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11/03/2020 Luke Hilton

Progressive Web Apps

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

The use of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) is expected to skyrocket through 2020, to the point where leading research and advisory company Gartner is predicting that come next year they’ll replace 50% of general-purpose, consumer-facing mobile apps.

Forrester Consulting found that last year the majority of worldwide web traffic had shifted to mobile devices. While these interactions have long been supported by existing technologies, PWAs are set to vastly expand this customer interaction, keeping pace with consumer expectations of lightning fast, app-like browsing experiences.

Analyst Jason Wong summarises: “Progressive web apps aim to disrupt the mobile app paradigm by bridging the web experience with native app functionality. Application leaders responsible for mobile app strategies must determine when — not if — they need to factor in PWAs as part of their overall mobile development strategy.”

PWAs are the next step. According to Jason Woosley, VP of Commerce Platform & Product at Adobe, “We have gone from static web pages to desktop web pages, and then to responsive mobile web pages… A PWA is the next evolution of this. It’s basically saying: there is no reason for you to even have a mobile application. You can do it all on the web.” 

Companies like Twitter and Starbucks are using PWAs to offer customers access to their services and things like push notifications, even when offline. “If you go to Starbucks.com, you can actually put their PWA on your home screen as an icon and use it exactly the same way you would the Starbuck’s app. You probably wouldn’t know the difference, and, in my opinion, it’s faster,” Woosley said.

Not only do PWAs ensure high-speed interaction, they also shield service delivery from the hazards of poor or non-existent internet connection, especially in emerging economies such as Africa or India, or importantly to us, in regional areas of Australia where connectivity is an ongoing issue. 

“With full websites or traditional apps,” Woosley adds, “you have to essentially scrunch down all of the information into your phone to send it along. With PWAs, you actually only deliver the assets that you need. This makes PWAs way better in terms of being a good citizen for low-bandwidth countries.”

An additional advantage of PWAs is their universal use across operating systems, like webpages, meaning that specialised iOS or Android code, for example, is not necessary. This is why PWAs are being so widely adopted for all new projects, especially on the commerce side of the house.

To address the growth in PWAs, Magento has created PWA Studio, a suite of tools for building online stores with app-like experiences that help merchants solve the mobile conversion dilemma and delivery highly personalised cross-channel experiences. The latest release of Magento, which dropped last month, has also increased Page Builder and PWA Studio compatibility, allowing content created in Page Builder to be rendered in PWA Studio’s Venia reference storefront.

Adobe explains, “With PWA Studio in Magento Commerce, you can transform the mobile experience and help merchants gain new customers, improve conversion rates, search rankings (SEO) and lower their development costs. PWAs use a variety of performance optimisation and responsive design strategies to load content fast on any network and thereby provide a consistent experience across desktops, tablets and smartphones.”

In short, PWAs deliver faster browsing, instant “app” gratification, push notifications, and rapid re-engagement. They are the future.

Get in touch with our team and we can talk to you about this or any other other eCommerce questions you may have.