The state of native apps is being questioned by the newer and more straightforward approach of Progressive Web Apps (PWA’s). This has a growing number of businesses and app developers wondering what the future holds for mobile development and how to proceed with their strategies. Better understanding the impact that PWA’s are having, and will continue to have, in the marketing world is critical for businesses looking to leverage mobile apps to their fullest.
The concept of progressive web apps was first championed by Google back in 2015. They proposed that PWA’s would provide a welcomed relief for app developers agonizing over platform-exclusive coding and designs. The end goal of progressive web apps was to merge the incredible app experiences that users loved with the ease of mobile web browsing. This would make it much, much easier for new users to access the app experience because it would eliminate the need for any download or trip to the App Store.
Google and other early adopters of progressive web apps have found success in PWA’s, and many are starting to wonder if this new app approach is going to create a total departure from traditional, native apps in the future.
A Quick Rundown Of Progressive Web Apps
Before discussing the advancement of mobile and progressive web apps’ role in that future, it’s essential to have a general understanding of what a PWA is, how it functions and why this functionality is essential in the app development world.
A progressive web app uses HTML5 as its primary development language. With the majority of the Internet using this language, it is easier to connect users to an app-like experience than before. This also means that developers won’t have to create separate versions for each mobile platform. This advantage has the added perk of shrinking development costs and the time it takes to develop and bring an app to the marketplace.
Other benefits of progressive web apps are:
- Secure: HTTPS security protocols help keep any information shared between user and app protected and out of harm’s way of hackers.
- Home Screen Accessible: While PWA’s are web-based, users can still enjoy the immediate access to a home screen button. There is still no download taking place. The homepage icon acts more like a URL link to the PWA.
- Instant Load Times: PWA’s load almost instantly, even on a shaky network connection. These reliably fast load times help create that smooth feeling that users have come to enjoy with native apps.
- Push Notifications: Web-based push notifications can re-engage users with relevant, actionable value that brings them right back to your app-like experience. Notifications can still occur after they’ve turned their browser off.
- Fewer Clicks: Traditional, native apps require some different steps to download and use. Each step is an opportunity for the user to abandon the journey altogether. PWA’s require no installation before being used, so there’s no risk of turning potential users away.
- Cross-app functionality: Sometimes, when using an app, you want to open a link to a webpage or another app. This causes your current app to minimize while bringing up the new one. If you’re trying to share information across different apps, this can be clunky. PWA’s improve this experience and don’t feel so disjointed as you navigate from app to app.
- Shareable: Because users connect to a PWA experience with just a URL link, they are as shareable as sending someone a link to an article you’ve just read.
Is The Reign Of Native Apps Over?
Many companies are looking at progressive apps as the future of mobile. For some, this is a dream-come-true. Finally, the opportunity to create small business apps quickly and without the need to develop versions for each distinct platform. Other companies, however, are afraid that this new app approach will edge native apps entirely out of the conversation. For organizations that have invested heavily in the development of a native app, this could be disastrous.
The reality is that PWA’s are not going to spell the end for native apps. At least, not for a long time. The majority of the time we spend on our mobile devices (a staggering 85%) is spent using apps. Native apps have helped permanently change the way brands, and consumers interact by elevating the customer experience to a new level. That is not going to go away with the introduction of a new approach to app development. Instead, it’s much more likely that PWA’s will enhance the overall app experience and add to what businesses have already accomplished with native apps.
When you consider the massive impact of native apps, particularly by companies looking to re-engage customers and enhance their overall experience, it’s hard to predict a world where all that is replaced by PWA’s. If you have already produced native apps across different platforms, you shouldn’t feel any pressure by PWA’s to change that approach.
Progressive web apps are still new, and that rookie status comes with some problems. The most significant issue still standing in the way of progressive web apps is their limited functionality. They aren’t on the same level as native apps when it comes to performance and capability.
Mainly, PWA’s big drawback is that they (currently) have limited integration with a device’s hardware. So, accessing NFC, Bluetooth and other tools can be a challenge for progressive web apps. This also affects PWA’s ability to use a device’s sensors (fingerprint reader, accelerometer, flashlight, etc.) and thereby hinders the app’s access to wearables. In terms of a delivering that flawless app experience, this can be very damaging if a person can’t use a Bluetooth device or experience that content on their Apple Watch.
With these limitations, progressive web apps have a lot of ground to cover. The tides may be starting to shift a little, but it is going to be awhile before we see a time when PWA’s dominate the app development world.
The Hybrid Future of Mobile
The goal of an app design or a web design is to connect people with the information they need, the experience they are after, the value they want and to do so in as few steps as possible. This immediate access to an app-like experience is where PWA’s make their mark. But given the limited functionality of PWA’s, a more likely and immediate future will be a hybrid approach that leverages both progressive web and native apps in the same strategy.
A hybrid approach to mobile development would aim to take advantage of the far fewer steps required by PWA’s to access the content. In theory, this would allow a more significant number of people to connect to a brand’s app-like experience because no potential users would be disenchanted by the lengthy process to reach the app. Once these users have had a taste of your PWA experience, they may be far more inclined to make an effort to download the full native app. Thus, it’s likely that we’ll see both approaches working in tandem, with PWA’s being the appetizer to the native app main course.
Some developers and companies may groan at the thought of making another app or adjusting their mobile strategy to include a PWA, but the benefits promise to be huge. If the relationship between native and progressive web apps works as described above, there is an exciting opportunity to gain critical insights into consumer behaviors. How a user interacts with your hybrid app strategy can say a lot about that person. If they immediately jump from the PWA experience to downloading the full app, then you know they aren’t bothered by high-effort tactics. On the other hand, if they never graduate to your whole app, then it is safer to target them with low-effort calls to action.
Because PWA’s can be made quickly using app builders, they offer the perfect app experience for small businesses. You can enhance your customer’s experience and engagement with a progressive web app. This will allow your brand to re-engage customers with exciting and fresh experiences and content continuously.
Mobile has become an expected part of any brand’s offerings because consumers use their mobile devices to such a high degree. For a long time, mobile was, and primarily still is, ruled by native apps. That’s starting to change with the introduction of progressive web apps, which bring a new approach to the table that costs less time and money, is more accessible for acquiring users and still delivers the app-like experience that users have come to know. With this long list of PWA perks, many people are wondering if they are the future of mobile. Some even wonder if they will edge native apps entirely out of the equation.
Progressive web apps are exciting, and they present a lot of benefits to mobile that developers and companies have long struggled with. But, native apps are still incredibly powerful, robust experiences that PWA’s don’t yet match up to. Thus, PWA’s are certainly part of the future of mobile, but they are not going to be the only app approach in the works.
About the Author
Andrew Gazdecki is the founder and CEO of Bizness Apps, a company that helps small businesses build mobile solutions to compete with big brands. Their mobile app building platform makes it possible for everyone to create a mobile app for their business. When he isn’t helping small businesses, he is out surfing in the Pacific Ocean.