Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, have changed the way that many people access the internet.
According to Statista, there are 7.1 billion smartphone users in the world now, which indicates that 80.76% of the world’s population owns one. These numbers show that a huge amount of internet users are now connected via mobile devices.
A very important challenge faced by businesses is how to reach out to both mobile and desktop customers without having to create and manage both a mobile app (iOS and Android) and a responsive website.
With so many people using mobile devices to browse the web, developers have started designing more simplistic websites for users who don’t have time to download bulky applications.
These websites are called Progressive Web Apps (PWA), and they behave like native mobile apps but can be accessed from almost anywhere with an internet connection. Because of this, PWA is the latest trend in web development.
In this Progressive Web Apps post, we’ll cover what PWAs are and the difference between Progressive Web Apps and native apps. We’ll also go over some of the benefits of developing a PWA and how organizations use PWAs.
What are progressive web apps?
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are web applications that use modern web capabilities, such as service workers and push notifications, to deliver an app-like user experience, such as working offline or push messages, making them more user-friendly than traditional web apps.
Components of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) include a website, which is the basis for your application; service workers, which allow PWAs to work offline or on low-quality networks; and a web manifest file, which describes the web app to the browser so it can be displayed full screen on launch.
A website that uses different technologies (e.g. web app manifest, push notifications) to make it act like an app. The web app works like a normal website, but once saved to the device home screen, it can send push notifications and work offline.
A service worker is a script that runs in the background of your application. It is only active when you’re online, which allows you to send push notifications and keep data synchronized even when the web app is closed.
Website Manifest File
A manifest file is a simple JSON file, which tells Chrome how your web application should look once installed on the user’s device. It provides information about the application’s name, its icon, where to start or activate it, and more.
Top benefits of progressive web apps
There are many advantages of using PWAs over traditional native applications, and they include:
Smaller and lighter
The average application is about 25MB, while PWAs are usually less than 100kb. This is because the only file required to run a PWA is the manifest.json, which can be as little as 4kb in size.
They are a cost-effective way to engage with your existing user base and gain new users as they can be saved to the device home screen. It is also possible to send push notifications to both Android and iOS devices without building two separate applications.
Easy to maintain
Because PWAs are web-based, there is no need to update them separately. Instead, they can be updated as and when required, directly from the server. This means no additional storage space on the device is used as well as the user requires less effort as they don’t have to download a new application after an update.
Low bounce rate / increased customer engagement
PWAs provide a way for users to engage with your website even when they’re offline. For example, users who add your web app to their home screen won’t have to wait for it to load each time they open the browser, which leads to lower bounce rates resulting in higher customer engagement.
PWAs also work offline and can be used even when the device is not connected to a network. This is because the data required to use the application is stored locally. This means that your site will still be accessible even when a connection isn’t available, ensuring continuity of service and making it an attractive option for users with poor or no internet connectivity.
No app store submission
There is no need to go through the app store submission process and wait for approval. The Google Chrome store automatically detects changes made to the manifest file, allowing you to distribute updates directly from your server without resubmitting your app or making changes on a developer’s end.
Use of hardware features
PWAs can be used to access a device’s hardware, such as the camera or microphone, without going through the app store submission process. This is useful if you want your users to take photos and upload them directly to your website – something that would otherwise normally require an app store submission.
Mobile like behavior
PWAs behave like mobile apps and load instantly on devices. They can also send push notifications to users, which means you can stay in touch with your customers without them having to manually check for updates.
Progressive web apps vs native apps: Difference?
A native app is a non-web program designed for a specific platform, written in a programming language specifically for that platform. This means it can only be run on the operating system for which it was developed, while PWAs work across different platforms, including iOS and Android devices.
A progressive web app uses modern web standards to provide an app-like experience using Application Cache (AppCache) and service workers. These features must be used in combination to take advantage of the “app-like” nature progressive web apps provide.
One of the main differences between a PWA and a native application is that PWAs run on different platforms, while native apps are for one platform only. This means fewer development costs as well as app store fees. Additionally, there’s no need to build or maintain two code bases since they can be built and maintained on one platform.
PWAs run on browser-like websites, while native applications are installed onto a device like traditional software. This distinction makes PWAs more secure, reliable, and faster than native applications.
- Cost of development and maintenance
Native apps require developers with expertise in the particular platform for which they are intended, as well as a great deal of time, effort, and monetary investment. This means native app development is usually more costly than PWAs.
Due to their browser-based nature, PWAs can be tested on real devices through an emulator or a simple addition of a meta tag on the website’s head section. No installation is required, so it can be tested directly from a web browser. This saves time and lowers development costs since no developer expertise is required for specific platforms.
PWAs can be easily distributed and updated on the web, while native apps must go through an app store where they need to meet strict requirements set by platform owners. This means that the frequency of updates is greatly increased for PWAs.
- SEO & discoverability
PWAs are discoverable through search engines, making them a quick way for users to find your app. Since they behave like traditional websites, PWAs also have the advantage of being indexed by search engines as opposed to only those that meet specific store requirements or those that are submitted as per store guidelines.
PWAs are more secure than native applications since there is no need to protect the operating system or device from application threats.
A PWA does not require installation like a native application, making it easier and more convenient for the end-user. However, some browsers will prompt users to add the website as an app if they visit often enough. With this method, there is still no need for an application store submission or update process since PWAs can be updated from the browser itself.
PWAs are faster than native applications since they run on a web engine rather than directly on the device. In contrast, they may be slightly slower when compared to a fully optimized native app. However, this difference in speed is offset by their advantage of being updateable from within the browser itself with no outside interference required.
How Do Organizations Use PWAs?
Leading businesses are driving increased support for PWAs by adopting that they are used to their maximum potential. Below are some instances of progressive web apps to demonstrate the growing importance of progressive web apps:
Google is using PWAs in their NewsStand, which offers users the ability to browse various topics, download content for offline browsing, listen to podcasts, and more with little data usage. On top of that, Android users will now see an “Install” button when they search for apps on the Play Store – this feature will be rolled out later this year.
Apple app store functions as a PWA that allows users to search for apps from their browser, then install them from the mobile device itself. This is similar to how Google Search works on Android devices with the Play Store.
Forbes is using PWAs in a way to improve page views and time spent on their site. Instead of visitors having to wait for the web page to load with ads, Forbes has created a PWA that allows users to download content for later use when they have no connection. Additionally, when not online, users can still read articles from the cache version of the website allowing for a more fluid user experience.
Flipkart also uses PWAs in their online shopping experience by keeping track of user preferences and allowing for context-based search results. Customers can also integrate the Flipkart app with the website, so they don’t have to leave the device to check out.
Twitter has been using PWAs for a while now, allowing users to open the app from a mobile browser without going through any extra steps. This has been great for users since opening links from non-native apps fall back to mobile websites.
Conclusion: Are PWAs the future of web development?
PWAs are becoming more and more popular among smaller companies that want to increase their user base but don’t have the funds for a fully-fledged app. They’re also great for larger corporations who are already used to web software which can save them time, money, and effort when it comes to updating content or rolling out new features.
The bottom line is this: PWAs may not be able to replace native apps altogether in every industry – but they offer many benefits that make them worth considering if you’re looking into creating your own mobile application. If you need help deciding whether progressive web applications are right for your business needs, contact our web development company today! Our team of expert developers and analysts will show you how we’ve helped other businesses succeed with PWA solutions.