For years now, many (if not most) companies’ digital strategy came down to “well, I guess we should build an app.” It proves you’re taking mobility seriously, the user experience is markedly improved over a website, and publishing the app immediately lent your company an air of legitimacy in the new digital economy. But what if your business doesn’t actually need an app to accomplish what you want or need? Or what if you’re a smaller firm that doesn’t have a six-figure budget to build a mobile app that may or may not ever earn that much back in retention or new business given your scale? That’s where Progressive Web Apps come in, and they really could be the wave of the future (and also the present).
Used to be, when developing a mobile solution, you had basically two options — a native app (obviously), and a mobile-optimized web experience. The native app lived on your customers’ phones, loaded much faster and had a preferable user experience. You could also do things like push alert your subscriber base. The downside, though, is that you had to convince users to download an app, and then hope they’d actually open it consistently (it’s also more expensive to develop a full-fledged app).
On the flip side, mobile-optimized web experiences were cheaper to develop and more accessible because users didn’t have to download an entire app. But, the user experience was slower and less fluid, the functionality was diminished and you didn’t get the perceived market benefit of having embraced mobility fully.
If you wanted to capture the best of both worlds, that option didn’t really exist… until the progressive web app
According to Google itself, progressive web apps (PWAs) have most of the benefits of a native mobile app, the reach of a mobile site but for a development cost much less than a native solution. They’re:
Reliable – Load instantly and never show the downasaur, even in uncertain network conditions.
Fast – Respond quickly to user interactions with silky smooth animations and no janky scrolling.
Engaging – Feel like a natural app on the device, with an immersive user experience.Google
“Progressive Web Apps are installable and live on the user’s home screen, without the need for an app store. They offer an immersive full screen experience with help from a web app manifest file and can even re-engage users with web push notifications.
The Web App Manifest allows you to control how your app appears and how it’s launched. You can specify home screen icons, the page to load when the app is launched, screen orientation, and even whether or not to show the browser chrome.”
PWAs can be a perfect solution for enterprises small to massive alike. They can combine native functionality and usability with the cost and development time of mobile web. But, it takes a special set of development skills to build.