Google rolled out its mobile-first index in 2018. Ever since then, marketers have kept one eye on the mobile phone sector.

It’s an important sector to watch. Seventy-two per cent of British users accessed the internet via a mobile phone in 2018.

Many brands look for opportunities in the mobile internet market. It’s a great way to reach new audiences and build a following. And no, swamping social media is not the only way to do it.

Progressive web apps, or PWA, are giving more brands access to the competitive world of mobile apps – but for a fraction of the price.

So, are you asking, “What is PWA? Can it help me?” Read on to find out!

What is PWA?

PWA stands for Progressive Web App. A PWA is halfway between a website and a mobile application.

Users get the great features available through browsers combined with the unique benefits of mobile apps.

The PWA loads in the browser, so users don’t need to download extra apps onto their devices. That’s useful for any users running older mobile phones where storage space is at a premium.

PWA often features a splash screen on startup. They also boast other features familiar from native apps, like push notifications.

How Does a PWA Work?

The app isn’t available in the app store for their device. Instead, they browse to a website and sign in to the app from there.

Users can add shortcuts to PWAs from their home screen. These look like the app icons they’d get if they downloaded an app from an app store. But they’re closer to web page bookmarks.

The PWA stores the files and images needed to run the app in the browser’s cache. That lets users access this content even without an internet connection.

That’s like being able to open Messenger when you have no signal. But you can still read the messages you received earlier. Any replies get sent when your phone finds a signal again.

A piece of JavaScript called a Service worker runs between the browser and the phone network. It also looks for components of the PWA in the cache before it checks online.

Because the app uses stored content from the cache, it means better performance. That’s whether users have a signal or not.

What Are the Benefits of PWAs?

Because PWAs run in the browser, they’re easier to create than native apps. This can make them cheaper to set up, making them more accessible to smaller companies.

What other benefits does a progressive app have?

Engagement

There’s no guarantee that users will download the native apps for all the companies they use. But running a PWA through the browser makes it more likely customers will engage with them.

Installing a PWA also creates less ‘friction’ for a user. They go to the website, and they’re prompted to add a link to their home screen.

That’s all.

With this method, there’s no browsing the app store, where a user can get distracted – or clicking away before they can finish an install.

Usability

Scripts run in the background to keep the web page updating content. We’ve already covered caching, which makes sure that users get fast performance after their first website visit.

Which also means PWAs work offline. They often offer better navigation than websites since they’re designed to look like apps.

No more pinching and scrolling a web page to reach the edges.

Discoverability

Users can find PWAs the same way that they find websites – a combination of on-page SEO and advertising. Native apps get less exposure in the app store, and it can cost more to acquire users.

We’ve already covered how much easier it is to get a user to sign up with a PWA. Add that to how more comfortable it is for them to find them, and you realise how PWAs offer much better discoverability for brands.

There is always the opportunity to build a simple version of the PWA to test the market. It’s better to create something simple and expand it later than to create something that doesn’t work from the get-go.

Do PWAs Have Any Drawbacks?

The biggest drawback is finding a developer to build one, which is a similar drawback to a native app.

The user experience must be flawless to convince users to stick around once they’ve signed up. So do your research into the best developers to create your PWA.

Despite the importance of responsive websites, some brands still need to update their websites before they think about a PWA.

Without an app store to back up the PWA, some users are sceptical about the security of the apps. Apple users are particularly keen on apps that come with App Store approval.

Many native apps communicate with one another. Sometimes, users can use one app to authenticate their login to another. Because a PWA runs through a web page, it can’t talk to other apps that the user installs.

Not all mobile browsers support PWA. Safari and Internet Explorer don’t support the apps as yet though all is not lost since Microsoft finally introduced support for PWAs in Windows 10 through its Edge browser.

The apps also need hardware supported by HTML5.

Few of these are deal-breakers, but brands need to consider their user demographics before they commission a PWA. If your users are diehard Edge fans, you won’t convince them to change their browser just to run your PWA.

Offer Users a Great Experience

So if someone asks you, “hey, what is PWA?” Now you can tell them.

They’re an innovative cross between websites and native apps. Brands enjoy the chance to create high-performance apps that let users connect through a browser.

Meanwhile, users enjoy better connectivity and user experience through their existing browser — no extra storage space required.

Brands can’t afford to miss out on this golden marketing opportunity. If you want to embrace PWAs and you need help marketing your website?

Check out our website marketing services. Or we can offer advice on website creation and content marketing.

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