Mobile apps have become so prevalent in recent years that companies practically feel obligated to develop one. But often, this is not the best use of money, time, and resources. Sometimes a website that functions well on mobile devices is all that’s necessary. However, progressive web apps (PWA’s) serve as a technological Reese’s peanut butter cup, a delicious combination of the speed and offline performance of native apps with the web-based perk of not requiring installation or storage.

“In certain ways it kind of has the best of both worlds feel to it,” says Hernan Santiesteban of digital marketing agency Great Lakes Web. “[It has] all the benefits of an app without all the headaches of having to download stuff.”

The term “progressive web app” was coined in 2015 by a pair of developers at Google, but the concept has been around even longer. As more and more web traffic came from mobile devices, companies such as the always-cutting edge Amazon began embracing the speedier, sleeker technology PWAs had to offer. “You can use any technology to build a progressive web application,” says Wayne Ma, Sr. Software Engineer at Katalyst Technologies. He points to the similar functions between the native Amazon app and viewing Amazon in a mobile browser. “You don’t see the difference if you use the app or you do not.” The question, then, for companies and consumers: why even bother using the app?”

Benefits of PWAs

Concentrated and cheaper development

When creating a traditional web app, designers must account for both Android and iOS systems and functionalities. With a PWA, however, “you’re basically building a website,” says Santiesteban. “So you are using HTML, you are using CSS, and you are using JavaScript. It’s the same languages.”

Two components essential in developing a PWA are a service worker and a manifest file. We’ll dive into each of these below. It must also run on a secure HTTPS server.

Faster and offline performance

According to Google research, 53% of users abandon mobile sites that take more than three seconds to load. PWAs minimize that time by caching or avoiding repetitive elements such as logos that can slow things down. “You can decide what aspects of your app are going to be downloaded into the mobile device so that they’re always there,” says Santiesteban. “Every time you launch it, you don’t have to send a request to the web server to get [that downloaded content]. So this makes it a high-speed experience for the user because all these graphics are already there. They don’t have to be downloaded over a potentially slow network.” Some PWAs run up to seven times faster than pages that are not optimized.

“What we can do is to program your PWAs [to] have a service worker inside of the product,” says Ma. The service worker intuitively tracks what has loaded and modifies your continued web experience from there. “It will decide which part [of the site] will be replaced, and it’s ready to replace that part.” The service worker can even deduce your potential next move on the site—say, the following page of product listings—and prepare that page in the background, so that when you’re ready to move on, those results are waiting for you.

Minimal storage space and updates

As a PWA does not need to be installed on a mobile device, it requires fewer resources to operate properly. Users will undoubtedly appreciate this alternative to native apps. It also means that updates are implemented naturally without requiring users to take the frustrating step of manually updating them or requiring a wi-fi connection.

Users can still create shortcuts to PWAs if they see fit, and iOS app developers and android app builder are encouraged to promote and make this option convenient. These details—the app icon, title, theme, etc.—are stored in the manifest file.

Increased sales

Ultimately, the reason for embracing any new technology is to increase the bottom line, and in the case of PWAs, the results speak for themselves. AliExpress more than doubled its conversion rate after adopting a PWA. A Chicago Best Western saw a 300% revenue increase. Customers are far more likely to engage with a faster, more convenient application, and numbers like those are hard to ignore.

Plus, unlike regular websites, PWAs allow for push notifications that alert customers and keep them fresh in their minds.

Before you fully plunge into PWAs, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that reaping some of the most significant technological benefits of PWAs is possible with the simple addition of a service worker, as Ma mentioned. “If you just want some function…just add the service worker in [your] existing web application and let the service worker know what it needs to do,” he says. “After you’ve done this, the performance of your websites is dramatically increased with minimal effort.” The bad news? Taking full advantage of a PWA’s possibilities might involve starting from scratch. Push notifications and offline features could require a complete redesign. However, keeping it simple is probably the best bet.

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Author's Bio: 

Brian Burell has completed his education in Computer Science and then he has started working in Digital & eCommerce, Enterprise Application and SCM segment for Katalyst Technologies Inc. After getting more than 7 years of experience in software solution, he found best interaction model of success. He really enjoys her success in software industry for start-up business and also in extending current model with highly reflective ROI.