What is a Progressive Web App and When You Should Go for It?

Photo of Jakub Niechciał

Jakub Niechciał

Updated Feb 27, 2023 • 6 min read

Are Progressive Web Apps (or PWA for short) the future of web development?

Their main selling point is a smooth performance on any device and the technology based on the idea of treating the web browser as an operating system. Should you get excited? Is this technology for you? Let’s find out.

PWA Explained

They have been one of the hottest trends in tech for years. I believe that we will eventually get rid of the term progressive web apps in favor of just web apps. They will be the standard for web development, incorporated everywhere.

What do they do? They deliver value to your user from their very first contact with your app. The user’s Internet broadband or smartphone specs make no difference. The experience is exactly as it should be, regardless the circumstances.

How is that possible? There’s a lot of technology involved in delivering the content (a.k.a. the experience) faster than usual.

PWA are built on progressive enhancements of your application. Each web page starts with HTML, and this is the most basic layer that can bring the value. It’s responsible for text and basic positioning. A page based on pure HTML would be black and white. In most cases, this is enough to deliver the value: the news, the item description in your ecommerce, or friends updates. Each layer after that - CSS styles, JavaScript, push notifications, geolocalisation, and so on - brings progressive enhancement.

You can keep the value from the first layer no matter the circumstances because the browser is the new operating system. In the world of iOS, when we build a native application, Apple pushes to implement features like 3D touch. 3D touch is available only on iPhone 6S and up. We need to make sure the app is still useful and user-friendly on iPhone 6 and older devices. This is also an example of progressive enhancement - we add experiences when the opportunity occurs, but diminish it when it doesn’t.

No single code snippet can make your web app progressive. It’s a shift in design, in development, and in testing that will soon become a standard in web development. There are good reasons why you shouldn’t stay behind.

PWA and Your Business

Cheaper native experience based on native APIs in modern browsers.

Progressive web apps are no more expensive than native applications, and they can be used by every possible smartphone user in the world - doesn’t matter if their system of choice is iOS or Android.

High conversion rates, unique active users, higher retention and lower bounce rate.

These metrics are strictly correlated with an app speed. Progressive web apps are focused on speed and delivery to every user.

Do you need a social proof?

Flipkart - an Indian ecommerce company - released their progressive web app and reported an increase of 300% in time spent by users in the web app, a 40% higher re-engagement rate, 70% greater conversion rate and a 30% lower data usage.

AliExpress released their new progressive web app and reported an increased conversion rate for new users by 104%. They doubled the customers base on mobile!

You can find out more about practical examples of Progressive Web Apps in this article: 10 Popular Companies that Do Progressive Web Apps.

When Do You Need PWA?

I’m convinced that everyone should focus on progressive web apps. But there are a few application types that I can’t imagine not being developed as a progressive web app - it would be a great loss for your business if you took any other approach.

If you are creating an e-commerce platform.

Definitely focus on PWA. It will have a direct impact on your revenue.

If you are targeting users from developing countries.

Remember that if you live and create your business in a developed country, you will always be spoiled by your 4G connection, widely available WiFi and the newest iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy S7 in your hand. If you target Africa, use and test your app on an older smartphone with a 2G connection. Then you’ll see how important it is to make your app progressive.

If you’re building a web app and expect to have a lot of mobile users.

Make life easier for your users. Implement the state-of-the-art technologies designed for progressive web apps like service workers and push notifications. It will make your web app feel more native, faster and will keep your users engaged.

What’s the Verdict?

Progressive web apps are changing the web before our eyes. You can check out amazing case studies from big companies showing what a great impact progressive web apps have on their business and revenue.

This trend will make the web user the first class citizen of mobile devices. Native APIs in browsers will eventually reach the potential of native applications (or be very close to it). It won’t be worth developing a native application unless it’s written into your business model (like for Snapchat, Uber or Instagram).

Still wondering if your business can take advantage of the progressive web apps technology? We can do a diagnosis for you. Just drop us a line somewhere.

Photo of Jakub Niechciał

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Jakub Niechciał

Jakub has obtained a Master’s degree at Poznań University of Technology in Control Engineering and...
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