Progressive Web App: A Complete Guide for 2023

progressive web app

It is said that nothing is certain in life except change. And the world of IT is a standing testimonial to that, what with technologies becoming obsolete by the time everyone gets comfortable with them! Consumers are getting more and more tech savvy and discerning, and today demand not just convenience but excitement. Many individuals use different devices – smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops, and want comparable experiences no matter what they use to access a site. 

With over 5.3 billion unique mobile users all over the world today, it was imperative that businesses make it easy for consumers to shop via their hand-held devices. So, they made apps which made it convenient for shoppers to purchase on the go – a huge improvement over mobile sites.

With time, people were no longer satisfied with just mobile apps. Apps meant downloading from the store, sacrificing space on the phone, and waiting for it to load – and often, messy updates. And now Progressive Web Apps have grabbed the spotlight to become an alternative to traditional, space-consuming apps.

In this article, you will get a comprehensive view of WHAT, WHY, and HOW PWA works.

What is PWA?

A progressive web app is a cross between a native app and a mobile web page that can be loaded and run in a mobile browser and makes the user feel like they are using an app. A PWA can do almost everything a native app can, like access your microphone and camera, operate offline, and so on. Unlike an app, it loads rapidly, doesn’t eat into the storage space of devices, delivers a much better browsing experience, and users can access the app with just one click.

A little History

Though the legendary Steve Jobs envisioned this idea way back in 2007 when he launched the iPhone, he was unable to build on his initial idea. It was only in 2015 that two employees from Google – a developer and a designer – coined this term; they made their own additions to Jobs’ idea of eliminating native apps

Some Interesting Mobile Commerce Statistics

Back in 2018 itself, mobile users spent 18 billion hours browsing shopping-related applications. In fact, over 50% of global web traffic today, is from mobile applications. The share of mobile commerce is growing at a steady pace and is expected to make up 44.2% of E-commerce sales, amounting to over $728 billion in the US alone.

According to the various industry experts, here are some predictions:

  • Mordor Intelligence predicts a 29.5% growth in the mobile payments market
  • Business Wire expects global M-commerce sales to account for over 50% of all eCommerce sales.
  • There has been a revenue growth of 450% (as of 2020) in mobile commerce compared to 2015
  • Statista says they expect global M-Commerce sales to touch 4 trillion USD by 2022
  • WhaTech estimates a growth of 56.5% for the global mobile coupon industry by 2025.
  • According to Synchrony, 70% of consumers have downloaded at least one shopping application.
  • Emarketer stated that nearly 80 million people will be using mobile payments in the US by 2023.
  • Over 75% of shoppers use their mobile phones to compare prices when shopping in stores.

The total time spent on the internet through mobile devices has increased globally:

Brands like Debenhams, Lancôme AliExpress, Flipkart, Jumia have all developed PWAs. These brands all reported improvements in several sectors, with Lancôme specifically reporting:

  • 17% increase in conversions
  • 15% reduction in bounce rate
  • 51% rise in mobile sessions

The PWAs offered a seamless experience, and loaded quickly without eating up storage space; hence the change.

The Impact of PWAs on Various Factors:

Performance

Studies show that 53% of mobile users leave a page if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. The page load speed is a critical factor that can make the difference between success and failure. PWAs load super-fast – nearly 300% faster, which means almost instant loading. PWAs serve a light skeleton document with inlined resources and prioritize the first meaningful paint and help load the first page super quick.

Accessibility

Thanks to these lightning load speeds, PWAs are very helpful for businesses operating in developing markets, as they support accessibility. They also offer access to the site consistently for businesses that need it.

User Experience

Engagement on native apps is a lot higher than on mobile sites. PWAs can change this, as they run like native apps.

How does a PWA Work?

Single-Page Website

PWAs are mostly single-page sites that dynamically rewrite the page to interact with the user instead of requesting a full-page load when the user clicks on the link. The JavaScript code controls the page the user is on to render it as if it’s the new page – this is the native app ‘feel’.

