connected to the internet (or connected to a poor network), PWAs display content that users can still engage with.
  • Unlike apps, progressive web apps don’t have to be updated whenever developers roll one out.
  • They are optimized for performance, where the results are reflected on retention rates, customer experience, and conversions.
  • No submission to app stores meaning no installation needed.
  • Push message-ready and more

Progressive Web Apps are the future

So, now that we know what progressive web apps are and their benefits, let’s understand their practical applications. Some of the companies/businesses that use PWAs include:

  • Twitter Lite
  • Forbes
  • Alibaba
  • AliExpress
  • Pinterest
  • Flipkart
  • BookMyShow

Twitter Lite

Two years after the concept of progressive web applications was introduced, Twitter launched its version Twitter Lite in 2017. Understanding that most of its users were accessing the portal from their phones, it ensured their experience on the mobile site was optimum. After the introduction of theLite, it reported the following numbers:

  • 75% hike in the number of tweets sent
  • 65% hike in pages per session
  • 20% decrease in the website’s bounce rates

Forbes

The case was very similar to Forbes. With the tech implementation, it reported a:

  • 100% hike in engagement rate
  • 6x hike in article completion
  • 20% hike in page impressions

AliExpress

After the conversion of the mobile site into a progressive web app, AliExpress witnessed a

  • A 74% hike in the time spent in each session
  • 2x hike in new page visits
  • Whopping 104% hike in new user conversion

Other Significant Statistics

The Basic Guidelines to Build Progressive Web Apps

Now, we are not going to show you how to code here since we’re still at the very foundational levels of understanding PWAs. So, let’s stick to the guidelines that make PWAs what they are. When you decide to build one, stick to the following approach or framework quite meticulously.

Progressive

Your PWA should work on any device and operating system. It should also leverage the full potential of the device’s hardware and other technical features.

Discovery

Because they are not apps but websites, they should be easily discoverable. This means that their SEO game must be on point so users could immediately find them on search results and start using them.

Responsive

The site should offer a seamless web experience across all devices.

Like an App

It should look, feel, and function like a native app. This means that it should be developed on a shell model and involve minimal refreshes.

Stable During Poor Connectivity

The site should work fine on areas with poor network connectivity.

Homepage Installation-ready

If users want, they should be able to install the PWA on their browser’s homepage.

Up to Date

New content should be seamlessly pushed into the PWA when the user is accessing the site.

Besides these, the PWA should be, by default, safe for users to use. This is because it’s a website that offers personalized and intimate user experiences. When fragile data transmission happens, the site should be safe enough to prevent middleman attacks and other threats.

Final Thoughts

So, what do you think about Progressive Web App? An interesting concept, right? For both developers and users, progressive web apps offer innumerable benefits like we just saw. With more companies opting to develop progressive web apps, you must offer your customers a similar experience too.

I am sure that you would now have a better understanding of the concept. I would be thrilled if you’ve decided to implement this tech after this. Feel free to chat with us, and we’d love to help you for all your queries.

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