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Are Progressive Web Apps (PWA) the Future of Web Applications?

By Kitakabee, Community Contributor -

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Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are built using modern APIs that help deliver enhanced capabilities such as reliability, functionality, and installability without occupying much storage space. Some of the well-known examples of PWA are Uber, Twitter, Spotify, and Pinterest, among many others. 

PWA has various benefits like shorter load time, good performance during turbulent network conditions, storage size, updates, etc. These features increase engagement and conversions for the business. 

Pinterest, an image-sharing social media, reported improvements across several performance indicators, such as

  • 60 % increment in Core Engagements
  • 40 % elevation in Ad Clickthroughs
  • 44 % boost in User-generated Ad revenues

Comparing old mobile web to new mobile web

Source

Twitter, another app built using PWA techniques, witnessed the following:

  • 65% improvement in pages per session
  • 75% increase in the number of tweets sent 
  • 20% reduction in bounce rate

These statistics ring a question to every product with an app – Are Progressive Web Apps The Future?

What are Progressive Web Apps?

Progressive Web Apps are applications built using the conventional technologies for building websites, such as HTML, JavaScript, CSS, WebAssembly, etc. PWA is designed to work on most web browsers.

PWA is a website or webpage with all the benefits of an app. PWA apps need not distribute these applications via digital distribution systems like Google Play Store or Apple App Store. The developers of a PWA can disseminate their application online as a website, and the user can add a shortcut to these applications to their desktop or home screen.

For example, you can use the PWA offered by Uber. A standard user cannot differentiate between a PWA and a conventional application if the PWAs are designed well and provide an attractive aesthetic.

Why Should you Test PWA?

Here are some pointers demonstrating the need to test Progressive Web Apps (PWA):

  • Testing PWA is essential to ensure its effective functioning across various devices and browsers. Cross browser testing ensures that the page web pages and features look and behave the same way irrespective of the device it is accessed from. This test helps deliver an optimal user experience independent of other factors such as browser, browser versions, devices, or operating systems. BrowserStack Live offers cross-browser testing with a range of real devices. You can perform cross browser testing on 3000+ real browsers and devices.

Pinterest

You can perform advanced actions like Geolocation testing, debugging, changing screen resolution, local testing, etc.

  • To validates the presence of a Manifest file (a JSON file). This makes PWA look like conventional apps. This Manifest file comprises the following components:
    1. Identity: This component comprises the name, short name, and the application description. 
    2. Presentation: This component includes features like the Start Url, Background colour, Theme colour, Display, and Orientation.
    3. Icons: It represents the program or a file by a small graphical image.
  • To validate the service workers. These service workers help enable highlights like background sync, push notifications, etc.
  • To ensures that the PWA shows responsive behaviour. This means that the website will look great on many devices with different screen sizes.

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Advantages of PWAs

Below are some of the advantages of Progressive Web Applications (PWA), which give them an edge over Native Applications:

  • Cost-friendly: It is estimated that the average cost of developing a conventional application ranges from $50,000 – $170,000. You can build and maintain a PWA on a much lesser budget. This is because the developing team doesn’t have to spend resources creating multiple applications for various platforms.
  • Ease of Maintenance: Since you are not creating multiple applications for various platforms, maintenance is also more straightforward in the case of PWAs.
  • Smaller Size: PWA takes up lesser disk space than a conventional application on a digital device.
  • Cross Browser Compatible: The PWA can be used on a range of devices and various browsers.
  • Security: PWAs depend on HTTPS for its functionality, enhancing the security quotient.
  • Auto Updates: Unlike the Native Apps, the PWAs are updated automatically. The developing team does not have to release multiple versions for various platforms.
  • Workability with low Network Bandwidth: It is ideal for developing counties with low network bandwidth since PWAs can work in areas with low Network Bandwidth.
  • Freedom from Distribution Systems: PWA is similar to general websites and does not depend on application distribution systems like Google Play Store and Apple App Store. 
  • Offline Support: PWAs offer easy accessibility even when the network connectivity is disabled. The information is stored as Cache, and the user can access the data using the Smart Cache option.
  • Lower Bounce Rate: Google reported that most internet users switch to another website if it takes more than three seconds for the website to load. It is estimated that the mean bounce rate for a PWA is about 42%. PWAs are smaller, enabling faster loading than native web applications and lowering the bounce rate.
  • Native App features: Progressive Web Applications support most of the features of native apps, such as offline support, push notifications, and many more.

Progressive Web Apps vs Native Web Apps vs Responsive Web Apps

  • Native Web Apps:  Native Web Applications have been around for a long time now. They have been the main drivers of innovative technologies, and they changed the mindset of people on using mobile phones. However, a Native Web App has some downsides, making Progressive Web Apps a better choice. 

For example, Developers must build native web applications for specific operating systems using particular coding languages. These applications need to be published on an app distribution system like Play Store or App Store to be distributed to the consumers, which might pay the way for monopolization over the distribution of applications.

  • Progressive Web Apps: Progressive Web Applications (PWA) are websites that tend to create a similar experience to that of a Native App. They are not distributed via the App Distribution systems.
  • Responsive Web Apps: Responsive Web Applications were designed so that users could have a better user experience on a multitude of devices. It was mainly designed to accommodate the difference in screen sizes of digital devices. However, it doesn’t offer features like push notifications, offline service, etc., which are common for native and progressive web applications.

The differences between Progressive Web Apps, Native Web Apps, and Responsive Web Apps are tabulated below:

FeatureProgressive Web Application (PWA)Native Web ApplicationResponsive Web Application
Multiple Operating SystemYesNoYes
Push NotificationsYesYesNo
Google IndexingYesNoYes
Download RequiredNoYesNo
Low Data ConsumptionYesNoNo
GPS enablesYesYesYes
Offline SupportYesYesNo
Faster UIYesNoNo

Are Progressive Web Apps the Future?

Now, let’s discuss the impact of PWAs in various domains. We have listed some of the domains on which PWAs had a huge positive impact:

  • Social Media: PWA has greatly impacted social media platforms such as Twitter and its mobile version, Twitter Lite. It helped in the optimization of twitter’s webpage and reduced its bounce rate by about 20%. In Twitter Lite, they helped hike the pages per session by 65%.
  • Online Booking applications: Many people use online applications for booking a cab, ordering food, or even finishing a chore. However, native web apps have always been dependent on network connections. PWAs have resolved this problem by enhancing online service providers’ conversion rate and network connectivity.
  • Traditional Media: The Smart Cache feature of PWAs aid various informative organizations in improving their interaction rate. It enables the device to save the website’s information in the local storage whenever a user navigates to a website. The user can later access this protected information. Media companies like The Washington Post, BBC, etc. have already created a progressive web application for their users. This has helped them disseminate the content more efficiently across various digital devices.
  • Business: PWAs are bringing about huge changes in conversion rate for companies that have switched from native web applications to advanced web applications. PWA enables the user to access an application with a simple click button. PWAs have helped businesses increase their application usage and go-to-market shipment rate.

PWAs have various advantages like a smaller size, ease of maintenance, lesser cost of development, and many more. Most experts in the technological sectors believe that Progressive Web Applications are the future. 

PWAs are becoming increasingly popular, and the technology sector is investing a lot in these applications. PWAs are already compatible with browsers like Google Chrome and Opera, while other browsers like Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Firefox are taking steps towards supporting the Progressive Web Applications. So, yes, progressive web applications can potentially become the future of web applications.

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