Web App Manifest

This is a JSON file that signals the browser regarding the expected app behaviour when it’s installed on the user device. It contains generic app info but is essential to make the PWA appear and feel like a native app. App name, start_url it must commence at on app launch, icons to be used, etc. is the information the file usually contains. On fulfilling specific conditions, most browsers will auto-recommend the app installation to users. Chrome mandates this manifest for displaying the prompt ‘Add to Home Screen’.

Service-Workers

We’ve read about the amazing features and benefits – now let’s see what drives these features. Service Workers – frontend JavaScript files – are an important of PWAs that exist between the browser and server. They add a background functionality layer to imitate the features of an app. The service workers enable indirect interaction between users and servers unlike conventional websites where it is direct.

Browser Compatibility

PWAs require browser support for push notifications, save to home screen, as well as for service workers. Even when support doesn’t exist, PWAs can still function in all browses – though some features may not work. Chrome is one browser that likes PWAs, and displays an Install button to indicate that a PWA can be installed. Once the user clicks on it, a dialog box is displayed which helps the user to install it.

If you have any further questions, check out our Video Tutorial on PWA

Features and Advantages of PWAs

  • PWAs load at lightning speed, thanks to browser-level caching performed by service workers. This activity causes the app to load immediately as the user opens it. 53% of users leave a mobile website if the speed of loading is more than 3 seconds.
  • It is lightweight when compared to an app which needs a lot of storage space on devices.
  • PWAs run seamlessly on all the popular mobile platforms and browsers, and it necessitates only one code base for this.
  • Updates happen in real-time and don’t necessitate uploading from the app store.
  • PWA delivers a consistent and seamless experience across a range of devices and enhances the shopping experience.
  • The responsive design of the Progressive web app also enables it to rank high in Google SERPs.
Progressive web app
  • PWA apps are SEO friendly – engaging, fast, and reliable; this encourages visitors to spend more time on the site. Providing tech support also improves user engagement.
  • Google algorithms index mobile versions of websites first – this also contributes to ensuring the site ranks well in searches.
  • Users need not be connected to the internet to browse the PWA; they can use it offline as well.
  • PWA icons can be easily added to smartphone home screens, and users can visit the site directly rather than opening the browser every time.
  • Push notifications sent from PWAs can help increase user engagement by over 85%. These notifications are used by businesses to inform customers about new products, order updates, deals, and offers.

What benefits can PWAs promise for e-commerce businesses?

Increased number of users

People tend to download the apps of only big brands, as apps eat up storage space on phones. But PWAs don’t need to be downloaded, saving space on devices. They can simply be added to the home screen, and the user can browse at any time.

Higher rates of conversion

Mobile web conversions are lower than on apps; however, the seamless native app experience, along with speed, tech support and cross-platform compatibility delivered by PWAs, help to boost conversions. More users spend more time on the PWAs – thereby boosting the chances of them purchasing your products.

Why should businesses implement PWA?

Progressive web application development offer a solution to software distribution issues. When users are on a computer, they are more likely to open a website rather than the app installed on the computer; however, the same user is more likely to prefer an app on their phone rather than going to the browser and opening a site. 

Let’s take the example of shopping for something on Amazon. The customer will open the app on their phone but is more likely to open the website rather than the web app on their computer. This holds true for all businesses that have efficient native apps – as they load rapidly, send push notifications, use sensors, and sync data.

Mobile web engagement rate is much lower than that of native apps; it’s less than 20% for web while apps see over 80% engagement. Apps provide a rich, fulfilling experience that the web cannot.

​Mobile web has a huge reach

An average Android user visits about 100 sites each month, using Chrome to access them – and there are a billion monthly users for mobile Chrome. A negligible number of apps are downloaded in the US each month, yet mobile commerce accounts for a major chunk of E-commerce sales.

Mobile users spend over 85% of mobile time on native apps – but those apps belong to a handful of established and reputed businesses.

