Best PWA Guide for Beginners (+11 Must-Know Benefits)

July 19, 2020

As digital transformation is slowly taking “over the world” and all businesses are working their way towards building a solid online presence, customers have undoubtedly become the ones to have the final word when it comes to setting certain rules and expectations. Nowadays, customer experience on a website or a mobile app is crucial for determining the great – or not so great – digital presence of a company. Today, we will zoom in on a technology that is revolutionary for improving customer experience – progressive web apps. For this reason, we have created a quick and easy PWA guide to help you understand this amazing new technology, and the benefits of it.

pwa guide

Nowadays, there are a lot of issues that many companies with digital presence are facing. Consumers expect an easy and interactive mobile experience, but are getting tired of downloading storage-hungry mobile applications. Good Search Engine Optimisation (also known as SEO) depends on a fast-loading and easily discoverable website.

As a business, you need a great performing portal to your products or services but need to keep costs low and provide timely updates too. In today´s PWA guide, we will see how progressive web app could be the right solution for all these issues.

PWAs are the future of the internet, taking the principles of website and application development and combining them into something infinitely more discoverable, easier to create and manage, and better for all-important SEO. Progressive web apps take the web – which, let’s face it, wasn’t exactly designed with tiny, mobile screens in mind – and evolve it into a mobile-first and interactive, ease-of-use based, digital landscape.

What is a Progressive Web Application (PWA)?

To begin with our PWA guide, it is important to provide a clear understanding of what a progressive web app exactly is.

A PWA is a web-based application, delivered to a consumer at the URL they click, which gives the experience of a mobile application without needing to be downloaded to a user’s device. Although it’s not a requirement, if the user wants to, he or she can also add PWAs to the home screen or start menu.

From there, progressive web apps look identical to native applications: they launch in the same way, have a splash screen and icons, have a browserless UI with no URL, and are a top-level app in the task switcher.

In essence, a PWA is the next evolution of a mobile-friendly website. PWAs are discoverable and quickly accessible like normal websites, and give the interactivity and customer engagement of a native mobile application. They are more secure than normal websites, and allow for additional features such as push notifications and the ability to browse and use offline.

pwa guide

Why should I consider a PWA over a mobile application or a standard website?

A PWA is just about as one-size fits all as it gets.

They work for visitors from desktops, laptops, or mobile devices of every size and make. All these machines run a web browser able to load a PWA quickly. PWAs, like responsive websites, adapt to the size of the device and importantly (so we’ll tell you again) they don’t have to be downloaded.

In fact, PWAs can take up to 200 times less space on a device, even when cached and added to a home screen, than a native iOS application. Caching of PWA content means that users can also revisit a PWA while they are offline. In this way too, progressive web apps work like a native mobile application. For the next step of our PWA guide, let’s see some of the most important benefits of this technology:

1. More engaged, less frustrated, customers equal better conversion rates

The offline functionality of PWAs has the added benefit of eschewing customer frustration when mobile data connections are lost, and signal is poor. A cached PWA will keep functioning, meaning that customers stay engaged and keep browsing.

Search Engine Watch says smartphone users downloaded 113 billion apps in 2018 but most users regularly use only about nine applications per day.

2. There’s no need for application store costs

PWA Guide: Eliminating app store costs with progressive web apps

Consumers expect a mobile experience, but as you know from your own experience, we won’t always commit our device resources to a new application download. Progressive web apps are also easier to market than a mobile application, as they rely on a domain URL and don’t need to be downloaded from Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store.

Listing on these application vendors costs money too – and you also risk suffering from app store rejection, which will not happen to you with a PWA.

3. Updates are fast and simple, unlike mobile application adjustments

Progressive web apps solve the problem of needing to develop and maintain both mobile-compatible websites and mobile applications at the same time. Building, maintaining, and updating a website and a mobile application simultaneously takes extra time, resources and financial commitment.

In fact, PWAs are significantly cheaper to develop than mobile applications and are as easy to update as a website. There is no need to hire a pricey mobile application developer to go through a separate update development, or to wait for a lengthy app store approval process, to achieve an update. PWAs use the newest capabilities of HTML5, too – making them quick and easy to update.

4. They are agile and improve time-to-market

And not only that, but where an update to a mobile application may need a user to re-download the entire app, a progressive web app auto updates the cache and pages when the PWA loads up. This is a highlight for our PWA guide because it means that users not only can access their app quickly and easily, but the time-to-market for businesses is also significantly reduced.

