Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) could be the next big rave when it comes to elevating customer experiences online.
Yes, we know you’ve probably heard that many times before but things are getting a bit more serious now. You can expect your mobile browsing experiences to change drastically over the next few years, for the better.
Progressive web applications use modern web technologies to deliver app-like results while allowing users to bypass mobile app store transactions.
The main benefits of progressive web apps are that they are reliable, fast and engaging. 53% of mobile visits are abandoned if the website takes more than 3 seconds to load, based on benchmark data gathered by Google in 2016.
Software developers can engineer responsive and fresh mobile user experiences. They can achieve this through controlling the metadata such as the name of the app, links to icons and the URL used to launch the app, held in a centralized web manifest file.
PWAs load instantly and react quickly to user engagements. This could mean the extinction of Google’s dreaded downasaur, as PWA content is always accessible regardless of internet connection strength.
This new type of application also allows for higher re-engagement by offering push notifications prompting users to view relevant updates or promotional offers. The ‘progressive’ in ‘progressive web apps’ refers the to app serving the user an end to end experience.
These websites behave like traditional apps by offering an experience that is responsive, interactive, and trustworthy. From social networks like Twitter Mobile to editorial powerhouses like The Washington Post, many websites these days are benefitting from this technology and that number is only going to grow.
When it comes to new technology, it’s rare to see competing giants all jump on board for the same cause. However, that’s what is happening with PWAs. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all paying attention to PWAs, to the point that some industry experts are calling them the “great equalizer” between the companies.
Google has already published several informational articles and explainer videos promoting the benefits of PWAs through their various communities. Google plans to practice what they preach by rolling out PWAs on all of their websites in the near future.
Microsoft has plans to take things even further by not only accepting progressive web application to their Microsoft Store, but they will be using the Bing crawler to automatically pull PWAs into thir app store. This gives PWAs the same discoverability afforded to native apps and traditional web apps.
Apple, the last of the mobile device giants to adhere to this growing trend, has quietly added support for basic functionality of PWAs with the latest release of iOS 11.3.
One might worry that Google would not be a fan of PWAs for fear of losing revenue on Google Play. The truth is that Google stands to win big from this. When users are interacting with PWAs, unlike native apps, they are staying on the web allowing Google to continue to compile valuable user engagement data. Google will continue to drive advertising revenue through their AdWords and AdSense platforms as well.
When most people think of mobile apps, they don’t immediately think of Microsoft. iOS or Android are the more common operating systems that come to mind. Although they have been lagging in some areas, the new PWA compatibility on Microsoft devices will help bridge the gap. This will result in deeper analytics, better discoverability, streamlined in-app purchases, and more. Microsoft has released an updated version of Edge, the browser that comes with Windows 10, with the required functionality to run PWAs.
In addition to Google, Microsoft, and Apple, big companies like Uber, Instagram, Starbucks and Pinterest are adopting PWAs into their structure. Financial Times was an early-adopter of PWAs by getting rid of their native apps and opting exclusively for a progressive web app back in 2011. Other massive sites, such as OLX.com, the India-based real estate listing platform, increased user re-engagement by 250% and click through rates (CTR) by 146% by implementing PWA technology. In many developing countries, connectivity can be a serious issue and PWAs eliminate much of that concern as long as mobile web visitors are using devices that support service worker functionality.
There has been a lot going on in the world of cryptocurrencies and blockchain lately, and for FinTech companies in general. Large banks typically spend a lot of money on native application maintenance. Now their staff web developers may be able to handle the PWA maintenance in-house. PWAs are going to be a growing trend among financial services startups that rely heavily on offering a fast and smooth user experience so that users can engage with the site features and convert on offers. Another big benefit for financial institutions is that PWAs don’t need to be updated as often and are much more secure than native apps.
Microsoft Redstone 4 will be supporting progressive web applications in the spring of 2018, which is exciting news for Windows 10 users. This only proves that Microsoft’s support of Progressive Web Apps growing is here to stay. That said, there will be standards to meet as any PWAs submitted to the Microsoft Store must be compliant with their policies to be ingested into the store.
Although much has been in the news about Microsoft and Progressive Web Apps, Google has actually been the main champion for this technology and will hopefully be releasing PWA versions of all their sites later on in 2018. An open-source initiative championed by Google, Lighthouse, is a tool that can be used by developers in Chrome DevTools that provides automated auditing, performance metrics, and best practices.
For many businesses, the bottom line and return on investment is the biggest concern. First of all, companies will now save development costs in the long run. They can also expect to save the 30% cut that Google and Apple takes in app store fees right away. In 2017, both Apple and Google reduced their fees to 15% for subscribers that are retained after 12 months of paid service. This is an indication that app developers are not okay with the current arrangement of the app stores taking such a significant share of earnings off the top.
In addition to the cost, companies will also enjoy less maintenance and fewer bugs than they see with regular apps. Not only does this save money, but also time. That said, many enterprises may decide to keep native apps as part of their online user experiences. However, smaller companies may decide to stop allocating marketing budget to cover the high costs for iOS App Store and Android Play Store-compatible app maintenance.
Another benefit of progressive web apps is that any changes take a lot less time to come into effect. Instead of needing to submit the app to stores for review and approval, you can launch changes instantly. You don’t need separate code bases for iOS and Android either.
Smartphone users are downloading more rich forms of media, such as infographic and video, than ever. So being cautious of encroaching mobile phone plan data limits is an increasing concern for many consumers.
The first of two big positives for progressive web apps over native apps is that they are significantly smaller in file size to download. The second big win for PWAs is that future updates are only rolled out if and when the user actually needs to use the app again. This will certainly reduce the overall data used by smartphone owners who are downloading apps on the go.
The offline capabilities of PWAs give them a huge advantage as well. Say you’re in the subway and you want to load a web page, that probably won’t work out well but you could potentially use the PWA to load the content offline. Additionally, instead of using data to load web pages, PWAs use caching to try to load things locally first.
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