Progressive Web Apps (PWA) along with Android Instant Apps are the next advancement in web-mobile apps genre after Responsive web design (RWD). Progressive Web Apps extends the mobile first approach to encompass user experience and engagement. PWA use progressive enhancements to provide features similar to native-app when viewed on any device.
According to Google “A Progressive Web App uses modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like user experience.” and Android Instant App is a mobile development technology which lets you experience beautiful and immersive apps, with material design and smooth animations, without installing them on your device. Surprisingly, Google promoted both the contrasting technologies in the same event, Google I/O 2016.
Why Progressive web apps when last year google promoted Responsive web designs?
Responsive web design combines three concepts namely flexible widths, flexible images and media queries. It is a web development technique which effectively optimizes the browsing experience of the user by crafting website which fits into the user’s device. Whereas PWA is a step ahead and represents umbrella of technologies, design concepts and web APIs that work together to provide an app-like experience on mobile web.
Progressive enhancements take the mobile-first philosophy forward with improved user retention. According to Appboy’s Mobile Customer Retention Report retaining app users is not easy with more than 75% of users failing to return the day after first use.
Mobile App retention rate over period of 90 days (Ref: Appboy’s Mobile Customer Retention Report)
A user must first find the app in an app store, download it, install it and then, finally, open it. PWA makes this process easier by eliminating the unnecessary downloading and installing stages. When a user finds your progressive web app, they will be able to immediately start using it. Thus a progressive web application takes advantage of a mobile app’s characteristics, resulting in improved user retention and performance, without the complications involved in maintaining a mobile application.
How Progressive Web Apps improve browsing experience?
Fast and streamlined site
Progressive Web Apps are based on new technology called service workers. Service workers are event driven scripts that have access to domain wide events. These are programmable proxies that sit between the user’s tab and the wider Internet. They intercept and rewrite or fabricate network requests to allow very granular caching and offline support. Oops confused!! In simple terms it provides instant and reliable loading irrespective of network connection. Flipkart Lite is a Progressive web app designed for the customers using 2G network. It leverages new, open web APIs to offer a mobile web experience with faster loading, less data usage, and has multiple ways to re-engage users. It also decreased load times by adding service workers and streamlined the site for better navigation.
Better User experience
Addition to building streamlined websites, service workers helps in improving user experience. Users visiting via browsers enjoy app-like user experience. When they come back, it loads nearly instantly, even on slow networks. Frequent users will be prompted to install the app and upgrade to a full version. AliExpress, a popular e-commerce website in America, Russia and Brazil built a cross-browser Progressive Web App to combine the best of their app with the broad reach of the web. AliExpress observes 104% increase in conversion rates and users now visit twice as many pages per session, and time spent per session increased an average of 74% across all browsers.
Increased customer engagement
You must have observed while accessing websites with PWA features prompts the user to ‘Allow’ sending of notifications. It’s a subtle yet powerful message, particularly for social networking websites. As a user, tapping ‘allow’ here will allow the website to notify you of messages or updates— even when you’re not looking at the page. Chrome has also incorporated ‘Add to Home Screen’ function.
Just two taps are required from the user to add the site to their homescreen, making it easier for them to come back. If you add a PWA to your homescreen, the app gets cached and you’ll have a direct link from your homescreen to the app. By defining a web app manifest, the developer can set the browser to open in full screen mode without an address bar, a splash screen, a color theme for the status bar and the icon itself.
Guardian Progressive web app (Image credit: Sam Thorogood http://buff.ly/2cp5OCI)
Progressive web apps being a new technology, cross-browser support is still limited, especially in Safari and Edge. Still progressive web apps elevate the web browsing experience beyond native apps and responsive web design. For businesses PWA is useful in creating a better user experience and customer engagement. Similar to Guardian, there are other creative ways for engagement by proactively caching content in a different way. You can store user’s recent chat or providing enough information for visitor to view business’ latest updates.