5. PWAs consistently register better engagement and conversion rates

Generally, progressive web apps deliver greater consumer engagement rates. When Forbes magazine launched its PWA it saw a six-fold increase in readers finishing articles and doubled its engagement rate. And, for a website, a higher engagement rate, or time spent on a page, leads to a higher search engine optimization score. 

Another feature that benefits SEO is the need for just one domain/URL rather than needing a specific mobile URL for a native application.

CMS Wire says that according to LamdaTest, companies like Treebo, Trivago, and Flipkart, all saw substantial improvements after moving to PWAs. Treebo’s conversion rates increased four-fold. Trivago saw a 97% increase in “clickouts” on hotel deals, and Flipkart’s new customer growth may have accelerated by 50%.

Komal Bhatia, engineering manager at PubNub, says:

“PWAs solve the shortcomings of a mobile web experience by bringing the best characteristics of the mobile app experience to the web.”

Komal Bhatia, PubNub

As per a Mozilla Firefox blog, India’s largest e-commerce site Flipkart Lite was rebuilt as a PWA in 2015 and saw a 70% increase in conversions. The AliExpress PWA reportedly saw a 104% increase in conversion rates for new users. Mozilla points those unconvinced about choosing PWAs to the PWA Stats website for more case studies and fantastic brand results.

Progressive web apps offer more than websites or native apps - pwa guide
(Source: One North – PWA Guide)

6. PWA Guide: Progressive Web Apps & SEO

The next part of our PWA guide is to see the impact of SEO on businesses, and especially when it comes to progressive web apps vs native mobile apps.

Nowadays, Search Engine Optimization is one of the biggest sources of traffic a business could ever get to boost its digital presence. If done right, it could bring hundreds of thousands of monthly visits, increasing the number of conversions and most importantly – purchases.

7. A fast loading website is essential for Search Engine Optimization

Google revealed early in 2018 that mobile loading speed is a factor in organic search engine ranking. Website builders rushed to optimize websites for mobile, and PWAs really gained traction in 2019 after becoming available on all desktop browsers and mobile operating systems.

PWAs can be pre-cached, so they load quickly as well as being almost instantaneous to access, without needing to be downloaded.

Mobile sites that load in less than two seconds have a 15% higher conversion rate than average speed loading websites.

Think with Google and Search Engine Watch)

Native mobile applications are not indexed by search engines whereas PWAs are, and they work across all devices. As per Search Engine Watch, Lancome moved to a PWA in 2017 and saw site loading speeds improve by 84% and conversion rates grow by 17%.

CMS Wire says AppInstitute reports that brands using PWAs achieved an average increase in mobile web traffic of 68%. And, that PWAs load 15 times faster than native applications.

As well as a normal domain name, there are URLs for each page of a PWA making for even better, search engine indexable, results. And, unlike native applications, website SEO techniques apply to PWAs so you can apply tactics you already know or ask your SEO expert to do it for you, simply.

8. Progressive web apps are easier to market

As our PWA guide continues unwrapping key information, it is important to keep in mind that progressive web apps are not only easier to index by search engines, but also to market. A PWA can become your main website, so that domain name you paid a fortune for will take customers directly into a highly engaging PWA.

There’s no need to list separate links on your social media channels, have different QR codes, or spend a further fortune promoting and convincing people to download that mobile application that you already spent a fortune developing…all to get ten downloads.

9. PWAs are feature-full and more engaging

Push notifications are one of the most powerful tools currently available for engagement, and they are a simple functionality of a PWA, aiding regular communication with your customer base.

PWAs can also run a geolocation API under HTTPS, so securely track a user’s location if they allow it, meaning even more demographic marketing capabilities. And, they are compatible with media capture and editing APIs, as well as offering secure Bluetooth functionality.

10. PWA Guide: Browser compatibility for progressive web apps

Progressive web apps are compatible with Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and other popular browsers. They are also now compatible with both Android and iOS operating systems.

Though mobile operating systems run all the popular browsers, when PWAs first became popular Apple’s iOS didn’t support something called “service workers” essential for running PWAs. By March 2018 Apple had quietly added support for PWA technologies in iOS version 11.3 and this is the same for iOS 12 and 13. This actually means that PWAs that behave like native applications can even be installed without Apple App Store approval.

