What is a PWA: definition and facts
You might be wondering what a Progressive Web Application is.
Progressive Web Apps are web applications that load like usual websites but suggest such user options as working offline, push notifications, and device hardware access. Traditionally these features used to be available only to native mobile apps, but now progressive web applications can boast these as well, as they took in the best of the web and mobile apps.
The story of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) begins in 2015. Back then Google team came up with the idea to create a solution bridging the gap between web and native apps.
In 2018, the search term ‘progressive web apps’ is on top of popularity:
In this article, we will discuss how and why the new web is growing so fast, and what it can mean for your business.
When the idea of PWAs first appeared, the main purpose was to bypass installation via Google Play Market or Apple App Store.
This was caused by a sharp decline in mobile native apps usage.
Statista shows that over 50% of smartphone users in the United States don’t download any apps at all in any given month.
This fact can be explained by a number of reasons: users may not want too much commitment with your business, or their phone capacity may be limited, and your app may be too big and take too long to download and install.
In any case, you do not want to lose your potential customers, right? So PWAs look like a great solution to this problem, and numerous businesses from various industries serve as a proof.
The Washington Post case is a very showing one. Their PWA loads in 0.9 seconds, while a regular website takes 3.3 seconds to load on a mobile phone.
Looks impressive, right? Let’s take a closer look at Progressive Web Apps, and see how they can bring advantage to your business.
Why use PWAs?
In the world of steadily increasing mobile traffic, no one asks the question: should we target our mobile users? Now the question is: how do we target our mobile users best?
Besides going mobile, customers are getting pickier, and expect the best experience from every interaction with your website or app, which of course includes the speed. Fast-loading websites are not a miracle anymore, they have become an expected reality. Besides, slow websites rank lower in Google search.
So the question is: how will you grab your customers' attention?
Until recently, you would have to choose between a mobile responsive website or a native mobile app.
A responsive website is easier and faster to build, while a native app provides the best user experience possible. But let's be honest here: how often will a user come back to your website, no matter how user- and mobile-friendly it is? And how many people will download your app, if they don’t need to use it at least once per week?
And here come PWAs. Being the most modern and sophisticated way to struggle for users' attention, PWAs stand in the middle of a native app and a website and provide the amazing experience of a native app while not being one.
Benefits of progressive web apps
Would you like to hear about new PWA opportunities at first hand? Then watch this video from the latest I/O Conference.
Now let’s look into PWAs benefits in more detail, and let’s see what positive changes they can bring to your customers’ experience.
1. Easy install and update
To add your PWA, the customers simply need to open your progressive website in a browser on their mobile device. At some point, they will be prompted to add the app on their home screen. As easy as that!
Lancome will suggest you to add their PWA as soon as you open their website on the phone:
Or, as an option, users can add the PWA themselves from the browser menu.
This is how it works on our website, where we have partially implemented progressive functionality:
Both options are completely different from a multi-stage installation of native apps, where users need to find your app in the store, download it, then install:
As for updates, PWA users don’t have to update your app each time you release a new version - they will always have the newest one.
2. Reduced development and support costs
Сreating a PWA is a lot easier, faster, and, consequently, cheaper.
Why is that? You don’t need to create a different solution for each platform, as the same PWA works on both Android and iOS, and it fits any device.
One more thing: due to easy and simultaneous update, you will have only one version of the app circulating. Which means that you will not spend extra costs on supporting multiple versions!
3. Increased conversion rates
As sales are the primary goal of any business, PWAs are getting popular as a great tool to boost conversion rates. Later in this article, you will see examples of business that prove this fact.
To begin with, when added, PWAs are available on users’ home screens. And we all know, that if an app is on our home screen, we tend to use it more often.
Second, there are push notifications, just like notifications from a native mobile app. They greatly increase the engagement rates, reminding the user of the solution and keeping them interested.
This is extremely important for e-commerce, so there’s no wonder why many famous online shopping websites are actively adopting PWAs.
A snapshot of statistics of companies using PWAs for their businesses is a living proof for that:
Want some more examples? Housing.com would be the telling one. By shifting to PWA, this Indian Real Estate e-commerce platform cut their user acquisition costs from $3.75 per user to $0.07.
4. Fast, light and safe solution
Fast. As Google points, 53% of your potential customers will leave your website if it loads over 2 seconds.
You definitely don’t want to lose them, so progressive website is the best solution for this issue right now.
With PWA implemented, your website can load within 1 second, which is possible thanks to caching data by Service Workers. And we all know, that faster a website or app loads, the higher is user satisfaction.
Light. Being smaller in size than native mobile apps, PWAs are more light and efficient and use less device capacity and data. At the same time, they provide a user experience close to that of a native app.
Safe. All progressive web applications work via HTTPS, which means extra safety and no unauthorized access to the data.
5. Do not rely on any app store
To have your native mobile app published, you would need to submit it to the Google Play Market and Apple App Store, which takes time.
