Progressive Web Apps – PWA
Progressive web apps or PWA combine the best of the web and mobile apps

When the internet was invented it was based on the concept of sharing an enormous amount of information and providing global access to data and communications. The growth of communications technology and particularly smart phones has seen the development of native apps – led by Apple – which are only available on a particular device and installed directly. However, this has its obvious restrictions and has led to new technology that enables the development of progressive web apps that work across any device’s web browser and don’t need to be downloaded onto the device. Here we look at what progressive web apps are, why we’re tiring of apps, their benefits and how they are helping global companies improve their online performance.

What are progressive web apps?

Progressive web apps or PWA create an experience similar to an app, but are built using using open web standards and functionality (HTML, CSS and Javascript). This means they combine the best of the web and a native mobile app, such as providing fast load, the ability to use apps offline and installation to the home screen. Preface Studios is following the development of progressive web apps and best practice closely since continuous learning and change comes with the territory!

App fatigue

We’ve been to several digital ‘meet ups’, and discussed this with our peers in and around Surrey, and talked to developers and designers about how they’re building progressive web apps. A large proportion of our peers didn’t like Apple’s vision of content limited to a single device. And recently this thinking has gained support from Google and Microsoft too.

The problem with building apps is that unless you’re near the top of the app store, no one installs it and lots of people download apps and never open them! Comscore recently reported that most smartphone users download zero apps per month and the proportion of people who abandon apps continues to increase. Progressive web apps bypass this as they’ll be easier to find; users will be prompted only when they show interest through repeat visits. If your mobile first responsive website becomes a progressive web app, users are already at their destination.

Benefits of progressive web apps

In the past if a client wanted an app developed, we found they were often surprised to discover that they are complex to build and require a different version for different platforms, such as iOS, Android and some developers also started to build Windows phone versions. On top of that clients often need a website as well, so there could potentially be four elements to develop, build and maintain. This is not only costly, but also difficult to keep in sync. With progressive web apps, you build one element that works across all platforms and devices.

Our latest projects are built in such a way that they can be developed into a progressive web app in the future. If you build a mobile first, progressively enhanced website, changing it to a progressive web app is possible without having to start from scratch. Progressive web apps are built in the same way as a website using HTML, CSS and Javascript. This means we’ll be able to deliver a better user experience through a link, lift engagement and be a lot less costly.

7 Benefits of a PWA:

  1. They are designed and built using a mobile first approach, which means they are responsive websites (one website that sizes well across all devices: mobile, tablet and desktop)
  2. There is no need for iOS and Android development costs because progressive web apps work across all operating systems
  3. An existing responsive mobile first website can be converted into a progressive web app
  4. The content within a progressive web app is indexed by Google, since the content is on the web, rather than being a closed app
  5. They provide fast-loading performance for the user
  6. You can use push notifications, which alert users to new content
  7. You can provide users with the ability to use app data offline.

The business case

There are many forward-thinking companies, like WhatsApp, Slack, Airbnb and FT who have developed progressive web apps. With a single build the FT supported iOS, Android Chrome, Windows 8, BlackBerry, Firefox OS. Many companies are already seeing a positive effect on their bottom-line:

  • AliExpress increased conversion rates for new users by 104%
  • Housing.com increased conversions and reduced bounce rate by 40%
  • Konga used 92% less data for the initial load versus their native app
  • Flipkart tripled time-on-site.

We’re really excited at what this means for the digital industry and see huge benefits for users with progressive web apps that can replace all the functions of native apps and websites at once.

Interested in working with us? Just call us on 01252 820022 for a chat or to arrange a meeting to discuss your website design at our studio in Farnham, Surrey.

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