Progressive web applications (PWAs)- Are they the future of Web Application Development?

Author: James
February 21, 2019
Progressive web applications (PWAs)- Are they the future of Web Application Development?


Web application development is an exciting ball game considering the fact that we live in the digital age. Although several businesses catering to the average end-user are vying to develop apps that can find their place and ranking in both Google and Apple app stores, there is an important consideration that is often overlooked. That is about mobile web development!

Traditional web applications are responsive, but they may be restrictive in terms of providing integrated functionalities. While native apps seem to perform well as standalone, they are entirely platform-bound. Taking a smooth exodus from the two, we have what we call the newly conceived progressive web apps. A solution that picks the best of both worlds (native as well as web), progressive web applications (PWAs) are simply mobile applications delivered through the web. PWAs use the opportunity to render app like characteristics to websites, thereby enabling users to have a delightful user experience without hassles of downloads and buy-ins. That comes with the promise of being able to develop a single app and have it work flawlessly across all available platforms and devices.

Let’s delve deeper into how PWAs steer enterprises toward their business objectives by understanding the nuances of PWAs and their intrinsic properties.

Low Development Costs

PWAs work on multiple platforms, therefore reducing the cost of development, unlike their native counterparts. The fact that PWAs are web-based and that they are aimed at providing a very quick in and out option, they are touted to be cost-effective. Developing both an Android and iOS app for a business can cost $20k – $80k while the cost of developing a PWA is just a fraction of this, at around $6k – $10k. Also, then there’s the huge promise of a quick ROI generation. So, the votes definitely sway in PWAs favor.

Increased Speed and Flexibility

Progressive Web Apps are based on the new technology called service workers. Service workers allow for rapid responses through instant loading of pages even if the network connectivity is patchy. Flipkart Lite is a classic example of a PWA based on service workers… Specifically designed for customers using the 2G network, Flipkart Lite allows new, open web APIs to offer a mobile web experience with faster loading, less data usage, and better navigation. In terms of flexibility, PWAs mimic the functionality and experience as that of a native app through the use of application shells. Consequently, PWAs can handle online ordering, loyalty programs, and customer information as much as a native app can, if not more.

Increased User Engagement

Progressive web applications, as the name indicates, are progressive in the truest sense of the word. With a PWA, a user can access information through a minimum number of steps that don’t even require him to download or install an app. This very simple and ease of access with a rich app- like fluid experience increase user engagement significantly. Saving the PWA to the web user’s home screen as a bookmark or shortcut gives them instant access whenever required.

Ease of Indexability; SEO-driven

With URLs of PWAs having a close semblance to that of websites, they are indexable and linkable; thereby making them SEO- driven. That makes them moderately accessible by search engines such that user experience can be recorded for further analysis and thereby predict user behavior.

Offline Availability

The core of PWAs lies at its ability to deliver and load content offline through the mechanism of service workers. PWAs, though seemingly look like web apps, function as native by sending push notifications to the users even when the browser is closed. By beginning processes based on program logic, PWAs use service workers to gather APA and cache to load the PWA quickly.

Secure and Responsive

The use of HTTPS for PWAs increases the factor of security to a reasonable extent. The HTTPS prevents online snooping and interceptions to ensure that content is tamper proof. Responsive design is an important feature of PWAs. Without being restrictive in terms of device or platform compatibility, a single PWA can provide a uniform user experience across various touchpoints. Not just that, PWAs seek to enable cross-platform support for users to enjoy a continuous experience across several end-user devices.

Cases in point

MakeMyTrip launched a PWA to offer all Indian smartphone users a useful and reliable mobile booking experience that was not constrained by factors of time, device, location, and network accessibility. As a result, the company saw overall conversion rates triple with a 160% increase in shopper sessions.
Users of Pinterest’s PWA spend 40% more time on the site compared to the previous mobile website. Ad revenue rates also increased by 44%, and core engagements shot up 60%.

Benefits of PWAs over SPAs

PWAs have a competitive edge over single page applications (SPAs) in that they are entirely browser-based. Next, PWAs offer a more transparent user experience that comes a close second to that of native app experience, all within minimal framework and infrastructure.

Prospects of PWAs in the future and how all types of businesses are gearing toward change

The future of PWAs is looking up. Most of the major brands are now considering PWAs instead of the native apps. The fact that technology giant Google has endorsed PWAs for both their technical and business advantages is indicative of their progress and way forward.

Mostly, Chrome and Firefox are the preferred browsers to experience the fullest potential of PWAs. However, of late, iOS 11.3 has brought Safari into the mix for supporting PWAs. An increasing number of companies are now exploring the immense possibilities of PWAs.
Start-ups and businesses that don’t already have a native app should consider PWAs to improve how customers interact with your company online. In a nutshell, PWAs are an interesting combination of the best aspects of both web and native apps. They function akin to a website in that they can be accessed via a browser, can work offline, load from where they were left off last, and so on.