Progressive web apps

Dear Doctor Digital, I’ve wrestled with the mobile app vs responsive website for a while, and now I hear there is a solution called Progressive Web Apps that Google is pushing to be the industry standard. True? And what are these progressive web apps anyway?

Doctor Digital Says

For a long time, not just you but many businesses have wrestled with the question of whether they should develop dedicated mobile applications or if responsive websites would suffice to give consumers a good browsing experience regardless of the device and network status.Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are a happy medium between web pages and native mobile apps. They combine the best of the two to bring an enhanced user experience to the consumers (the actual reason all digital channels exist).Google did in fact signal to the market their preference for mobile responsive websites a few years ago, sounding a warning for anyone who was hanging on to old tech, but the question of the need for apps remained. With PWAs, your clients do not need to choose between the two anymore. PWAs override the limitations of a website and bring to consumers the usability and rich functionality of an app. But don’t take my word for it, Google is evangelising about PWAs and their place on the home screen of all users. They rate them for the following key reasons, citing PWAs to be:

  • Reliable - Load instantly and never disconnect, even in uncertain network conditions.
  • Fast - Respond quickly to user interactions with smooth animations and no awkward scrolling.
  • Engaging - Feel like a natural app on the device, with an immersive user experience.

Technologically, PWAs are primarily enabled by “service workers.” Implemented as JavaScript files and properly registered, service workers are scripts that the browser runs in the background. They possess the ability to intercept and handle network requests, and are able to run even when the internet isn’t available using pre-cached information.There is a long list of why PWAs are finding favour in an increasingly mobile world, which when summarised demonstrates that PWAs are:

  • Progressive — The word progressive means it works for every user, regardless of browser choice because they’re built with progressive enhancement as a core tenet.
  • Responsive — Automatically adjustable to any form: desktop, mobile, tablet etc.
  • Load Time — Progressive Web Apps are instantly available
  • App-like — Feels like a mobile app with app-style interactions since it’s built on the app shell model.
  • Fresh — Always up-to-date so you do not need to update it again and again like any other Android/iOS apps.
  • Safe — Served via HTTPS to ensure content is securely delivered
  • Engaging — Features like push notifications, etc. makes it very engaging.
  • Installable — Allows users to install the website as an app on their home screen without the taking user to an app store.
  • Linkable — Easily shared via a URL and do not require complex installation.

And of course a PWA means no messing around with expensive app development and negotiating the app store minefield.While Progressive Web Apps aim to amplify user experience on the web it is important to understand that not every business needs a PWA. Businesses should count the factors that call for an app-like experience on the web. If your business has a low scale website, less media content, has quick load time, with users easily accessing the info/service of their interest, sticking to a responsive, traditional website might be a good idea. If on the other hand you are a media rich, mobile first, user focused business, a PWA might be for you.

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