Long gone are the days when businesses could consider whether getting into the mobile world or not. Today, no one would argue about adopting a mobile-first strategy, simply because there are an estimated 3.86 billion of smartphone users worldwide (that’s practically half the world population!). However, a lot of people aren’t considering another milestone that is more informative by far – the fact that we might have passed the point where native apps no longer matter.
You might be thinking that such a claim is utterly wrong. After all, you use apps all the time – and so does everyone else around you. But don’t let that fact fool you and think again: how many apps do you use on a daily basis? And, more importantly, how many new apps do you install and keep around? Considering that there are more than 4 million apps in Google Play and Apple Store combined, then the amount of apps that you use is insignificant.
It’s clear that the app offer largely surpasses the demand. That’s simply because people don’t need an app for everything they do and they are reluctant to install app after app just because. Does that mean that you have to stick with a mobile website and call it a day? Not quite. That might mean that we’re already living the first years of the Progressive Web App era.
What are Progressive Web Apps, again?
You might have heard the name or read PWA (the acronym for it) but may not remember what it’s all about. Well, the first thing you need to know is that PWAs are in fact mobile apps that work like a native app would but that the user doesn’t have to download or install. How can they do that? Just by running self-contained in a web browser.
Doing that allows PWAs to offer a lot of benefits. For one, it can provide the closest experience to an actual app without having to download anything. This means you can use gestures and navigations as you would with a native app. Secondly, you can access it anytime, practically in an instant and get the latest version, thanks to pre-caching, a mechanism that allows it to be up to date even in areas with low connectivity.
So, in short, PWAs are somewhat halfway between a mobile website and a native app, combining features of both, overcoming some of its limitations while having a few of their own.
The PWAs are coming
Earlier this year, Google unrolled its PWA for Google Drive, following what it already did with YouTube Music and Google Photos. While the user experience didn’t differ that much (and, in fact, might feel a little bit rough, especially for mobile users), it shows the commitment of the Mountain View giant to what it understands is the mobile trend of today.
Starbucks, Forbes, Pinterest, Twitter, and even The Weather Channel have also invested time and money on the development of their own PWAs, with some with great results. And they are far from being the only ones. Netflix is reportedly working on its own version, following Hulu’s example. Microsoft is working on a PWA for Edge. You can even use Disney +’s PWA!
All of this comes to show that the big boys share Google’s view on progressive web apps – they are the mobile platform of today and nothing good can come from ignoring it. Does this mean that if you aren’t developing a PWA, you are already losing? Let’s not get drastic here. As said before, we are at the beginning of the PWA era, so there’s plenty of time to catch up.
Why Move to PWAs
There are 3 big reasons why you might want to move towards a PWA-based mobile strategy. The first (and probably the one that makes the most impact on C-level executives) is that progressive web apps are more cost-effective, at least from a development standpoint. That’s because they are faster to build and update.
That happens because a mobile development team only has to create one version of the app that will seamlessly work in browsers across all platforms and devices. Contrast that with the necessity of creating separate apps for iOS and Android when going the native route. And that’s without considering that you don’t have to go through all the hassle of complying with whatever regulations app stores have in place.
The second reason is that PWAs are more efficient than native apps. They don’t take up space in a mobile device, yet they are always accessible. Additionally, they can be “installed” in the home screen as a “normal” app would but without really downloading or installing anything. What’s more – the interface and user experience are as close as the native feel as you can get.
Finally, the third reason is related to what we said above. Modern users don’t really install apps just because. Your app has to be truly unique, provide an unmatched benefit, or be tied to a strong brand for users even to consider installation. Even in those cases, users will think twice before downloading. The worst thing about that is that any issue they find with your native app (a subpar performance, a broken feature, an ugly design) might make them uninstall and not look back anymore.
Jump Into The Mobile Future, Today
A couple of years ago, PWAs seemed to be taking the world by storm. The benefits listed above were enough for companies and users alike to buy into the new way of using mobile apps. Yet, that fire died down, somewhat. However, that doesn’t mean that PWAs themselves are dead. In fact, Gartner predicts that by the end of this year, 50% of native apps will be replaced by their progressive web counterparts.
Though impressive, that number doesn’t feel surprising. PWAs’ flexibility and efficiency combined with the users’ reluctance to download more apps is the perfect landscape for these apps to thrive. And they are thriving as you read this. So, if you’re not considering how you’ll implement a PWA for your business, then you might be already falling behind.
A PWA is a fantastic alternative to a native app but it can also be a great replacement for your mobile site – heck, even for your desktop site. Provided you do things right with your PWA development company, you can turn your PWA into the core of your mobile-first strategy. Dozens of big companies are already doing it and the trend is already set. Are you going to miss it?