What is a PWA (Progressive web app)

PWAs provide a better online experience for mobile and eliminate the need to download apps from an app store.

Definition of PWA:

progressive web app (PWA) is a website that looks and works like a native mobile app.

What is a PWA (Progressive Web App)?

A progressive web app or PWA is an application software that is built using technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript. In short, a PWA is a web page that looks and behaves like a native mobile app.

How does a PWA work?

As mentioned above, a PWA is a web page that works and looks like a mobile app. Using a PWA is easier than a mobile app because users don’t need to install anything.

What is the difference between native apps, PWA and traditional websites?

One of the biggest differences between native apps, progressive web apps (PWA) and traditional websites is capability.

Compared to traditional website, native mobile apps start up quickly and tend to load even with low to no network availability. These apps and PWA can push notifications and share location — benefits which so far the web hasn’t offered users. PWA have the same capability as a mobile app and improve web user experience, but don’t need to use up their mobile storage space to download an app.

Traditional mobile websites have a bad reputation when it comes to performance, they don’t load quick enough. If scrolling and loading takes longer than 3 seconds, 53% of mobile users will leave the page. With every year that goes by, users have a shorter attention span, so loading instantly is one way to ensure you don’t lose visitors and potential business.

What are the benefits of having PWA?

The main benefit of PWA is that, unlike native apps, they are generic and therefore compatible with all the different types of cellphone operating systems. This means that you can use a PWA on multiple devices, whereas for mobile apps a different app must be created for each specific app store such as Android, IOS, etc.

Additional PWA benefits include:

Speed and consistency: PWA load instantly, even when the network connection isn’t optimal, because they pre-cache your key resources. In addition, they respond quickly to interactions on the site and animations are loaded promptly with no lagged scrolling. This ensures that you always give your customers an optimal on-site experience — and prevents them from abandoning your website.

Look and feel of a native app: PWA look and feel like a native mobile app. A user can even add a clickable image to their home screen, just like a “normal” mobile app. They also give customers an immersive experience without having to take up storage space to install an app.

Increased conversion rates: AliExpress reported that having a PWA has improved its conversions for new users coming from all browsers by 104% and from users coming from iOS by 82%.

What are the challenges with PWA?

Although PWA have existed for quite some time, it’s still taking longer than expected for businesses to start creating and making use of them. This might be because PWA were created by developers at Google and brands such as Apple have been slow to adapt their devices to support PWA.

Apple only stated in 2018 that they would start supporting PWA on their mobile phones. The reason Apple is so hesitant to allow its devices to support PWA is naturally due to its app store and its popularity.

Whether PWA will become a part of consumers’ lives also depends on mobile phone makers and to what extent they allow PWA to get access to certain phone functionalities. For example, Apple has a stricter policy about what apps can do. They also have quality control before approving certain apps on their app store.

PWA are also still quite expensive for companies to build themselves. Most companies are waiting for their e-commerce platform providers to build PWA and offer it in their e-commerce features.

What does the future of PWA look like?

The future of PWA starts with single-page applications (SPAs). Companies or e-commerce platforms need to first start building a single-page application before they move onto PWA.

Single-page applications are apps that work inside internet browsers. SPAs are currently more common than PWA. Some examples of large SPAs that are used daily include Twitter, Facebook and Google.

We see a big fuss around PWA. But what is sometimes marketed as a PWA is, in fact, a single-page application being falsely marketed. Single-page applications do not have the offline capabilities that PWA have.

A tip for companies looking into PWA

Want a PWA? Then take the first step and start building a SPA before you even consider building a PWA.

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