What Is a Progressive Web Application?

A progressive web application (PWA) is one of the three basic types of applications. The other two are web applications and native applications. 

A native app is a program that’s built for a specific operating system such as iOS or Android. Native apps are written in the language of the platform they were developed for. iOS typically uses Objective C or Swift, and Android uses Kotlin or Java. Users can download native iOS apps and Android apps from their respective stores. 

A web app is software that’s developed to run on a web server. Most web apps are written in JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. You can access web apps through many devices and browsers; however, certain features and functions may be incompatible depending on which device and browser you use.

A progressive web app is considered a mix of the best features of a native app and a web app. Like web apps, they’re also written in JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. PWAs are built for and live on the web, and they perform well on most devices and browsers (1).

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Progressive Web Apps vs Native Apps

A native app has advantages over a PWA because it’s designed and optimized for a particular platform. Native apps are quick to respond which creates an overall better user experience. They have the highest security with primary access to all the device’s software and hardware and work seamlessly with other features. Native apps tend to have fewer bugs since they’re the first to receive updates from their operating system. They can even function offline.

Native apps can fall short of PWAs regarding development, installation, and maintenance. Development is costly and time-consuming because programming is tricky, developers are scarce, and separate apps must be created for each platform. Installation involves many steps for the user: going to the store, finding the app, accepting terms and conditions, and downloading the software. Maintenance is expensive, about 15-20% of the development cost.

What Are the Benefits of Progressive Web Apps?

Though native apps have better performance, higher security, and fewer kinks, there are many benefits of PWAs to enjoy and explore, starting with their ability to mimic a native app.

Acts Like a Native App

PWAs can work in offline mode just like native apps if there’s a weak internet connection or none at all. Push notifications (2) are available with any website using a service worker on most platforms and browsers. PWAs are installable on the home screen and use mobile-specific navigation, giving the user a native app-like experience.hand holding up a phone showing apps on the screen

Responsive Design

The responsive design of a PWA means it’s capable of running on most mobile devices, desktops, laptops, or tablets. For example, a PWA can operate on a Google Pixel phone as well as a Microsoft Windows computer, whereas a native app built for an iPhone won’t run on an Android.

Discoverable Beyond Stores

You don’t have to go to a store to find PWAs; they can be found using search engines. Google even has a list of best practices for making PWAs indexable and improving your SEO. Of course, this feature doesn’t mean you can’t put your PWA in an app store (3) like Google Play Store, it’s just not the only place it can live. 

Shareable to Others

PWAs are indexable websites tied to a live URL. Content can be easily shared across devices, which allows you to reach a broader audience. Because PWAs are shareable and linkable, they don’t require complex installation.

Easier to Install

PWA users are not bogged down by the installation process that’s involved with a native app. Instead of going through the purchase steps in an app store, end-users can stay within the browser for quick and easy access to their desired content.

Takes Up Less Space

There’s not much concern about storage with PWAs. They’re lightweight and take up less space on devices. Data consumption can be reduced without sacrificing the convenience of a native app-like experience.

Updates Instantly 

PWAs are always up-to-date as long as they’re connected to the internet. You don’t have to download or install anything to get the latest version. A PWA can instantly be refreshed with new content without the user being bothered to click anything.

Cheaper to Build 

Native app development costs more because the process is more complex and separate apps must be created for web, iOS, and Android. A progressive web app only has to be built once because it’s compatible with most browsers and platforms. The single codebase simplifies and reduces development costs. Maintenance on a PWA is also cheaper than a native app.

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PWA Examples

Many successful brands that implemented PWAs to enhance user engagement experienced impressive results after launch. 

  • Spotify—30% more monthly active users; 45% increase in desktop users 

  • Pinterest—44% more user-generated ad revenue; 370% increase in logins 

  • Aliexpress—104% more sign-ups; 74% increase in session time

  • Trivago—150% more user engagementimage of phone showing apps on the screen

  • Tinder—30% more click-through rates; 15% reduction in bounce rates 

  • Forbes—20% more impressions per page; 43% increase in sessions per user

  • Washington Post—88% decrease in load time compared to mobile website

  • Uber—Enabled quick ride requests regardless of location, network speed, and device 

  • Starbucks—Doubled the number of web users who place orders each day 

Whether it’s increasing conversion rate, personalizing the customer experience, decreasing bounce rate, or reducing load time, the above data proves how PWAs can offer a variety of advantages to businesses.

Progressive Web App Builders

If you decide to move forward with a progressive web app, you need to know how to build one. Here are the steps to take to convert your existing website into a PWA.

  1. Create an app manifest and add it to your base HTML template

  2. Create the service worker

  3. Serve the service worker on the root of the scope you used in the manifest

  4. Add a <script> block to your base HTML template to load the service worker

  5. Deploy and use your progressive web app

You can also build a PWA from scratch. Take a look at the tools in this example.

  • Use React framework from Facebook

  • Incorporate Polymer templates from Google

  • Create dependency graphs using Webpack

  • Manage Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM) bindings between HTML and JSD HTML with Knockout

  • Employ AMP from Google to compress images/JS

  • Test code with Lighthouse from Google

Progressive Web App Cost

Many factors determine the price of creating a progressive web app including layout design complexity and the total time needed to make a layout. However, generally speaking, a progressive web app costs between $6,000 and $20,000 plus maintenance. 

A native app can run between $20,000 to $80,000 plus maintenance. Using cross-platform development frameworks such as React Native can help cut costs by making a large portion of the code reusable among the operating systems.

Mobile App Development Services

Now that you know the advantages of PWAs, you should explore the mobile app development services that O8 has to offer. 

We build integrated native mobile applications, progressive web apps (PWA), and cross-platform tools that fit seamlessly into your digital transformation strategy. 

Our mobile app development process combines analytical insights from deep research, strategic thinking, intuitive product design, and cutting-edge engineering to deliver exceptional results that drive ROI. Here’s how we work.

  • We assign an experienced Customer Experience Lead (CXL) to your account, who serves as the main liaison between your team and ours.

  • Your CXL manages workflow, quality, skillset assignment, and timelines. You get a transparent project portal with an overview of all work being done.

  • We open up communication with your assigned team as they begin to become a part of your daily workflow.

Get started with our team of experts today!

 

Endnotes

1.  PWAS are not supported by Desktop Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Facebook Mobile Browser. Safari also has some limitations.

2.  iOS does not allow PWAs to access all native device features.

3.  Apple doesn’t support PWAs in its app store because they have limited functionality on the iOS platform and don’t meet user experience guidelines.

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O8 is a web and digital marketing consultancy based in Minneapolis, MN offering expert-level UX Design, CRO, and strategic consulting, as well as highly-technical capabilities in Drupal, WordPress, and HubSpot

We work differently from traditional agencies in that we extend your team with ours.