Which businesses benefit from Progressive Web Apps?
What are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), and what businesses and industries in particular should be considering them?
Faster, easier, and more user-friendly: these words usually describe most of Internet-based services.
We might think that there’s been nothing new and substantial about building WWW since the introduction of responsive websites. There’s been no game-changer in the online world, or at least there wasn’t one until Google debuted the Progressive Web App (PWA). This solution takes mobile-friendly websites to a new level, leveraging both flexibility and user experience.
But what are PWAs, exactly?
What is a Progressive Web App, or PWA?
A Progressive Web App is not exactly an app. Instead, it’s a webpage or website that gives an “app-like feel” to the user. PWAs should work across devices, be responsive to different screen types, and retain the majority of their functionality when offline. They should be secure and allow users to install a quick link on their home screens.
In other words, PWA doesn’t stand for one technology, but a set of rules, standards, and best practices. (For more info, see the article The 14 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Progressive Web Apps.)
When you apply PWA guidelines to a mobile project, you can rock services and sales as never before. But there are some businesses and industries that can vitally benefit from using PWAs. Let’s take a look at them.
Industries that benefit from PWAs the most
For the e-commerce industry, operating on desktops and mobile platforms (i.e. Android and iOS) is a major cost-saving measure. In this case, implementing a PWA for an existing online store is relatively simple.
When your online store already has a popular, well-performing mobile app, the decision to implement a PWA is a little less obvious. Usually, though, the PWA is quite a leap forward.
A key benefit in using PWA for e-commerce is performance. It’s short interaction time reduces bounce rate (i.e. the proportion of users who leave the site before it has loaded). Every second counts with mobile users, and successfully competing for customers’ attention is critical. The speed with which an app loads can have a real effect on conversion rates thus it helps you generate income.
Banks are an interesting case: they need to offer their own transaction apps that support NFC and fingerprint logging. These things are not currently part of the PWA package, so why should banks consider PWAs?
First, let’s mull over the fact that half of all users browse their bank websites using a smartphone. Given the variety of mobile OSs, connection bandwidths, phone hardware specs, and screen sizes involved, a lightweight, fast, and flexible approach is always appreciated. And these are the hallmarks of PWA. Surely this is one area where banks’ information portals and product sites can evolve.
In our mobile-first environment, it does not always make sense to propose a separate home screen shortcut (i.e. so the information portal is not confused with the transaction app) or to store a lot of information for offline access. But in the context of micro-interactions and speedy performance, banks should already be incorporating aspects of PWA design into their mobile sites.
For last couple of years, insurance apps have been built to handle various functions, from online quotes to customer service and settlement claims. Some of them monitor your driving style and some allow users to book claim-related medical appointments with an app. While it is relatively easy to build an app for each of these functions, it doesn’t always make life easier for the users if they need to deal with more than one. Some statistics even show that users don’t even bother installing any of these kinds of apps.
Instead of developing multiple applications, wouldn’t it be better to include all those functions in a single app? By integrating all the above functions into a online system served as PWA, there’s no need to persuade users to install yet another app. Plus, insurance companies can use the PWA to send targeted push notifications. PWAs’ lightweight, user-friendly, and multi-purpose nature give them great potential to improve both sales and brand loyalty for insurers.
Media and information portals
Offline browsing, quick loading, full-screen modes, and home screen shortcuts are already featuring on many news and media portals. Leading portals like Forbes and Onet have already gotten on board with some of these ideas, rebuilding their sites and cutting down on load times. There are few doubts in this industry about the value of PWA standards; it remains to be seen whether this group will go even further and embrace Accelerated Mobile Pages for its websites, but that’s a different question altogether.
One final thought: PWAs in App Stores
I believe PWA standard makes sense for a lot of industries and businesses. But there’s one important concept to finish with, and that’s the app store problem.
Websites, as we know, don’t usually appear in an app store. Yet, if a company doesn’t have an app in one of the major app stores, it doesn’t have a presence in a very important channel. And it could very well lose shelf space to competitors. Since PWAs are not apps, do they have a place in an app store?
The answer is yes – with an addendum.
In January of this year, Google announced that PWAs could appear in their Play Store, provided the PWAs meet certain requirements. iOS developers, however, will need to take the extra step of packaging their PWA in a wrapper (a lightweight container app). But with this workaround, it is certainly possible to have most of the PWA functions available for iOS users.
The reach of the World Wide Web and the engaging nature of mobile apps set smart businesses up for good results – but only when they’re used and optimized properly. The PWA may not be the first choice for every use case, and some businesses may not have an immediate need for it. But switching to the PWA standard is simple enough, and we expect it to quickly become an important, widely used benchmark for many industries.