Today, most business owners and consumers have yet to hear the term “progressive web application” (PWA). By the end of 2020, however, I believe we will all be incredibly familiar with this technology. PWAs are poised to change how we interact online with brands, and many brands are ill prepared for this shift.
What is a PWA?
“Progressive web application” is a term created by Google to signify any web-based software that follows specific open standards. The simplest explanation of a PWA is software delivered via a website but working as a native application. In other words, features that used to require expensive software development for the Apple App Store or Google Play Store are now available to all websites.
As the CEO of an e-commerce development agency that provides PWA consulting, I’ve observed that PWAs are reliable. They eliminate loading screens and delays and even work when a user’s phone lacks an internet connection. They’re immersive, just like a native application: Once added to your phone’s home screen, they’re indistinguishable from a native app.
What impact will PWA have on the web?
From my perspective, PWAs could lead to a faster, more secure web. A core requirement of PWA technology is that all content must be served over a secure connection. There’s no need to look for a lock or a green bar when interacting with a PWA; they’re secure by default. A PWA won’t run unless it’s served over a secure connection by your web server.
Because PWAs work even when your phone or computer is offline, this technology leads to web applications appearing in places they never could before. As a result, websites could become more deeply integrated into our daily lives, often in unexpected ways that weren’t previously possible.
For instance, once a user has visited your site and interacted with your PWA, your product catalog can be stored directly on their phone. This not only allows product pages to load instantly, but it also means your customers can continue shopping at your site after entering another area without Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity. This enables an always-on, always-available experience for your customers, encouraging them to interact with your company on their own terms.
If you’re considering using a PWA, there are a few steps you should follow:
1. Assemble your technology team.
2. Map the features for your initial PWA launch.
If you operate a separate mobile app, you will need to decide if it’s worthwhile to maintain that app. For many businesses, it is better to retire your native app and invest more in your web presence.
Since the “progressive” in “Progressive Web Application” refers to progressive enhancement, your website can launch a PWA with just a few features and then add more later. Some businesses are adding a minimal set of functions to their existing website to meet the requirements to work as a PWA. If you’ve recently refreshed your web presence and don’t have the budget in 2020 for a new web or app project, this is a great approach.
However, if you’ve been planning to launch a new website or app in 2020, building a PWA is a good option. In this case, a PWA project is similar to any other undertaking to build a new website, with just a few key differences that are highlighted below.
Which features are the most important?
Whether you’re starting out by adding minimal functions to your existing website or launching a new one, you need to identify which PWA features you want to incorporate into your site. For instance, other retailers have seen a four-times increase in reengagement and a doubling in sales by using push notifications. Can you use push notifications in your purchase process? Google provides a showcase of PWA case studies, highlighting specific features and the results they have provided, so take the time to review those case studies and make a list of features you feel would be helpful to include in your initial PWA launch.
3. Develop and test your PWA.
Once you’ve assembled your team and mapped out the features for your PWA, it’s time to get to work. PWA development follows a similar process as other web development, so your existing processes should work well for this. One important difference, however, is to ensure you’re testing in browsers with different levels of support for PWA technology and on different device types to monitor how your PWA behaves in those different environments.
4. Launch your PWA and enjoy the benefits.
Unlike a native application, there’s no cumbersome app store submission and review process. Once your PWA is ready to launch, you upload it to your web server like any other web application, and users will begin to interact with it as soon as they visit your site.
I believe PWAs could disrupt the web in 2020. The only question is: Will they make a positive or negative impact on your business? Evaluate your existing mobile app and web presence and any planned projects for 2020 if you’re considering taking advantage of this emerging technology to benefit your business and your customers.