Progressive Web Application: Featuring the new kid in the block!

Like every life, every creation, or every story… History plays an important part in progression. This is no different so what would be a better way to start an introduction than to introduce the person who coined the term ‘Progressive Web Application’.

As the world progresses at the speed of light, new discoveries are made everyday, with powerful technologies coming into existence whereby they dawdle around and grow at the peripheries, turning conventional to a finite group while it is almost non-existent to the majority out there… until someone realizes its importance and gives it a significant name to be fondly remembered of.  In this peculiar case concerning, progressive web apps, Alex Russell and his wife, Frances Berriman saw a need for Progressive Web Application to be recognized because of its undying opportunities to become the next big thing out there.

So who is this particular Alex Russell?

 Alex Russell is actually a Google engineer working on Chrome, Blink and web platform. For most, being part of the Google brand itself is big enough. However, not only is Alex part of the Google team but he happens to sit on the ECMA TC39 board (the standards body for Javascript and is guilty of many Javascript transgressions. Alex Russell is also the tech lead for standards in the Google Chrome team.

 

What is a Progressive Web Application (PWA)?

In the words of Alex Russell, a progressive web application is functionally defined by technical properties, allowing the browser to detect that the site meets certain criteria motivated by user experience (UX) concerns and is deemed worthy of being added to the home screen. In simpler terms, a progressive web application is simply a website built on advance web technologies, making it feel and work similarly to a classic mobile application.

I clearly understand that 70% of you who read this blog are not from technical background and hence, the reason why I am going to keep things simple and stupid, just as the late Steve Jobs had taught me how to.

This technique of Progressive Web Application was introduced by Google in 2015, driven by the need to bring the best to both worlds, in this case, both web developer and web application users.

How would Progressive Web Applications be beneficial?

From development speed, cost of development, marketing the product and so on, the progressive web application features has proven to be beneficial in many ways, which would be discussed here.

 

 

In term of mobile application development there would be hybrid and native. However, we would not dwell too much in explaining the differences between hybrid and native as at the end of the day, the application created would still carry out the expected tasks. Back to the topic in regards to progressive web application, a PWA offers features that works similarly to a mobile application whereby it provides offline support, loads quickly, capable of emitting push notification, secure, as well as carries an immersive, full screen user experience without the URL bar.

From a software engineer’s point of view, a senior web developer would now be able to provide a similar end product as to a mobile application developer. As the programming languages for IOS and Android systems differs, developers are experts within their own fields and most of the time, are not able to carry out the tasks of their counterpart. However, with the available technology to create a progressive web application, a web developer is now capable of creating both traditional websites and mobile applications. As a PWA is built on a web browser, it would take lesser time to develop and the job would be less tedious. Finding the bugs and fixing it would also really help out as there would be much less obstacles to go through. This would greatly reduce the development costs as well as the timeframe needed to develop the specific product.

Also with the implications, and rules and regulations of the Google App Store and the Apple Store, the popularity of progressive web applications would be majorly boosted since uploading applications into the app stores do become sticky at times. Basically, having a progressive web application would simply mean that you would not need Apple or Google’s approval to be in the pockets of your users since there is no standard approval process and there will never be, in PWA.

Progressive web applications are also able to run offline. With the availability of service workers, the application would always have the opportunity to have fresh content as well as re-engagement opportunities since support for push notifications is provided. Also not to forget, progressive web applications generally weigh much lighter than a native application and clearly, downloading it would not take too much storage space from your mobile phone as compared to the typical mobile application. The cost of acquisition is also much lower as the user is able to get a glimpse of the product through a website before downloading the progressive web application, as compared to the general mobile app as most people tend not to want to install an application by just hearing of it.

Another one of the many benefits would be the marketing factor whereby progressive web applications are discoverable via search engines. This would clearly be a key advantage as you would need luck, LITERALLY A LOT OF LUCK to be features on the first page of the app store, which can make your application go viral. Unless you are within the 0.001% of lucky ones, you are not going to benefit much from it.

 

 

With a progressive web application, you are now able to craft your own fate by curating content, articles, links and etc., whereby you do not have to rely on luck. Also, with this option, you are also able to carry out pay per click (Google Adwords) and other social media marketing campaigns, more successfully. Basically, from a marketing point of view, progressive web applications would also work better in the long term since search engine optimization (SEO) could be carried out.

And now you must be thinking…

Damn… This is too good to be true…

However, as good as it gets, there are some minor setbacks.

 

 

What are the setbacks and challenges?

