At Google's 2015 world conference, a new capability was announced that developer Alex Russel and designer Frances Berriman called progressive web applications —PWAs —that promoted a number of advantages, which in their words, "will become a radical shift in the understanding and use of tools to build better experiences across multiple devices and contexts in a single code base."
But the pioneer who initially spoke about this approach was actually Steve Jobs who, in June 2007, announced a new form of mobile development. This new form at the time would allow developers to leverage the entire Safari engine to build reliable and secure applications that would run on a server and would be rendered on devices without SDKs (Software Development Kits).
What Jobs posed at the time was diverted from months later, resulting with the launch of the Apple SDK and the subsequent monetization of the Apple application store—Appstore—which ended up being a multi-billion dollar business.
Today, 5 years after Google's announcement regarding PWAs, it is evident that the adoption rate has not been as high as expected. Which makes one think: PWAs need more time to count on the necessary advances that enterprises need to make, in order to take advantage of this model.
The advantages of PWAs are, above all, attractive for their ability to spread the development experience over the traditional model of building mobile, hybrid and web applications by creating applications that can be kept in one place, without open tabs that lead to different places. PWAs ensure ubiquity and interaction from a single place. Despite all that, it's true that this is a gamble that Google is making as a new paradigm of building web applications.
That being said, to date, several organizations have adopted PWA with great results, suggesting that the balance will tip in the mid term, especially due to the benefits that we will review in a moment.
Let's analyze some cases of companies that have been adopting this approach to also review some of the results they've generated:
- The Starbucks PWA doubled the number of active users placing orders per day at nearly the same rate as mobile users.
- Uber launched its PWA as an alternative to expand into new markets, especially in emerging economies, enabling it to be used and downloaded on 2G networks in just 3 seconds (it's a tiny app that only weighs 50kB!).
- The Trivago PWA increased the number of users who have added it to their homescreen by 150%, with a 97% increasse in clickouts to hotel offers.
- The Tinder PWA reduced total load time from 12 to 4.69 seconds and user engagement is higher than in their native version.
- The Pinterest PWA became the company's official version after a 60% increase in core engagement and a 44% increase in user-generated ad revenue as a result of increased session time where users spend 40% more compared to the old mobile web experience.
- The Forbes PWA increased the average session time by 43% with 20% more ad viewability, reducing the load time to 0.8 secs. where it previously ranged anywhere from 3 to 12 secs.
- Alibaba increased its conversion rate by 76% with 14% more active users on iOS and 30% more on Android.
- Twitter Lite pioneered the adoption of PWAs which resulted in a 65% increase in pages per session and a 20% decrease in the bounce rate.
Given this adoption and decision scenario, I want to explain some criteria in making decisions when faced with this technology, for those who are evaluating the path to implementing a PWA solution.
The benefit of having a solution that allows your customers to reach out online, engage, and receive first-hand information is a great one, especially in cases where you prefer to remove a lot of friction from the customer side (who doesn't?). The delivery of content and visuals faster, as well as the increased time spent as a result of such customization is one of the key factors in considering PWAs as an option.
Synchronization of implementation efforts
One of the biggest pains companies go through is being able to coordinate actions between implementation plans when they have separate omnichannel efforts. In many cases, there are development teams (cells, clusters, pods, etc.) that are attending to different operating systems; it is common to find the iOS team (using Swift for example), the Android team (using ReactNative, to name one) and the Web team in separate efforts launching the same product. This makes it complex to coordinate launches and advances of a single product that, by definition, is omnichannel but is not being developed in the same manner.
Reduction of investment costs
If efforts and coordination of actions are contrasted against adoption and timing, native development ends up being inefficient when viewed from the cost in time invested, efforts and resources, beyond the advantages native apps may have. PWA development is highly cost effective, both financially and in the reduced time to market.
We all want to go and launch a digital product that has a good experience and correctly promotes our products or services. On the other hand, we all want to believe that the best option is an app, because we get used to seeing business successes revolving around this. So far we agree, but only when the amount and investments required already exist in your native development, and everything is committed. When starting from zero, PWA is always a very good alternative to consider. Then you can evaluate if you want to pivot to something native or not.
PWA developments are often disregarded when talking about features, but today with a PWA you can have offline experiences, notifications, homescreen installation, and take advantage of native features from devices—camera activation, fingerprinting, storage and caching, etc.—and if you think of Android with about 88% of the world's mobile market, there is a core argument for PWAs. Therefore, PWA can end up being a very good alternative.
The rate of app uninstallations by users has shot up during the last 4 or 5 years. Especially in 2020, we're seeing increases in the attrition rate of applications with users taking them out of their devices for various reasons, among which before was space optimization, but today is mainly due to non-usage.
The browser is the new operating system
How long has it been since you've used an app installed on your computer? The browser is the new OS today, and this is being transferred to our devices. It is only a matter of time in order to maintain the uniqueness of experiences.
PWAs are a great alternative
To close the subject, we believe that PWAs are a good alternative. At Modyo, we opted for the construction of micro frontends and the implementation of manifests that work alongside service workers to the benefit of our customers, without sacrificing native development. Yet we believe that this is the most appropriate option given the reality that, in the near future, progressive web applications will be increasingly common as digitalization continues to move forward by leaps and bounds.