Make the Move from Mobile Apps to Next-Generation Progressive Web Applications

BrandPost By Peter Sheldon
May 13, 2019
IT Leadership

A foundational change that brings the experience of native apps to the web

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Credit: iStock

Consumers are becoming more reliant on their smartphones and personal devices every day. Adobe’s research found that 40% of transactions in 2018 were completed on mobile devices. Naturally, then, consumers are increasingly unwilling to accept slow speeds, persnickety applications, and other problematic aspects of the mobile experience. What’s needed is a new approach to deliver an optimal user experience. The answer lies in the way applications are delivered.

According to Peter Sheldon, director of strategy at Adobe, “Technology companies have responded with a new approach that will be a foundational change that will drive the future of the web. Progressive web applications (PWAs) will drive the next wave of mobile interaction.”

PWAs load like regular web pages or websites but offer user functionality traditionally available only to the older style native applications.  PWAs will allow users to work offline, receive “push” notifications, and allow the PWA to access device hardware.

Next-generation browsers already support PWAs, enabled by Adobe along with key players such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft.

PWAs represent the third wave of change for web design. At first, websites were static. Next came the responsive design model. Both will be left behind for PWAs. Gartner predicts that the PWA wave will come quickly, with PWAs representing 50% of web applications by the end of 2020.

PWAs will deliver compelling benefits for both organizations and users. Organizations that deliver PWAs will have a meaningful competitive advantage over firms that don’t. For example, sites using a responsive design typically take 5.6 seconds to update after a user action. But PWAs are effectively instantaneous. Clearly this will be a major advantage for organizations that bring PWAs to market first.

What’s more, many companies will forgo the need to have both a web experience and native apps. This spells the end for expensive development teams to build and maintain separate Android and iOS versions of their native applications; now with PWAs a web app design team can use one codebase for all devices. That will save hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, apps won’t have to be submitted to app stores for approval and marketing. And PWAs ensure that all users are working with the same version of the app, cutting the cost of support and eliminating user frustration caused by obsolete versions. New features and capabilities can be rolled out and used immediately.

Customers are expected to love PWAs too. No more updating or adding specialized applications to their devices—just visiting a website will give them access to the application. This can be critically important in developing countries, where devices have less storage and data costs are onerous. And companies that have not been successful in driving downloads will find themselves competitive again.

So should companies scrap all their apps right away and deliver PWAs in their place? Adobe’s Sheldon provides good insight on starting the process. “The best approach is to deploy PWAs incrementally. Rather than redesign the entire website, identify the web pages or areas of the site that get the most traffic,” he says. “Go for the changes that will get the quick wins. Actions that will increase revenue, cut costs, or dramatically enhance the CX.”

 PWAs are coming quickly. The time to make the move is now.