Using modern technology to improve the experience for your users
What is a Progressive Web App (PWA)?
PWAs can be seen as a hybrid between a website you would visit in your browser and a native mobile application, like you would download from the app store.
When you visit a website which has qualified as a PWA then you have the option to add it to your Apple, Android or Windows device’s home screen. Once added, it shows up like a normal app. On a Windows device, you can even add PWAs to your computer directly from the Microsoft Store.
This acceptance among the world’s largest companies shows that PWAs are a serious standard that’s here to stay. Here is an article directly from Microsoft pledging their commitment to PWAs.
These screenshots show an example of adding the Starbucks PWA to an Android phone:
The benefits of a PWA to the user are:
- They have quicker access to your site
- The data required for your site to run is stored on their device, so it loads faster and can even be set up to run without an internet connection
- The website runs as though it is a native app, without a url bar or browser buttons
Any website can become a PWA so long as it meets a set of requirements which cover areas like performance and usability. The home for these standards is the Google developer website, which provides clear details on how to conform.
At the same time, the user is not required to accept the PWA onto their home screen. They can just continue to use it like a normal website, while taking advantage of the hard work put into making it performant and usable.
Here is an overview of the general categories and why they’re so important.
People that work to create digital products are often on high performing computers with high speed internet connections. This makes it easy to overlook that the users may be using old mobile devices with slow processors and connection speeds.
Google have done a huge number of studies into the impact of page load times on users. Based on these results, they have set the maximum load time of 10s on a mobile phone from 2015 with slow 4G.
“53% of users will abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load “
In order for the user to have a consistent native experience while using a PWA it is essential that it is fully responsive. The user may be be using it on a full size desktop, a tablet or any size phone.
Another important consideration is offline usability. If someone is using their tablet without a WiFi, they still want the information to be available. PWAs use a special caching helper called a Service Worker. They provide the ability to store the PWAs code and required data so that it can start up immediately, with or without an internet connection.
So should you get a Progressive Web App?
PWAs offer a great middle ground between the short lived experience of a web site and more permanent native applications. They are not able to process intense workloads as well as an app written in the native application language but the majority of use cases don’t require it. As a counter, the cost of producing a PWA is much lower than writing native code for all platforms which makes them possible for more business to produce.
If you are looking to bring content to your users in a fast, reliable and engaging way, without the cost of native apps, then PWAs could be for you.