How PWAs are Changing the Mobile App Landscape
Posted By : Arpita Pal | 30-Aug-2023
Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) are a meticulous blend of mobile application development and web technologies that are accessed from web browsers or app stores. To achieve a balance between the functionality of a native app and the thorough accessibility of a website, developers created progressive web applications. Built around a single base code, it is programmed to resemble a native app without the developmental burden of creating one. Their introduction was brought about by Frances Berrimen and Google’s engineer, Alex Rusell in 2015 as a new category of websites focussed on providing a more efficient experience than traditional websites. According to various research studies and statistics on PWAs, as compared to native apps, PWAs require 33 percent less maintenance costs by utilizing a single codebase. They have also shown 36 percent higher rates of conversion for mobile users.
Native applications are apps built around specific objectives and for a specific platform. It means that it will consist of different code structures in relation to the different app stores it needs to be listed on, and go through its diversified approval processes. They were the first kind of applications to come into the picture since the introduction of smartphones. They are able to take advantage of the phone’s hardware which gives them device control to provide an interactive experience for its user. It requires a considerable amount of financial backing and time to develop and market these applications to achieve profitability.
Special Features of Progressive Web Applications (PWAs)
1) Offline Development: Offline features in mobile application development enable them to operate the application and store data without accessing the web browser. With features like local caching, real-time synchronization, etc., offline development has become an essential feature in mobile applications. Progressive web applications (PWAs) now facilitate offline browsing where users can make use of the app even in cases of connectivity issues. The information is updated immediately once the connection is regained with the server. The feature is considered necessary as it helps to avoid loss of information, increases engagement and improves performance as PWAs keep on working even in cases of abrupt stoppage in net connectivity,
Moreover, offline methods in progressive web applications operate with the help of technologies namely, service workers, IndexedDB, Web Storage: local storage and session storage, Cache APIs and File System Access. When the connection goes offline, PWAs are able to cache and keep the application running, with the assistance of service workers acting as a proxy between the browser and the network. Web storage is useful in saving small amounts of data from the user’s device. IndexedDB on the other hand, helps to save structured data from both front-end code and service worker code. Cached API assists in managing cached resources by extracting back web data such as HTML, CSS, images, etc. Lastly, file system access assists in reading files on users' devices and helps to save any changes that were made previously.
2) Availability in App Stores: Accessibility from web browsers provides PWAs great discoverability but exposure from app stores takes it up to an even greater level, making it truly a differentiable experience as an app from a regular website. Popular app stores such as Google Play Store and Microsoft Store have welcomed the provision of downloading and installing PWAs as apps which has widened the scope of its audience. Features like Trusted Web Activity make it easier to convert PWAs into application format which further helps in the process of listing it in app stores. Currently, only Google Play Store and Microsoft Store support PWA apps.
3) Push Notifications: Re-engagement is essential for conversions and maintaining the interest of current visitors and those who have already visited the site, especially for eCommerce stores. Push notifications, an integral feature of native apps, are also found in progressive web applications. It allows the app to send notifications to remind them to complete any unfinished tasks they did not finish on their previous visit to the site. One of the main examples is finishing purchases for abandoned items in the cart, where finishing the process can lead to improved conversions, facilitating profitability and business growth.
4) Cross-Platform Development: PWAs enjoy wide accessibility and a large user base due to its hybrid approach where both options of viewing it as a website or downloading and installing it as an app are available. Such platforms help developers to utilize a reusable code structure that can be shared for multiple uses. It helps to save time and cost by streamlining efforts for a single code base. Whereas for native apps, separate code structures are required for different app stores that they want to be listed on and go through their different approval processes.
5) UI/UX Experience: The design and interface experience for PWAs are required to be consistent and adaptable to different platforms. Responsive design abilities in PWAs ensure that the UI/UX adjusts to the device of the user i.e., mobile, desktop, etc. This is crucial to avoid a clunky experience as an effective interface and design play a huge role in higher engagement rates with users. It assists in engaging their interest through quality visuals and smooth experience while interacting with PWAs.
