Should You Consider Investing In A Progressive Web App?

By David Oragui / 9 April 2018

Are progressive web apps really worth your time and money? Find out the pros and cons of investing in progressive web apps and how they compare to native and hybrid apps.

Ever wish websites behaved like native mobile apps? Progressive web apps (PWA) can actually make that happen.

What Are Progressive Web Apps?

Google defines progressive web apps as cross-platform, responsive, and engaging experiences that bring together the best of apps and the web.

In simple words, progressive web apps make use of modern web technology to bring an immersive, app-like experience to users, right in their web browsers.

And, brands love them.

Examples of progressive web apps

So, what makes progressive web apps such an attractive option for businesses?

First, they bring positive results.

Progressive web apps help brands improve conversions, bounce rates, page views, and session lengths, simply by upgrading their mobile web experience.

But, is a progressive web app the go-to solution for every business? Not always.

If you’re considering a progressive web app for your next project, make sure you’re aware of both the pros and cons before you make a decision.

While progressive web apps have some amazing advantages, they also have potential drawbacks.

Plus, investing in one might not be a good idea for all businesses.

This article will help you discover some key benefits and challenges of progressive web apps and determine whether they are a better option for you than native or hybrid apps.

We will cover:

  • Benefits of progressive web apps
  • Potential drawbacks of progressive web apps
  • Progressive web apps vs. native apps vs. hybrid apps
  • Benefits of progressive web apps

1. No Installation Required

The main challenge with mobile apps is you need to download and install them on multiple devices, which may consume a lot of storage space. In fact, 25% of app users say they delete an app because they need more storage space on their smartphone.

With progressive web apps, you don’t need to go through all the hassle. They work just like apps, but you access them through a web browser on any device.

This cuts down on tedious download times and storage limitations. Users also can pin them to their mobile device’s home screen for easy access.

For example, Jumia Travel, a travel booking company, invested in a progressive web app.

Screenshot of Jumia Travel app

The company found that the progressive web app takes up 25x less storage space than its native mobile app.

2. Improved Performance

More than half of users (53%) leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

The reason why progressive web apps skyrocket conversions and deliver such incredible user experiences is because they dramatically decrease load speed.

The use of service workers enables dynamic caching and makes progressive web apps connectivity independent. This means they can help create great user experiences on even the flakiest networks.

Most progressive web apps have instant page load times and optimized images that work smoothly on any device.

Take Housing.com’s progressive web app as an example.

Screenshot of Housing.com progressive web app

Housing.com increased page load times by 30% with a progressive web app.

3. Less Data Use

Because progressive web apps consume less data than traditional websites, they work well even on networks.

The current mobile environment includes users that belong to developing countries with low-quality and relatively expensive internet connections.

Most of them access the web through 2G or 3G networks, and heavy, slow-loading websites make for a poor browsing experiences.

Progressive web apps can help your business expand its user base to more countries and deliver an overall better mobile web experience.

4. Engaging, App-Like Experience

Consumers find mobile apps much more engaging than websites, and progressive web apps offer app users the same immersive, user-friendly experience as native mobile app – right in their browsers.

Progressive web apps incorporate app-like features, such as push notifications and updates, to re-engage users and keep them coming back.

Screenshot of progressive web app - push notifications

Users can also pin progressive web apps to their home screen for easy access or customize the home screen icons, screen orientation, and other features of your progressive web app.

5. Discoverable by Search Engines

Progressive web apps look like apps, but work like websites. This means they are accessible through a URL and can be found by search engines such as Google and Bing.

Screenshot of progressive web apps in search engines

You can also optimize progressive web apps to rank higher in searches, just like a website.

In fact, progressive web apps inherently come with SEO benefits. They are fast and engaging – two factors that are rewarded highly by search engines.

6. Cost Less Than Mobile Apps

Companies that want to invest in a mobile app need to consider the cost of developing an app for both Android and iOS.

Building an app that’s compatible on both Android and iOS requires a hefty budget.

Progressive web apps are cross-platform, responsive, and accessible through the web, which means they cost less to develop than mobile apps.

They are great for businesses who don’t have the budget to invest in a mobile app but want to give their users an engaging, app-like experience.

Drawbacks of Progressive Web Apps

1. Limited Browser Support

Progressive web apps are Android-centric and do not work on popular browsers, including IE, Edge, and Safari.

Safari dominates 51% of the browser market in the U.S., which means a huge chunk of mobile users are unable to access progressive web apps.

On the bright side, newer browser versions of Opera, Chrome, and Firefox support progressive web apps, and other browsers are expected to catch up in the future.

2. Limited Hardware and Software Support

Progressive web apps are relatively new and not yet supported by all device hardware and software.

For example, iOS does not support progressive web apps’ notification and home screen shortcut.

Unlike native apps, progressive web apps don’t support the use of GPS, fingerprint scanners, phone cameras, and other newer device features.

3. No Download Store Presence

Progressive web apps do not show up in popular app stores such as Google Play and the Apple App Store, which may delegitimize them.

App stores not only provide legitimacy and social proof of apps to potential users through reviews, but they also act as a catalogue that lets users search for and find relevant apps.

Since most users directly search for apps in app stores instead of in search engines, your audience may miss your progressive web app.

Progressive Web Apps vs. Native Apps vs. Hybrid Apps

How do progressive web apps compare with native and hybrid apps? Which one is a better option for your business?

The answer is: It depends on your business goals.

All three apps come with advantages and disadvantages, and neither one can be the best option for all businesses.

Native Apps

Native apps are built for a specific mobile operating system.

Since Android and iOS make up about 99% of all mobile operating systems, most native apps need to be developed twice to reach a broader audience.

Pros of Native Apps

  • Extensive support for in-built device features (camera, GPS, fingerprint scanner, etc.)
  • Optimized UI/UX for each platform
  • High performance

Cons of Native Apps

  • Multiple codebases for each OS
  • Higher costs due to platform-specific development
  • Time-consuming to develop

Native Apps Best For…

Because native apps are so specialized and complex, they are best suited for performance and user experience.

They are also a good option if you don’t have budget or time constraints and if your app requires extensive use of device hardware features.

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps are made up of different technologies and can work across multiple platforms using a central codebase.

They are essentially web apps in a native shell. This means even though they get their data from the web, you can install and use them on a mobile device – just like a native app.

Pros of Hybrid Apps

  • Save time and money
  • One central codebase with minimal tweaking required
  • Access to in-built device features through plugins
  • Easy to update

Cons of Hybrid Apps

  • Less than optimal performance
  • UX might vary on multiple devices
  • Don’t work offline

Hybrid Apps Best For...

Hybrid apps are a good option if want to reach a broad audience rather than a specialized user base.

They are also great if you don’t require extremely high performance or offline capabilities or if you don’t have the time and money to invest in two different native apps.

Progressive Web Apps

Progressive web apps support features such as push notifications, offline modes, and home screen shortcuts, while traditional web apps do not.

And that’s why progressive web apps have become more popular among brands.

However, whether you invest in a progressive web app over a native or hybrid app depends on your business goals.

If you want to aim for larger mobile audiences on both Android and iOS specifically, a progressive web app might not be a good option because of limited browser, software, and hardware support.

But, if you are on a budget, your users are located in places with flaky internet, and you want your mobile web experience to be as engaging as a mobile app, a progressive web app might be the way to go.

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