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What is a progressive web app and does your business need one?

By Rachel Cooke 12th February 2021

With the invention of the smartphone came the invention of the app. A progressive web app, or PWA, takes the look and feel of a standard app and makes it far more accessible. It combines the usability of a native app with the technology of a website, but with a shorter lead time for development and usually a lower price tag. 

mobile phone app

Typically, apps have to be built natively or using a responsive website design. Native apps are built in the specific coding language for the devices platform, iOS (for Apple devices) or Android (for most other device brands). They utilise all of the features of the smartphone, camera and contact list. They load quickly and are easy to use once installed.

The responsive website approach doesn’t require you to install anything on your device, just click on a link or open your chosen browser and start using them straight away. They are built in universal web-based technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript so are able to run on a range of platforms.

A PWA gives you the best of both worlds! They are built and hosted as a normal website so can be accessed through a desktop device as well as downloaded onto a device. PWAs have many of the features of a native app too, for example they have their own icon in amongst your other apps, can send push notifications and allow some offline use. The app should load quickly and reliably onto a device and be fully responsive to the user. It’s important that a PWA appears like a native app on the device through quality responsive website design.

Why a progressive web app could be the perfect choice for your business?

examples of PWA icons
Do Good and SimpleClick PWA icons

PWAs are a great choice if you need the functionality of a native app without the eye-watering price tag of developing one for both major mobile platforms. If you need to reach a wide range of customers but don’t want to lose the engagement provided by native apps, you probably need a PWA.

Because developers can build PWAs using web technology, the process is less costly and less lengthy than that of creating a native app. They essentially bridge the gap between a website and an app. In fact, almost any website can be transformed into a PWA with the addition of the right tools.  Many well-known online sites are PWAs, we just don’t realise it.

The biggest reason to consider developing a PWA is the level of engagement that can be achieved when compared with a straightforward website. Because they allow you to send notifications to your users, they increase your chance of achieving conversions/sales (or whatever it is your business is hoping to achieve!). Offering a slick PWA also provides a great experience for your customers and should keep them coming back.

Another great feature of a PWA is that it can be found via online search engines. This means you have the ability to target a much wider audience – but you can also list your PWA in the app stores if you want to. As well as working on mobile devices and desktops, PWAs can be designed to function offline. This is useful for making your brand accessible at all times and even more user-friendly.

Do your research before deciding on a PWA. Is your customer or client base likely to use an engage with an app? What are your business aims for developing one? If you feel a PWA would be beneficial, always keep in mind what you want your target audience to do while you develop it. This way, both your audience and your business will get the most out of the app when it’s up and running. The other major consideration to focus on is the robustness and reliability of the PWA. If it’s not doing what it should on this front, your business aims will fail.

The 101 on PWAs:

  • PWAs bridge the gap between basic websites and native apps.
  • They can be built using well-known website programming languages (rather than in the native iOS or Android platform), therefore speeding up the development process and lowering the cost.
  • They are responsive and quick to load, due to their simplicity.
  • PWAs still offer some of the bells and whistles of native apps, such as push notifications or access to a device’s camera.
  • Offline functionality is available.
  • They give a good user experience and lead to increased engagement.

If you want to find out more about how a Progressive Web App can help your business, call SimpleClick on 0844 736 2747 or email us.