6) Home Screen Accessibility: Having a presence on the home screen of a mobile can prove to be a worthy measure in regaining the interest of the user, where there is already a huge competition for attention. Progressive web applications offer the feature of being added to the user’s home screen with a proper logo and design, replicating the experience of a native app. It will operate like a native app with required features and run like a website, offering a fast and lightweight experience.
Difference between Native Applications and Progressive Web Applications (PWA)
1) Performance: Progressive Web Applications fare better in terms of speed as they are lightweight and hence load faster than native apps. PWAs are not required to be stored on the device itself as they run with the help of web browsers. However, native apps require memory to access the device’s hardware to provide a beneficial experience for their users.
2) Safety: PWAs are able to provide a safe experience with the help of secure connections using https encryptions. Native apps, on the other hand, come embedded with security features when they are downloaded and installed on the user’s device.
3) Offline Mode Availability: Both PWAs and native apps support the feature of offline mode on phones for users. Since native apps have access to the phone’s hardware, it can make real-time updates when the app is being used. Whereas for PWAs, pre-caching allows the app to be updated as soon as it regains net connectivity.
4) Downloading and Installation: PWAs do not require installation to run on the user’s device. Instead, they have the option to be added to the home screen of user’s mobile or any device along with the option of simply searching it on a search engine. Both options run with the help of a web browser and are speedy in terms of loading and functionality. In cases of native apps, they are required to be searched, downloaded and installed from the app stores on the user’s phone to become operational. They also need to be manually updated with each change released by developers if the option of auto-update is not turned on the device.
5) Push Notifications: The ability of push notifications is present in both PWAs and native apps which can be utilized for retaining higher interaction and engagement with users. However, the feature of push notifications is not available for iOS users in the case of PWAs.
6) Development Cost: The financial cost is considerably higher for native apps as compared to PWAs. This is due to the fact that they need to have separate code structures for multiple platforms which have strict approval guidelines for submission. Whereas for PWAs, developers need to maintain a single code structure that has reusable and shareable attributes. This decreases the development processes’ duration, cost and other resources and facilitates a streamlined process from beginning to end.
Benefits of Progressive Web Applications (PWA)
1) Ease of Deployment: Since the mode of access for PWAs is through the internet, developers save a lot of time by not having to submit each deployment release through app stores’ approval processes. They can be easily updated with each deployment release by developers themselves, rather than relying on users to update the applications.
3) Provides a seamless diversified experience: PWAs have proved to be beneficial in enabling a diversified experience for users of all backgrounds. Due to their swift loading experience, PWAs are able to run on low bandwidth internet connections, even in 3G and 2G mobile networks taking up to approx. 3 seconds to fully load itself. By using offline development technologies such as pre-caching, code splitting and lazy loading, it is able to run on many slow networks.
4) Better Discoverability: As PWAs come under the category of websites, it can be searched through URLs on the internet. By efficient and optimized SEO techniques, PWA’s visibility can be increased by indexing them on search engines. Since the internet has a larger user base than app stores, more people can have access to these sites.
5) Ease of Development: Developers get to create a single codebase structure for PWAs for different platforms. This helps them to save essential resources like time and cost as instead of maintaining different code structures for each platform, they can use just one code base which is adaptable and reusable for future purposes. This in turn increases the overall speed of the development process.
Future of Progressive Web Applications in Mobile Landscape
Progressive Web Application (PWA) has proved to be a successful application technology for multiple global companies such as Facebook, X (previously known as Twitter), Starbucks, Forbes, etc. With beneficial characteristics such as faster loading times, lightweight technology, interactive user interfaces, offline mode etc, PWAs have transformed mobile application development for developers. As mobile users are spending more time on their phones, effortless functionality and smooth operating help to set apart competition that is not able to do so. PWAs offer convenience and operational efficiency to support such requirements of businesses to gain a competitive edge. It is definitely a technology that experts need to pay attention to for its cutting-edge solutions. If you’re looking to empower your business with market-specific and competent technology, we’d love to support your journey with our sophisticated mobile application development solutions. Drop us a query and our experts will get back to you within 24 hours.