Progressive Web Apps to Replace Mobile Applications
Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are going to replace native mobile applications for many organizations worldwide, meaning that the need to establish a dynamic mobile experience for users can now be managed through the power of web technologies. Previously, to create any engaging experience of real merit, it was necessary to develop native applications. This process was time-consuming, expensive, and total cost of ownership per platform could be debilitating depending on the complexity of the mobile app.
Enter PWAs, which were forged from the fires of success from both web and mobile approaches, melding them together. What happens when we take the best of the web world and meld it with the best of the mobile applications world? We get a wonderful hybrid defined as a Progressive Web App.
The term “progressive web app” was first coined in 2015 by designer Frances Berriman and Google Chrome engineer Alex Russell and is defined by Wikipedia as:
“a term used to denote web applications that use the latest web technologies. Progressive Web Apps, also known as Installable Web Apps or Hybrid Web Apps, are regular web pages or websites, but can appear to the user like traditional applications or native mobile applications. The application type attempts to combine features offered by most modern browsers with the benefits of mobile experience.”
Why PWAs are Eliminating Mobile Apps
Progressive Web Apps will eliminate an enormous number of mobile applications for several key reasons:
The app revolution was headlined by the introduction of application marketplaces in 2008, such as the Apple App Store and Google Play. The availability of apps grew rapidly, and their functions became far-reaching leading to the newly-formed cliché “there’s an app for that”. Mobile applications have found their way into every industry and businesses of nearly every shape and size. However, the business needs for these apps, and available technologies, have evolved beyond what can be accomplished with the traditional method of developing and distributing native mobile apps.
Traditionally, an organization that offered services to a mobile audience would have their standard website with mobile optimization and a separate mobile application. That was before advanced web technologies could bring the functionality and features of standard sites and mobile apps to a single property. Therefore, the need for these separate environments, and the additional development, deployment, and maintenance that come with them, is no longer needed, and soon will no longer be standard practice.
A few big players have already made the shift. The ridesharing platform Lyft has successfully made their application a PWA and saw a significant increase in ride requests as a result. Other key examples of this transition to PWAs can be seen with Forbes and The Weather Channel.
With PWAs, organizations can directly approach their clientele organically on their website, as opposed to redirecting off-site for a marketplace download. PWAs are attached to URLs, which makes finding and promoting them easier. Users have a better overall experience by getting the features and functions they desire in a familiar, single site rather than climbing through the obstacles of finding, downloading, and activating marketplace applications.
There are SEO considerations that need to be considered when developing and deploying a new PWA. Like a standard, static website, it is critical that search engines can index the content accurately to ensure a strong opportunity for organic search traffic. Google has compiled a best practices checklist for building indexable PWAs to help direct these efforts.
Traditionally, mobile applications had to be built for multiple platforms (iOS, Android) in addition to a standalone website. This would require multiple builds for various platforms, versions, and devices, along with ongoing maintenance. With a PWA, there’s a single build responsive to all platforms, and a single property for maintenance.
Outside of TCO considerations, the cost of user conversions is shown to decrease on PWAs compared to their predecessor native apps. The application Selio has reported their average customer acquisition cost is shockingly 10x less for PWAs than for native mobile apps.
Unexpected Features of PWAs
PWAs offer extremely powerful features and capabilities that may not be expected coming from a browser-based, app-like experience:
Add to Home Screen
PWAs are installable, meaning that they can be added to the home screen of a user’s device without the hassle of the app marketplace
Like native mobile applications, PWAs offer push notification functionality to keep users engaged
PWAs have the power to load in offline scenarios, similar to the function of native apps. Users in low or no network areas can continue to access and engage with the PWAs content and features
App-like Transitions (UX/UI)
To the average user, the look and feel of a PWA will match that of a native app. PWAs carry the same app-style interactions and navigation of native apps.
Key Advantages to PWAs
There are many advantages to PWAs, such as how the PWA itself is searchable and discoverable by search engines. Other advantages include being app-like in nature, responsive and progressive (works for every browser) design, the ability to work on any network, a sharable URL, and the ability to be configured to re-engage audiences. Due to these advantages and the constant advancement of the underlying technology, PWAs are inevitably going to overtake the mobile app environment.
The question is not if organizations should adopt PWAs for their mobile strategy, but when. If you want to learn more about Progressive Web Apps and their power working from Drupal, WordPress, Magento, or Symfony, don’t hesitate to reach out to Unleashed.