Microsoft Edge and Windows 10 are even more supportive of PWAs, allowing them to be installed like native mobile applications and uninstalled in the same way. To date, this is not possible on Chromium browsers but the PWA will have its own uninstall feature in a Chromium browser.

PWAs have much better integration with operating systems overall which delivers a more seamless user experience.

A notable minor drawback of PWAs is that older browser versions, web browsers that haven’t been updated, might not run all the features of a PWA. The Safari browser also has limited support for Web App Manifest and Add to Home Screen features, according to Mozilla, and does not yet offer support for push notifications. All other major browsers do allow push notifications.

To continue with our PWA guide, let´s see some of the key functionalities of progressive web apps:

11. PWA build and functionality

pwa guide

PWAs can be built with standard web languages, like JavaScript, allowing each page’s user interface and content to be altered and managed easily. They also use a framework called Angular 4.0 created by Google for developers to create better web user experiences, more similar to those of native, mobile, applications.

These new-digital age applications are created using Server Side Rendering (SSR) so a built page can be indexed by the search engines, but also using Client Side Rendering (CSR). CSR means the PWAs JavaScript content can be downloaded in the background, cached, and enables the PWA to work offline.

There are three elements of a PWA build, the application shell which provides user experience, service workers for content accessibility, and JSON files call manifests. The application shell has the interface build and components.

The second key component, service workers, are a major differential between traditional website build and cutting-edge PWAs. They sit between the PWA and the browser and allow offline usage and are essential for push notification functionality and all-round improvements to user experience.

These service workers are both important to PWAs and to the new potential of the internet as they critically delivery the functionality of PWAs. They are essentially a script of code, or a JavaScript file, ran by a browser behind the scenes. They perform actions in response to events, like changes in connectivity and network requests, and work similarly to proxy servers.

Lastly, the manifest file contains the metadata used for listing in application stores and to enable the installation of a PWA on a home screen. The file allows for better rendering of the application display on a device and allows identifiable icons and the option to switch screen orientation on a mobile or tablet.

Benefits of Progressive Web Apps

And last, to finish up with our PWA guide, let´s summarize all the essential, must-know benefits of progressive web apps:

  • Easy to produce and market – because one progressive web app is enough for both desktop and mobile devices, production and time to market becomes much more easier for businesses that choose a PWA instead of a native mobile app.
  • Lower development and maintenance costs – while a regular native app is typically associated with higher development costs, PWAs are significantly cheaper to develop and maintain. A single progressive web apps works for all app stores and operating systems!
  • Better visibility and SEO – compared to native apps, PWAs are actually indexed by search engines – which means that you can optimize them to enhance your visibility on the Internet, and drive much more traffic.
  • Look & feel of a native app – PWAs combine the look and feel of a native mobile app with the full functionality and efficiency of website performance.
  • Offline mode – additionally, progressive web apps have the ability to fully operate even if there is no Internet connection. For users, this means that they can access their favourite app from anywhere, at anytime.
  • Saving add space – in our PWA guide, we already mentioned that progressive web apps also save a lot of space. Compared to a regular native app, PWAs can be up to 90% lighter, an they do not take valuable space on your phone.
  • Faster loading speed – with improved performance, faster loading speed, reduced server load and mobile-first indexing, it is no surpirse that PWAs have higher engagement and conversions rates than their native counterpart.

Consumers are adapting their expectations in line with technological development. They expect fast, easy to use, websites with the interactivity and functionality of mobile applications. And, they don’t want to be downloading new applications all the time.

Businesses and organisations need lower costs, refined technology stacks, less third-party vendors, and better SEO and conversion results.

PWAs are an all-round solution with very, very few drawbacks. The drawback as noted pale in comparison to what’s lost in functionality and cost by running a mobile application and a responsive website separately.

For developers and website owners building a PWA is like building a website, but delivering the consumer engagement of a native, mobile, application.

PWAs meet consumer expectations of design and functionality, one-touch, quick-fire, interaction in a mobile first age. They are efficient and effective for businesses and are the new must-have for a digitally adept operation.

Are you ready to create your first progressive web app? Click here to try out Beezer and start building your slick, mobile-first presence from just 11.99 pounds per month! Discover all of our features and create a great and highly engaging app for your business.

Thank you for reading our PWA guide, and stay tuned for more content from us!

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