Much has been said about Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). The tool can be considered as a hybrid evolution between web pages and mobile applications. It is precisely by uniting the best of both worlds that many people are considering PWA as the future of web development. But, after all, what is so incredible about this technology and why tech news giants like Google and Microsoft are using it?
The term PWA is used to name a new methodology for web development, but there is not necessarily a single, precise definition. Its main functionality nowadays is to create web applications that deliver an application-like experience to users, but without having to download the app and register. That is a much smaller entry barrier. Like an app, PWAs appear with an icon on the main page of the phone and can send notifications.
HOW USEFUL IS PWA?
Understanding the concept of PWA and some of its characteristics that mark them as a notorious evolution of web apps, it is time to analyze the framework that the PWA may have in the life of the user.
There are currently over a million apps available for download on the App Store and on Google Play. Despite this immense offer, most users restrict their use to a few dozen applications related to services and products of large companies such as Facebook and other social networks, communication services, Google services, Microsoft or Amazon… That is, many applications are not used by users, especially the applications developed by start-ups and small businesses, intended for a very specific use!
Are you installing parking applications on your device that vary from city to city, the applications of each supermarket where you shop or the shopping centers you visit frequently? The examples described above are merely a demonstration of the many “occasion applications” that exist but that users do not install on their equipment, despite using the services or products made available by the companies.
One solution to this may be the development of PWAs rather than native applications. PWAs are much cheaper to develop and maintain, offer a satisfactory user experience and are cross-platform. In other words, a PWA can, in certain cases like the ones above, override the need to develop an application for iOS and Android – and may also be able to develop for Windows -resulting in considerable savings and an equally good end experience.
On the user side, the advantages are also present. PWAs take up less storage space and are more disposable than native applications. For spontaneous or occasional use services, a PWA fits perfectly. The user has the possibility to use them without attaching them to his device, through the URL, not needing this way to install any applications.
However, PWAs also have their disadvantages compared to native applications. Since they are multi-platform, the design does not fit the standards of each platform or operating system, resulting in a generic or standardized design. The performance and depth of the user experience, even with the use of cache and service workers, is not as good as native applications. The fact that PWAs run on the web has its drawbacks in these respects.
WHY IS PWA BEING CONSIDERED THE FUTURE?
The main advantage of using PWA is cost-effectiveness. Developing a native app costs much more than developing a progressive web app, and at the same time, PWA manages to deliver results similar to those of an app.
With this technology, you can access information about the battery, make the phone vibrate, send notifications, keep an icon on the main page, use full screen and, better yet, operate offline. Yes, PWAs work with slow connections or no connection; it’s part of the tool’s principles.
Another very positive point is the issue of user retention. To actually use an app, a person goes through a series of steps: searching for the app, installing it, opening it, signing in to the system, and then interacting. And in the middle of that road, a lot of people give up. A survey of the DrawChat app showed that at each of these steps, about 20% of users were lost. On the other hand, on the web, a few seconds after accessing a link, the user is already experimenting with the product, and this is how it works with PWA.
ADOPTION OF PWAs BY MAJOR TECHNOLOGY
Mozilla, Google, Microsoft and Apple are key players in this PWA journey. Your browser is the most used search platform in the world and must be adapted to support the PWA.
Google has pioneered the adoption of this new type of web apps; and Chrome now supports 100% PWAs along with Mozilla Firefox that also supports them from Firefox 58. The Microsoft Edge will receive support for PWAs in the next major release of Windows 10, the Spring Update Creators. Apple, for its Safari, has yet to make any progress or intentions to support the PWA.
Microsoft, in the adoption and integration of the PWA, went a little further and these are already available in the Microsoft Store itself. The Redmond Company provided a simple PWA conversion tool on Universal Windows Platform (UWP) in a program called the Bing crawler so that they can be installed and handled as if they were native applications. Transformed into UWP, PWA will have greater integration into the operating system, including the famous Live Tiles. The new Twitter application for Windows 10 is a converted PWA and there are already a few dozens in the Windows application store. Microsoft with this incentive of PWA submission in its application store fights once again against the deficit of applications that haunts Windows since the times of Windows Phone 7.
For Google, PWA’s success only favors it, since PWAs are run and web-based, and Google’s core business is the same, the web, and a host of adjoining services.
Nevertheless, it is not enough that the great technological developers of the browsers support the PWA. The remaining companies and services have to create PWAs just as they currently create native applications. You will be able to take advantage of these two possibilities and develop the one that is most convenient and cost-effective for you and the user. Native applications and PWAs end up living in complementarity.
Twitter, Instagram and Telegram are three excellent examples of companies that have adopted the PWAs. If you want your app to be named next in the success of PWAs, get started. There are different companies including Clustox that are making performance-driven progressive web apps for their clients!