The web is an extremely complex place, and your job, as a business owner, designer, and/or digital marketer, is to make your part of it as simple to use and navigate as humanly possible.
Today, this simplicity can be the difference between gaining a huge following and falling completely off the map. And in quest for it, businesses have tried everything from creating different websites for different devices, using responsive design best practices, and building expensive native applications. But to date, none have really shouted simplicity.
There is another option out there though, that although has had much less attention than the others, has recently gained in popularity: Progressive web apps. Although its name doesn’t suggest it, progressive web apps, or PWAs, offer businesses and users the closest thing to simplicity in a world of various devices, screen sizes, channels, operating systems, APIs, and preferences.
PWAs sit between native apps and mobile sites, taking the advantages of each and doing away with both of their many pitfalls. Launched in 2015, they’re the latest mobile development of the bunch, and the outlook looks so good for them that tonnes of major brands are moving away from native apps to even exclusive use them — on both mobile and desktop.
Not only is this exciting as it could mean the end of web addresses and tabs, it also means we could do away with websites as we know them altogether. It’s a bold idea; so here are a few reasons that support PWAs as a fitting candidate for the future of the web.
Zero friction for everyone
What’s the most important thing about developing for mobile: Usability? Responsiveness? A unique array of features? Well, while many people are stuck answering that question, others are getting right to it and reaching their users and finding out.
In a mobile-first world, PWAs are most effective because they offer a level of speed and convenience that gives users a truly mobile-first experience.
PWAs present your information to a user in an app-like shell that allows app-style interaction, all in the time it takes to click a link. This means little time for consideration and debating over app reviews, no lengthy loading time or sketchy period of installation, and no having to educate or even convince users how to use it. It also does away with permissions, bypassing the growing worry of how companies are going to use or misuse their data.
Service workers are the magic scripts bringing this app-like functionality to the web. They run in the background, supporting features such as push notifications and offline viewing. Unlike apps and traditional web-sites, that means users get a super fast experience no matter of their connectivity and whether they happened to be on mobile or desktop.
A native but light experience
Even if you have a highly responsive website that’s optimised for mobile, chances are it is still going to be somewhat clunky to use on some devices and a big consumer of time and data. And let’s not even get started on apps — so often users don’t have the space to give them a try, never mind the patience.
For users, that can mean an unreliable and frustrating experience with your business. For business owners, it can mean downtime, high bounce rates, and unfavourable positions in the SERPs or ratings in the app store.
As we mentioned above, speed is one of the most important factors in the modern day user’s experience. PWAs speak to this time and attention-scarce society with features that allow, for example, for quick links to be added to the home screen, without the need for space and updates to be constantly running in the background.
In terms of actual user experience, PWAs offer the same level of functionality and UX as you would expect from native apps. That means all-around better navigation and layout, so the user gets what they want with less effort and you get much higher conversion rates.
Premium functionality for less
If you’re one of the companies that missed out on the app boom (and saved some money doing so), now’s your time to cash in.
Dedicated mobile applications are expensive to build, and, unless they’re top of their class, offer very little return on investment. PWAs are a fraction of the cost, won’t get lost in a store of other apps, and, best of all, work on browsers that are common to all devices.
Google and Microsoft are backing PWAs, as well as Apple, albeit more gradually. Companies like Twitter, Instagram, Uber, and Forbes are all using them, including many big retailers who are getting their money’s worth many times over by securing their share of the mobile shopping arena.
Joe Hunt is a freelance writer based out of Leeds and Barcelona. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Medium to find more articles on work, technology, mindfulness, and everything in between.