Progressive Web Apps (PWAs): Unlocking The Future of Mobile-First Web Development

Dmytro Spilka Profile.
October 13, 2023

There are over 5.4 billion mobile users today, meaning that over 68% of the population tap into an online business via their smartphone devices.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs): Unlocking The Future of Mobile-First Web Development.

As we move towards a new ‘mobile internet’, demanding consumers are constantly looking for new ways to improve their online experience and customise their brand journey to the max.

In response, over half of small businesses have now invested in a native mobile app in an attempt to enhance the consumer journey and keep engagement flowing on and offline. However, many native apps are restricted to the devices they are created for.

What if we told you it was possible to create an app-based experience in a web browser that can be carried across from device to device? Enter progressive web apps, otherwise known as PWAs.

“PWAs are resolving some of the oldest challenges of mobile marketing. If enough brands invest in them, the average return on investment (ROI) of mobile marketing will rise significantly,” states Forbes contributor Zac Johnson. “This could be a boon for companies in all industries, mobile marketing platforms and customers who could benefit from lower costs.”

With the ability to change mobile marketing as we know it, let’s jump into what PWAs have to offer to digital-first small businesses.

What Is A Progressive Web App?

A progressive web app, also known as a PWA, is the mixture of an app-style platform that is built using web platform coding and technology. This means that the platform will run in the same way as an application but can be accessed via a browser on any device.

With the ability to operate on and offline and even in the background of other web pages, PWAs are transforming how we interact with online brands, fusing the benefits of app-based engagement and web-based engagement for a seamless barrier-free UX experience.

“Mobile websites are quick and easy to get to, but they tend to be less pleasant in terms of user experience,” says Andrew Gazdecki, founder and CEO of Bizness Apps. “Native apps provide the finest user experience, but they are limited to certain devices and have high barriers to adoption. Sitting between these options is the newest mobile solution: the PWA. It combines the best elements of mobile sites and native apps while mitigating their disadvantages.”

If you don’t believe us, let’s take a look at some of the largest global apps that have found success in launching a PWA.

Twitter saw a 65% increase in pages per session alone after upgrading the social site to a progressive web app. Streaming giant Hulu also reported a 27% increase in return visits after replacing their platform-specific desktop app with a PWA.

What’s more, is that PWAs are able to take advantage of and leverage a huge web ecosystem of plugins, AI-powered templates and speedy hosting connections, making it easier than ever before to build them.

Before we get into building your own PWA from scratch, let’s have a closer look at some of the benefits small businesses could see when investing in a web app.

What Are The Benefits For Online Businesses?

There are plenty of benefits of PWAs for online businesses. In such a hot digital climate, finding new ways to stimulate consumer engagement and prioritise user experience could be the difference between a conversion and a page bounce.

Here are some of the key advantages of adding PWAs to your site strategy.

Easily Installable

Research reveals that consumers are twice as likely to engage with installed apps in comparison to visiting browser-based sites.

Introducing a PWA-powered website is a great way to mimic the look, feel and experience of a normal native app but with the ability to take that application from device to device.

They are easily installable, which makes them effective in attracting loyal consumers, and simply remain on the desktop or smartphone home screen with simple accessibility. Better still, unlike a native app, it is also not obligatory to download a PWA as they can be accessed via a URL, too, for a flexible yet reliable brand experience.

The Modern Native App

PWAs aim to mimic the traditional native app. This means they can function on and offline, save user data automatically and adapt to create customisable experiences for each consumer.

However, PWA users are also able to enjoy a website-like performance. With super fast speed and the ability to be accessed via any device, it’s no wonder that global brand leaders are calling PWAs the modern-day native app.

“If you’ve been holding off on developing a responsive website or a native mobile app, you are actually at a unique turning point, Gazdecki continues. “Many established businesses have already gone through the rigours of building out a (native) mobile experience for their customers. But a good PWA effectively replaces a company’s mobile site, its native app, and maybe even its desktop site. In other words, it’s a mobile-first approach to connecting with your customers.”

Enhancing Performance

Did you know that over half of users will abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds to load?

(Image Source: Backlinko)

Progressive web apps have a high running speed and can function efficiently on any type of web host. In fact, experts suggest that PWAs actually enhance page load speed and can also improve user retention rates. Therefore, if you’re planning to create an online store, investing in a PWA could result in higher levels of page engagement and more consumers finding their way to the checkout.

Forbes is a great example of a high-profile site using PWAs to enhance loading speed. After implementing their first PWA in 2017, here is what they had to say about its success:

“We spent months implementing best practices for mobile page performance across both iOS and Android phones. An m.forbes.com web page completely loads in 0.8 seconds, considerably faster than nearly all other sites and lightning-fast compared to our current mobile site. In geek speak, our new mobile site is also a Progressive Web App, meaning it meets certain Google specifications and can be installed on Android phones faster than native apps on iPhones.”

