Progressive Web Apps: An Introduction

Web applications are nothing new. They’ve been around since at least 1987, when Perl (a scripting language) was developed by Larry Wall. In recent years, web apps have been getting a much-needed makeover. Like the Six Million Dollar Man, progressive web apps are better, stronger, and faster than ever, especially when they integrate artificial intelligence (AI).

Old Web Apps

To get a better mental grasp on progressive web apps, it’s helpful to get better acquainted with basic web apps. A web app is any feature on a website that allows for user-site interaction. Some examples of common interfaces include webmail, online auctions, and instant messaging. Contact forms are not generally an example of a web app, since making any substantive changes to the website with form elements requires refreshing the entire page. In contrast, if you’re playing a game of online Sudoku, inputting an incorrect number to a square may trigger an automatic alert without needing to refresh the entire page.

Web App Evolution

The journey from basic web apps to progressive web apps has been a lengthy one, considering the typically rapid pace of technologic evolution. JavaScript was introduced in the mid-90s, which opened the door to the addition of some dynamic elements, including input validation. Flash was introduced not long after, allowing embedded animations to be played without additional communication with the server. During the years that followed, more advancements in scripting language further enriched web content, allowing for functions we take for granted today, like drag and drop features.

Progressive Web Apps

Fast-forwarding to 2018, multiple major tech companies are getting to work on implementing the structure and support needed for the widespread use of progressive web apps. Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Mozilla are among these companies. Progressive web apps act like native apps, but they are hosted on websites, and can be directly updated on the servers. They got their name because they are universally usable, and considered to be progressively enhanced, with all the benefits of modern web technology. Although they’ll work in older browsers, some features might not be available with them. Progressive web apps are best used in modern browsers that will support all of their features.

Progressive Web App Features

When a user first visits a website with a progressive web app, he or she can instantly access that app—no download or installation required. Thanks to the IndexedDB and Cache API, the app’s data is stored directly on your device, which means it’ll load quickly and work even while offline. Users can allow progressive web apps to perform background tasks, without necessarily having to open them first. Plus, they’re secured with encrypted HTTPS. Progressive web apps are an emerging technology that can be defined by the following characteristics:

  • Offline functioning (and functional on poor-quality networks).
  • Shareable (without requiring installation).
  • Discoverable (search engines can find them easily).
  • Secure (data cannot be tampered with).
  • Re-engaging (through push notifications, etc.).
  • Current (always up to date).
  • Responsive (adaptable to desktops, mobile, tablets, and future hardware technologies).
  • Progressive (every user can use them, regardless of browser choice or operating system).
Business Apps

So why do progressive web apps matter to the average business owner? Well, for starters, because plenty of small businesses aren’t able or willing to devote a substantial portion of their resources to developing separate apps for the web, Windows, Android, and iOS. They might also not have the necessary resources to market their apps and make them discoverable to search engines. With progressive web apps, a small business owner can have a developer create just one app that is easily discoverable and accessible to the customer base.

Progressive Web App Case Study

Still not convinced that your business can benefit from a progressive web app? Take a look at this case study: BookMyShow is the largest ticketing firm in India. Their website gets more than 50 million visitors each month, but BookMyShow had a serious problem. Their mobile sales exceeded their desktop sales. As their mobile users increased, so too did their bounce rate. Their mobile website wasn’t optimized for the mobile user experience, and the load speed was undesirable. This caused missed sales opportunities because users were too frustrated to complete their purchases. BookMyShow did have a native app, but it sucked up a lot of memory and data usage, which users weren’t too happy about. BookMyShow’s solution was to implement a progressive web app that exponentially accelerated load speed, cut data usage, and improved the user experience. Even when users request personalized movie recommendations, the load speed is negligible. As a result of this better, faster, and stronger app, BookMyShow’s conversion rate enjoyed a healthy 80% increase. Even the Six Million Dollar Man would be envious of that stat.

Pennington Creative implements online branding campaigns via our service bundles and custom offerings for small, mid-size, and large companies. Take advantage of our team’s digital marketing expertise to improve your profit margin. Get in touch today, and we’ll recommend solutions that are right for your business.

About the Author

Jacky - Digital Marketing Specialist, Copywriting
Jacky Gilchrist

Digital Marketing Specialist, Copywriting

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