With a PWA there’s no need to wait for the moderation period to finish, and no risks of installation backlog moments from App Stores. As already mentioned, to install your progressive app, your clients will only need to open the website and hit ‘Add to home screen’.
Though behaving like a native app, your PWA would still be a web page, clickable and shareable, and it is also indexed by Google. So your potential customers have better chances to find it.
A PWA can work when offline thanks to caching. Due to Service Workers, your users are always able to access the pre-cached data, regardless of the current network connection.
This provides a more reliable browsing experience.
If a user wants to open any new pages that have not been cashed, the app will not crash, but it will show a corresponding (customized) message:
To summarise: with a PWA you will forget about the downasaur.
1. Limited functionality
PWAs are still websites, and they cannot offer all the functionality that native apps can boast. They have limited access to full device features like the camera, or the most recent adding like the fingerprint scanner.
Also, PWAs can offer a less personalized notification level if compared to native apps.
2. A certain loss of traffic
A PWA doesn’t have to be added on any store, and this is both a pro and a con. Like we discussed above, this reduces the time required to start distributing your app, so you can connect with your mobile users straight away.
At the same time, you may lose some traffic from the app stores, as many companies’ mobile apps actually get found thanks to being listed there.
3. Limitations for iOS
At the moment, there is still a gap between PWAs for Android and iOS. Even though PWAs are available for iOS users now, not all features that work on Android devices are offered for iOS. For example, this includes push notifications.
However, things are rapidly changing, and we are sure that iOS users can soon expect the same opportunities from progressive applications.
Success stories of implementing Progressive Web Applications
For the past couple of years, Progressive Web Apps have been successfully adopted by a number of businesses, including Twitter, Lancome, The Washington Post, Virgin America, Home Depot and others.
Let us introduce you to several of the case stories showing successful implementation of PWA in more detail.
At the moment Alibaba serves in over 200+ countries and regions.
At some point, the company realized that it had difficulties engaging more buyers. Users chose to stay in the web over installing and operating a native mobile app, which was considered a bit too much commitment.
Alibaba’s strategy was building an effective web presence, and their choice was to provide a great user experience to the web. So they decided to build a PWA so that even if a user didn’t install the native app, they would still increase engagement of new and existing customers.
As a result, Alibaba increased their total conversion by 76% across browsers.
Such enabled options as push notifications and Add to Home Screen allowed Alibaba growing active Android user rates by 30 percent. Moreover, their PWA increased the number of active user on iOS by 14 percent monthly.
Flipkart is India’s largest online store.
In 2015, the company decided to pursue the app-only strategy, shutting down the mobile site for some time. The reason for this was simple: bringing equally engaging user experience as they had in the native app was very difficult.
Flipkart wanted to somehow combine these two approaches. So they took the course on PWA. And did it properly introducing Flipkart Lite.
The results were impressive. To begin with, the time a user would spend on the site leveled up to 3,5 minutes if compared to 70 seconds in the previous mobile version. Users started spending 3x more time on the website!
Along with that, data usage on the users’ devices has decreased by 3. Additionally, the option “Add to Home screen” has led to a 70% greater conversion rate, and the re-engagement rate has increased by 40%.
As per the latest data, Twitter has 328 million monthly active users worldwide. 80% of Twitter users use mobile devices. At some stage, the company made a decision to increase users re-engagement on mobile devices. Additionally, Twitter wanted to make the mobile web experience to become faster and more reliable. So they chose the PWA technology for creating the Twitter Lite solution.
The results of introducing Twitter Lite were overwhelming:
- 250,000 unique daily users launching the solution from the home screen 4 times a day thanks to Add to Home screen prompt;
- decreased bounce rate by 20% thanks to web push notifications;
- increased amount of tweets sent by 75%;
- pages per session progressed by 65%.
Additionally, Twitter Lite lowers data consumption by optimizing images. And installation itself requires a lot less data, with the PWA size of only 600 Kb, if compared with the native app which is 23.5 Mb.
To wrap up
Although Progressive Web is still being improved, it can already be implemented.
Now it’s quite a reliable option for those who want to move with the times and suggest the advanced interaction to their users.
PWAs reinvented the web in the best way possible. Apart from the most engaging options available, such as Push Notifications, Home Screen presence, and offline running, a PWA solution also drops the necessity of installation via App Stores. All of these lead to increasing the time users spend on an app, growing CTR on Ads, leveling up of re-engagement and decreasing bounce rates.
Of course, the technology is developing, though we can definitely say that PWAs are already changing the world of the web. PWAs are here to stay. The best proof of this is examples of international companies that have implemented PWAs with amazing results.
We at Codica build both web solutions and their mobile versions. We keep up with the latest technological trends and of course, support the initiative to reinvent the web. If you’re into the idea of PWAs, we are ready to put your ideas and thoughts into practice. Let’s get in touch and discuss your project!