Pinterest has also seen a great payoff after investing in a PWA site. Reporting that users spent up to 40% more time on their PWA site than their previous mobile website, they put their success down to enhanced loading performance and the ability to access their services offline.

Constant Connectivity

Saving the best till last, the ability to be constantly connected to a PWA, is the huge selling point here. While we all love website browsing, there’s nothing worse than when our connection cuts out.

PWAs ensure that a user can still use a fully functioning app within a browser, even if their connection goes down.

Not only does this ensure that customers receive a continuous, streamlined UX experience, but in terms of e-commerce, PWAs are genius, as consumers are able to purchase from anywhere, at any time, with little to no connection.

Starting From Scratch: How To Build a PWA

Now we’ve learnt about the benefits of PWAs, let’s have a closer look at how you can implement them into your strategy.

Step 1: Research Your Goals

What do you want your PWA to achieve? What features would you like to include? In this discovery phase, ensure that you take a step back from the drawing board and review your current website and app stats.

Identify high points of engagement and low drop-off zones. Combine this with your audience profiling and competitor data, and you’ll have an unbeatable strategy for your PWA.

Step 2: Crafting Your Interface Design

It’s now time to design your UI. During this stage, it’s important to consider factors such as responsiveness and compatibility with a number of devices and platforms.

The whole point of introducing a PWA is to give your audience more connection options, so it's vital that your new platform can perform on every device.

Step 3: Starting With The Front End

Using coding languages such as CSS, HTML and JavaScript, you can create a PWA from the ground up.

The key here is to take a mobile-first approach. More than half of all consumers will access your site via a smartphone device, so your front-end development must prioritise a mobile UI.

Step 4: Service Workers & Push Notifications

Don’t forget to prioritise your service workers when it comes to constructing your PWAs. These are also known as the Javascript files that run in the background of your web application and elements that enable that all-important offline functionality.

Also, make sure that you leverage both your service workers and Push API to implement push notifications, as this allows your PWA to send notifications to users on the go from any device.

Step 5 - The Testing Stage

Finally, it’s time to start testing your PWA. Ensure that it functions well on a number of browsers and devices and meets your starting goals.

Before launching to your consumers, make sure you’re A/B testing and reviewing all aspects of the application’s UX design.

Are You Ready To Start Building?

It’s no secret that PWAs are becoming more popular with small business owners by the second. In a consumer climate where high-speed demands and a push for personalisation dominate the realms of success, it could be time to invest in a mobile-first PWA.

“Today’s user is telling us that they expect a fast and frictionless journey on their mobile devices without being forced to download an app for this superior user experience,” say experts at Search Engine Journal.

“Taking Time to pick up on those cues and invest in PWAs that combine the ease of the mobile web with the speed and user-friendliness of a mobile app is essential. Two for the price of one is what you get with PWAs. So when are you going to build yours?”

Dmytro Spilka

Dmytro is a CEO at Solvid and founder of Pridicto. His work has been published in Creative Bloq, Shopify, Zapier, Make Use Of, Mention, WordStream, and Campaign Monitor.

Read Next

15 Best New Fonts, May 2024

In this month’s edition, there are lots of historically-inspired typefaces, more of the growing trend for French…

20 Best New Websites, May 2024

Welcome to May’s compilation of the best sites on the web. This month we’re focused on color for younger humans,…

Exciting New Tools for Designers, May 2024

This year, we’ve seen a wave of groundbreaking apps and tools. AI is reshaping the industry, enhancing productivity,…

Using AI to Predict Design Trends

Design trends evolve at a blistering pace, especially in web design. On multi-month projects, you might work on a…

15 Best New Fonts, April 2024

Just like web design, type design follows trends. And while there’s always room for an exciting outsider, we tend to…

3 Essential Design Trends, May 2024

Integrated navigation elements, interactive typography, and digital overprints are three website design trends making…

How to Write World-Beating Web Content

Writing for the web is different from all other formats. We typically do not read to any real depth on the web; we…

20 Best New Websites, April 2024

Welcome to our sites of the month for April. With some websites, the details make all the difference, while in others,…

Exciting New Tools for Designers, April 2024

Welcome to our April tools collection. There are no practical jokes here, just practical gadgets, services, and apps to…

How Web Designers Can Stay Relevant in the Age of AI

The digital landscape is evolving rapidly. With the advent of AI, every sector is witnessing a revolution, including…

14 Top UX Tools for Designers in 2024

User Experience (UX) is one of the most important fields of design, so it should come as no surprise that there are a…

What Negative Effects Does a Bad Website Design Have On My Business?

Consumer expectations for a responsive, immersive, and visually appealing website experience have never been higher. In…