The main issue with progressive web applications is not within the application itself. Since it relies on browsers and although it works exceptionally well on most of the popular browsers like Chrome, Samsung internet, Opera and so on, it is still unsupported in browsers like safari. But but but… Don’t worry too much about it! Apple recently updated in February 2018 that they are working on Safari to support progressive web applications and are coming to iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4 very soon!

The second issue would again be relatable to Apple. Up to date there are no reports on progressive web applications features failing on android devices, whereby all we hear are good things. However, as of now it is still currently unsupported by apple device, although they are currently working on it. These issues are expected to be solved once Apple rolls out the support on Safari where it is expected to be ready somewhere in September this year!

 

 

Lastly, certain hardware functionalities (i.e full scale gaming applications) are not entirely supported yet but again, we expect it to run smoothly with the passing of time.

So you’re not convinced enough huh? We do not blame you! Here are some case studies for you to refer to because it is our obligation to help you make the right decision…

(i) Case Study: Twitter

After the public announcement of progressive web applications, Twitter adopted the technology in hopes to improve engagement, while reducing the data consumption of its users. Having 328 million active users monthly, with 80% being mobile users- it was clear why adopting this method was worth having a go at for the sake of its users.

 

 

Twitter Lite, the progressive web app significantly met Twitter’s expectations as it resulted in a 75% increase in Tweets sent, as well as 65% increase per session with a 20% reduction as compared to Twitter’s usual bounce rate. Through optimization of the images, data consumption reduced significantly up to 70%.

(ii) Case Study: BookMyShow

Being the largest online ticketing company in India with an average of over 50+ million visitors monthly, there is clearly no question why they would not try something which could clearly bring them much more to the table.

According to Tewari. S, Assistant General Manager of the IT department of BookMyShow, he noted that ever since their progressive web application was launched, they have seen an exponential increase in the conversion rates via mobile. On another note, with the use of PWA, it has helped them garner a higher acquisition rate via mobile system.

 

 

The results shown were that BookMyShow had observed an increment of over 80% in terms of conversion rates. In terms of speed, the progressive web app took less than 2.94 seconds to load, enabling checkout within an average of 30 seconds. Also, the size of the progressive web application showed to be 54x and 180x consecutively as compared to their native Android and iOS application.

(iii) Case Study: Alibaba

The world’s largest online business to business (B2B) trading portal, Alibaba.com, serving over 200 countries across many regions, needed a quick and easy method to allow their users to carry out transactions. Getting their users to download a native app was never really an option for them since most of their users preferred to stay within the browser as show in their reports, especially since most B2B traders are not exactly technology literate.

What other option would be better than giving the progressive web application technology a chance right? Hence, the development of the Alibaba progressive web application.

 

 

The results Alibaba achieved was astounding. With an increase of 76% in conversions across browsers, quadrupling the interaction rate from the home screen addition and having an increment of 14% and 30% for both iOS and Android consecutively is a result that any large conglomerate out there would be massively proud of.

(iv) Case Study: Forbes

A clear-cut example of a mammoth in its industry, Forbes is an American business magazine which has been in the business for over a century! Seeing a need to continuously improvise and expand, Forbes followed the path of developing a PWA in hopes of fortifying their market share. With this progressive web application, Forbes aimed to cater news updates to their users preference, whilst giving them updates via the push notification, allowing the user to have a more personalized and pleasant progressive web application experience.

 

 

The results shown, observed an increment of 43% per user, per session. The advertisement viewability also noticed an increment averaging almost 20%, while the in-depth scroll improved by three times. Lastly, the user engagement went up by 100%!

…We could go on and on looking at more case studies but it will never end… So let us just move on to the conclusion to have an overview of everything!

Conclusion

Progressive web applications have boundless amount of potential and opportunities and are evolving as time goes on. It could be clearly shown that PWAs has taken its space within the mobile web scene but only time could tell if it could completely put the native mobile applications into extinction as the community seems to be taking the idea of progressive web applications warm heartedly.

However, with all said and done, while progressive web applications shows to be able to provide, create and amplify opportunities for businesses, it is important to understand that not all businesses would require a progressive web application. Sometimes sticking to the traditional classic websites may be of a better and cheaper solution.

It could be concluded that the idea of progressive web applications are still uncommon but with all the benefits that is promised, it would certainly be something that many businesses would look into within 2018 and 2019!

 

 

Adopting the words of e-commerce titan and one of the brightest minds in this decade, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, “In business what’s dangerous is not to evolve”, it might be a wise decision to adopt to the changes than to just stay comfortable with what is available.

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