The next big thing in mobile are progressive web apps, which hold out the promise of solving many of the problems that bedevil mobile app development. But exactly what are progressive web apps?
In a report, “Progressive Web Apps Will Impact Your Mobile App Strategy,” Gartner notes that progressive web apps “use the latest browser technologies to meld the accessibility of the web with the presence of the mobile app.” The report adds that they bring “app like characteristics to websites without requiring the consumer to download a full app.”
First a bit of explanation: progressive web apps are a Google-backed open source initiative that use the most up-to-date web capabilities to offer app-like capabilities to users, without them having to download an app. And that’s the first reason for creating a progressive web app rather than a mobile app. It’s tough to get people to download apps, and with a PWA all they have to do is go to a web page. Users can find them without having to visit an app store. They just need to go to a search engine and find them there, or directly type the URL into a search engine. Progressive web apps can also be saved as icons on a mobile device as well.
In addition, because they’re web pages rather than mobile apps, users don’t have to continually update them. Users always have the latest version whenever they visit the progressive web app, which you update whenever you want.
Another progressive web app benefit — they’re fast. Without the baggage that mobile apps sometimes carry, progressive web apps can load very quickly. That also makes them ideal when users are in poor-connectivity areas. Igor Faletski, CEO of progressive web app provider Mobify, told Mobile Marketer that “Well designed progressive web apps have speeds that are four times faster than other mobile sites and are friction-free, so customers stay engaged, and can speed through checkout to buy a product with just a few taps.” In other words, they increase conversion rates.
One more plus is that progressive web apps support push notifications in the browser. Peter Sheldon, vice president of strategy at Magento Commerce told Mobile Marketer this extends “the opportunity for marketers to send real-time, contextual and personalized communications with a simple ‘one-click’ opt-in directly from the PWA site.”
Progressive Web Apps Have Drawbacks, Too
This doesn’t mean progressive web apps are perfect. They have problems as well. A key one is that not all browsers support them yet. The newest versions of Chrome, Opera, and Samsung’s Android browser all support progressive web app. But Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Safari and many and proprietary browsers don’t.
Beyond that, many consumers have gotten used to the idea of finding their favorite apps in app stores and aren’t used to searching for then using a search engine. So some consumers may overlook them.
Despite this, there are plenty of progressive web app success stories already. For example, Gartner’s report says Alibaba.com, the world’s largest online B2B trading platform saw a 76% increase in conversions after upgrading its site to a progressive web app. And Weather.com converted its site to a progressive web app and saw an 80% speed bump in page load time, and nearly 1 million of its customers opted in to receive web notifications.
For more information about progressive web apps, check out my blog post, Why Progressive Web Apps Could be in Your Future — and How To Use Them.