Progressive Web Apps: Your Startup's Foot In the Door

The way we interact with the internet has been changing for a while now. How people use websites is shifting from viewing and clicking on content to using apps. Apps are more user-friendly because they provide an interactive experience that's tailored to your needs, can be customized and updated in real-time, and require less bandwidth.

Progressive web applications, or PWAs, have attracted the attention of both developers and business users over the last few years because they provide an app-like experience without the need for downloading anything.

In fact, according to Emergen Research, the global progressive web application market is estimated to reach a value of $10.44B by 2027 at a CAGR of 31.9%.

Plus, unlike native apps, PWAs are built using web technologies. They don't require separate delivery channels, making them a great choice for marketers wanting to go omnichannel or for startups that want to increase their reach and get to more people.

This article will talk about progressive web apps, how they are different from mobile apps, their benefits, and three killer examples of PWAs to spark your imagination.

What Is a Progressive Web App?

A quick Google Trends search reveals the surge in search queries related to PWAs in the past five years, all owing to the ease of development and smooth user experience they provide.

In simple terms, progressive web apps are websites that have the same functionality and ease of use as actual apps. This represents potential gains for startups because, rather than investing in creating two different native apps and then driving users to download them, by using PWAs businesses give users immediate access to a company's content just as if they were app users.

PWAs are built on three pillars that transform them into a digital experience that feels like a native app. Let's review them:

  • Capability: Thanks to APIs, PWAs have access to native hardware such as smartphone cameras, accelerometers and GPS, and support push notifications.
  • Reliability: Progressive apps feel fast and dependable regardless of the network. In PWAs, scrolling and animations need to feel smooth and snappy. Similarly, a progressive app needs to start up even on a slow network or when offline, providing offline support.
  • Installability: In modern browsers, progressive apps live in standalone windows rather than on a browser tab, making them launchable from the user's mobile device. It's also possible to install them to your smartphone home screen just like you would with a native application.

Progressive Web App vs Native Mobile App

Native mobile apps are platform-specific applications known for being rich and reliable. Mobile apps are ubiquitous on our home screens and taskbars. Apps work without internet connection on mobile devices and computers, launching a standalone experience every time you access them.

A native app can read and write files from the local file system, access connected hardware, and even interact with data stored on your device, like contacts and events. Mobile apps can also take control of your device and do certain actions from there in such a way that it feels like they are part of the device that's running the app.

However, what is also a great advantage also represents a major drawback: you have to install the app on your device before you can enjoy it.

On the other hand, PWAs are accessible via any modern browser you're using and will adapt to whichever device you're viewing them on. Plus, since they're not native to any particular system, they don't need to be downloaded or installed, all while providing functionalities that are similar to mobile apps.

However, at their core, PWAs are just like web applications, with the sole difference being that the progressive enhancement enables them to behave like mobile apps, which means that they can be downloaded as web apps and are installable just like native mobile apps on a mobile device, where they run in a standalone browser.

Benefits of PWAs for Startups

PWAs can help all kinds of companies, regardless of their sector. Let's explore the benefits of PWAs for startups.

Native-Like Experience

A PWA behaves like a native application, including offline functionality, push notifications, app-like interface, local data storage, and a smooth UX.

Reduces the Need for Building a Native App

PWAs reduce development time and costs for cash-strapped startups that need something built quickly. With a PWA, there is no need to develop for iOS and Android separately, and there's no need to wait for each app store's approval. Also, you don't have to work around any restrictions in the app store.

Easier to Market

Since progressive apps don't require installation, they are regarded as easier to market and drive user acquisition because they can be used without downloading, making them perfect for low-end mobile devices with less storage space.

Perfect to Run Tests

Since developers can build PWAs faster and at lower cost, they represent a great testing ground where you can put ideas into practice without risking alienating users or causing them to stop using your app.

Easier to Discover

PWAs are susceptible to SEO efforts and can be optimized for search engines, making them easier to discover for users who aren't browsing the app store. This helps startups get known faster and achieve brand recognition.

3 Progressive Web App Examples

The integral part of PWAs is a service worker, which is a script that runs separately from a user's browser in the background. This script allows PWAs to provide capabilities like offline browsing, push notifications and other great features.

Here is a list of three examples of some great apps that have a PWA version:

Twitter

Twitter Lite is the PWA version of Twitter. The company advertised this PWA as a faster, easier-to-install and use version of the Twitter app that works just like the native app. Plus, according to a case study Google published, since implementing the PWA, the company has seen 250,000 unique daily users, increasing the engagement of non-app users.

Google Play Store

Spotify

One of the best things about Spotify’s PWA is that users don’t even notice the difference when they’re using a PWA versus the native app. The UX is exceptionally user friendly and delivers a great experience. Spotify’s PWA can be accessed via a desktop shortcut and can also be uninstalled in the same way as native desktop apps.

Spotify's PWA

Pinterest

Before implementing a PWA, Pinterest relied on an ancient mobile web experience that used heavy JavaScript scripts and resulted in a clunky UX and a sluggish performance. According to this case study, by creating a PWA, the Pinterest team managed to lower the app’s time to paint and time to be interactive from 23 to 5.6s, a dramatic improvement.

Pinterest's PWA

Build Your PWA with Salsita

Since they don’t require you to develop different solutions for different platforms, progressive web apps are more performant and cost-effective than traditional native apps. In short, PWAs are the best of the native and website worlds.

Salsita can help you build a beautiful, robust PWA that customers with all kinds of devices will be able to use and benefit from. The right software development company will ensure the continuity and scalability of your product.

At Salsita we write code that will continue to work for you even as your PWA’s user base grows and more customers become interested in your product. We also employ product discovery to gain a deeper understanding of your customers. This allows us to develop products that perfectly suit their needs and is a critical stage in the product design process.

With Salsita as your implementation partner, you gain the help of an experienced agency that’s there for you at every step of the way, from idea to concept to development and maintenance. If you want to learn more about our expertise with PWAs, read this case study: Petshare: MVP for Pet Lovers.

ABOUT SALSITA

Salsita is a digital product agency that designs and develops exceptional web and mobile solutions which differentiate our clients, engage their customers, and grow their business. We provide design-driven development services that cover the entire software development cycle.

Our areas of specialization include eCommerce, web and mobile dashboards, online content editors and data visualization. We leverage the Salsita 3D Product Configurator Framework to develop slick, cost-effective 3D product configurator, visualization, and design solutions for brands and retailers across industries from consumer electronics to furniture, fashion and more.

We have developed award-winning digital solutions for dozens of companies, ranging from household names like eBay, SAP, Texas Instruments, and First American Financial, to innovative startups across Europe and North America.

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