Should You Start Investing in Progressive Web Apps

June 3, 2018

Starbucks, Tinder, Uber and many other brands have already invested in PWAs or Progressive Web Apps, but is the time right to invest in this new technology and can it replace your native app? I have been asked this question more and more frequently and put together the below guide for you to get an overview of what are Progressive Web Apps, how they potentially support your mobile strategy and whether you should be creating your own.Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are web-based applications that appear to the user like traditional native apps on their SmartPhones.

PWAs are using regular web technology and are built like a traditional web application, but have access to some additional capabilities such as background services, offline capabilities, push notifications and other mobile device features.

PWAs can be installed on your home screen like a native application, providing you the same benefit of stickiness like a regular app. Not only this, you can develop and deploy web apps without the need to submit them to the app store and undergo certification.

Sounds beautiful, but hold on. As usual, we are not all on the same page.

Google is promoting PWAs, and their Android operating system has complete support for PWAs at this stage. Features such as Push Notifications, Speech Recognition or BackgroundSync are available on Android but are missing on iOS. Especially PushNotifications not being present on iOS 11 is a big negative point at this stage.

PWA push notifications

However, it still enables users of both operating systems to utilize the camera, location and storage services. Gestures are also supported which allows PWA developers to create native-like experiences from an interaction design perspective.

Googles Android app development has another advantage which is that it can prompt users to install the PWA when they are visiting your website on mobile devices. This increases adoption and installs for your PWA. On iOS brands have to do more work to advertise the feature. This brings us to the point of whether you should invest in creating a PWA for your business or not.

If you have an existing native application and your userbase is predominantly on iOS then no. Your native app will do the job and the additional budget required to create and promote your new PWA may as well be spent elsewhere.

But if your Android userbase is large enough or if you don't even have a mobile application yet then a PWA could be an option to start with.

It's important to note that while PWAs are based on web technology and are easier to deploy and test than native applications a fully functional PWA that makes use of the best practices such as progressive loading worker services or offline capabilities and requires more advanced development.

Here is a website that lists some PWAs for you to explore on your mobile.

websites using PWA

Another great use case is for brands that require to provide users with temporary access to richer features. Take an airport for example you may find little use to download the airport app of an airport you are only transiting on your journey but you may be inclined to download their PWA for a couple of hours. (iOS removes unused apps after a while automatically).

To sum up while there are some excellent reasons to invest in PWAs they are nowhere close to replacing your native application development effort anytime soon. It's an exciting space to watch and we will keep you updated with the latest developments.

Written by
Alexander Rauser
Alexander Rauser


Alexander Rauser is the author of Boardroom Guide to Digital Accountability and Digital Strategy: A Guide to Digital Business Transformation, and creator of the DSX Program, a digital strategy and transformation program for Enterprises.

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