In a nutshell – mobile commerce is increasing, but shopping apps are either not being downloaded, or are installed and uninstalled in a short time. This means people are only purchasing from the major apps like Amazon, and then via the web.

So, how you can get people to use the app for your online store?

PWA is the answer!

Platforms That Help build Magento PWA

As the Magento store shows an upward trend with the boom in eCommerce and Adobe acquiring Magento in 2018, most of the retail brands are migrating to Magento. According to eCommerce migration experts Cart2Cart, 9% of online retailers migrated their website to Magento in 2019. Here you can have a quick overview of platforms that help build Magento PWA.

Using premade themes

This is the least preferred as it cannot deliver the full functionality and may have bugs. It involves using coding tools and pre-designed web pages to convert a site into a PWA. However, some businesses may only want to use a few specific Magento PWA functionalities, and this is apt for them.

Using extensions and add-ons

You can first install a Magento theme and use extensions that allow the configuration of navigation,search, checkout etc. to make it more intuitive and responsive without custom coding.

Building from Scratch

JavaScript libraries like Angular.js. Vue.js, and React.js help developers build custom PWAs with unique capabilities. These libraries are flexible and lightweight and are very popular for E-Commerce apps. Of course, this necessitates technical expertise and experience in coding. This is the best method for businesses who want to deliver a personalized, rich, and engaging browsing and shopping experience for their users.

Magenta PWA Studio

Magenta PWA Studio is a toolkit that enables developers to build PWAs without hassles. It is a Magento product and enables Progressive web app for the E-Commerce platform. It comprises ready-to-use components and front-end architecture; it minimizes the possibility of error in the initial stages, so that the work in the later stages is not impacted. Its biggest benefit is that its polylith structure allows you to extract and use parts of the code rather than the entire package. PWA Studio includes an app builder that is pre-configured, and service workers, as well as several elements that you can use with or without customization to suit your requirements.

Get access to the entire webinar replay here on ‘Getting Hands-on with Magento PWA Studio’ with Github access.

Studies show that mobile app users, on average, spend close to 202 minutes a month on shopping; compare that to about 11 minutes a month for website users. In-app purchases are steadily increasing, leading to a steep rise in in-app advertising. PWAs are taking the mobile app development industry by storm.

Multiple reports and studies suggest that PWAs will rule the roost in 2022 and beyond, for a few years to come at least. They are platform agnostic, and installation is a breeze; what more could anyone want?

With Microsoft and Google taking an avid interest in PWAs, the future certainly looks bright. We can expect to see sophisticated apps packed with features soon making their appearance in the app stores.

Modern PWA solution trends confirm that these apps have the power to benefit businesses from mom-and-pop stores to multinational enterprises. 

Entrepreneurs and managers must evaluate their objectives and requirements before jumping on the bandwagon. Here are some things to remember:

  1. Undoubtedly PWAs are game changers capable of delivering impact instantly. Remember, however, to ensure that the features should heighten user experience, rather than be a distraction.
  2. The purpose of PWAs is to help users perform the desired actions easily and quickly; ergo, ensure you remove all unnecessary content, only highlighting your USP, and the Call to Action.
  3. Make it extra convenient for users to purchase your products by simplifying checkout, including automated sign-in, one-tap signup, safe and integrated payment, and automating form filling. When lengthy and convoluted, these often cause cart abandonment and customer dissatisfaction.
  4. If users have to wait for an action to complete, make it engaging using animations, skeleton screens, etc. Not only will these things entertain users, but they will also give them time for self-orientation.
  5. Ensure you develop a striking and meaningful icon for the home screen install feature. It’s a powerful tool and can add great value to your organization.
  6. Use consistent, simple fonts to minimize distractions and provide a seamless experience.
  7. Don’t forget to provide the important features for the offline browsing mode, and include options for caching.

Do you want Codilar to set up PWA for your business? Contact us now!

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