What unites Puma, Starbucks, AliExpress, and Financial Times? All these brands and dozens more transformed their regular websites into progressive web apps (PWAs). Some have traditional mobile apps as well, while others have relied on PWAs solely.
Progressive web apps resemble native ones by appearance and behavior. Such websites have a number of advantages over native applications, several comparable parameters as well as drawbacks. Here we’ll observe PWAs and native apps in terms of spending on development, memory and battery consumption, speed and usability, and other significant aspects.
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Costs of Building
PWAs are objectively cost-effective. You need to remake a website substantially, but you pay for it only once. In the end, you obtain a triple benefit: your PWA performs like a native app on iOS/Android, and the desktop version becomes faster and fresher in terms of design. Check out the best PWA examples for inspiration.
For a mobile app, you should allocate a double sum on its elaboration. Android and iOS have their own programming languages for apps, different requirements, and separate marketplaces. Android is a leading mobile operating system with a 72,84% share in the market, but 26.34% of iOS’s adherents are extremely important for brands. The necessity to build two apps at once stops most mid and small businesses from creating native apps.
Weight and Installation
It’s obligatory to download any traditional mobile app from an app store. As usual, they are heavy (up to several hundred MB). This fact hugely affects a user’s decision whether to install an application or not. If social media or email apps are an integral part of our life, eCommerce brands don’t belong to this category indeed. Thus, many prefer to save space on the phone.
When it comes to PWAs, they are installable, but you don’t have to actually download them. When you visit such a website, it prompts you to add its icon to a home screen (on Android), or this option can be found in Safari’s settings (on iOS). Some PWAs (Twitter and Pinterest Lite, Tinder) are also presented on Google Play (for Android). The size of a typical PWA is up to 1 MB.
Performance and UX/UI
The mobile-first approach has become leading in eCommerce since the proportion of sales on mobile has significantly exceeded those via desktop. Online shopping with a smartphone nowadays has to be handy, fast, and pleasant; otherwise, it won’t be profitable.
Native apps are traditionally regarded as the most mobile- and user-friendly due to superb performance and flawless UX/UI. It’s not surprising because they are initially created for smartphones. They load quickly, operations are processed smoothly, the navigation is intuitive, and the design is done to operate with one hand.
PWA builders utilized the core UX/UI principles for native apps. That’s why the vast majority of them look very similar to mobile apps (see the screenshots below from an Adidas PWA and mobile app). The homepage, catalog, and product pages, checkout, and menu are designed to easily scroll and tap even only by thumb. Some progressive web apps also borrow such valuable traits as a menu at the bottom.
Blazing-fast speed in PWAs is possible thanks to cutting-edge technologies behind them:
- progressive frameworks and toolkits (React.js, Vue.js, Angular.js, PWA Studio);
- service worker (for smart caching and push notifications);
- and so on.
In general, PWAs have an utterly distinct architecture from standard so-called monolithic websites.
Previously only native apps could brag of two very wholesome functions: offline mode and push notifications. They are so important when it comes to core eCommerce purposes like customer retention and ensuring a seamless user experience.
Due to sophisticated web technologies, the same features are now available to progressive web apps as well. Offline mode allows shoppers to continue interaction with a site when the internet connection is unstable. Some options will still be accessible (thank you, service worker!), and queries will be processed a bit later.
Push notifs help to re-engage consumers efficiently. These messages are sent to inform about items on sale, new collections, and personal discounts. Nevertheless, this option is available only for Android phone owners as of now. iOS still restricts push notifications from web apps, but there might be some improvements in due course.
Native apps and then PWAs are aimed to provide people with a smooth user experience. Progressive web apps are also a step towards simplicity in terms of usage since you don’t need to visit an app store and download the app.
As you see, both options have much in common. Thus, the decision on what to choose for a particular brand depends more on the type and size of this business. But even huge names in various industries tend to replace their traditional websites with PWAs as a far more contemporary solution.