Apps / 7 min read

Progressive web apps - benefits and limitations

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By Josh / June 16, 2021

When should you use progressive web apps (PWA) and what are their benefits and limitations?

Web apps are accessed via a web browser and are responsive versions of websites. The objective of a progressive web app is to provide an app-like experience. 

The advantage is that there’s nothing to download, but web apps are entirely dependent on the browser you use on the device (which means limited functionalities). They will need an internet connection to work. You might come across the term progressive web app (PWA) – this is a native app running inside a browser.

A PWA leverages web technologies (Cache API, Service Workers, Web App Manifests) to provide a web experience similar to native apps. Nowadays, the newer PWAs offer improved perceived performance, seamless page transitions, some offline functionality, and home screen installation on mobile devices.

Is a progressive web app an attractive option for your business?

Firstly, whether you're using a PWA or a native app, it will definitely bring in more business. They will both help brands improve with their conversions, minimise bounce rates, expand page views as well as session lengths, simply by upgrading their mobile web experience.

Should I go there and will it be an attractive option?

But, is a PWA your solution for your business or is a native app better? It depends on your requirements, your budget, your web presence, do you want to grow your audience or just communicate with your current customers and other factors.

If you’re considering a progressive web app for your next project (or native app), make sure you’re aware of both the pros and cons before you make a decision, they also have potential drawbacks.

This article will help you to determine whether PWA or a native app is for your business as we're listing some benefits as well as limitations for both. 

Native app versus PWAs: which suits your business better?

A native app is called native because it is written in the language of the operating system of the device the app is installed on (IoS or Android, for example). They can be installed on a mobile device but can’t be accessed by a browser. 

A PWA has its limitations and does not provide a native experience to a user as you will see further below - developing a native app in addition to your existing website may be a suitable option for a business. 

To assist with your decision we have listed some benefits and limitations for a PWA or a native app - it depends on your requirement, budget, target audience and other factors.

1. Access

Native apps require a download on your device after which it is accessible to you as a user. A PWA is accessed from a browser/link. 

2. Development Time/Cost

In the case of native app, the majority of apps are already multi-platform (which means they are being built simultaneously - see here), to ensure no major user bases are missed. A PWA can be developed using a single codebase that can run on multiple browsers. Depending on the requirements, costs should be similar. 

3. Functionality

With a native app, you can access all functions on your smartphone. While PWA can access most of the device features, it can not access some functions, however, newer PWAs support GPS, mobile payment, push notification and other functions. 

Note: Before sourcing any development services, businesses should consult with developers about the capabilities they seek in a mobile/web app.

4. App Distribution

Mobile operating systems that have app stores online are Android, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and BlackBerry from where you can download and install apps on your device. These app stores give you discoverability and an audience of new users that are waiting there to be served new and interesting apps. 

For a PWA  you don't need a platform to publish your information as it can be accessed by a browser and shared over a URL - a PWA is a web application only — therefore, it does not appear in any app store.

5. Delivery/discoverability

Native apps are published on multiple app stores and the more discoverable an app is, the more it will be installed by users. To enhance app discoverability app owners should have an effective app store optimisation strategy.

Delivering a PWA is overall easier, but you do have to have a pre-existing audience to whom you’re going to market the app.

6. Performance

Native apps are developed to work directly with the OS for their respective platform, making them faster and more responsive. A PWA should work when there is no connectivity (with at least the screen saying that you need connectivity!).

7. UX experience 

Top three UXD fundamentals

The human brain has a limited amount of processing power. Response time must be fast, so the user doesn’t forget what they were doing before a page loads. This is the design equivalent of walking into the kitchen to grab a book from the table and coming back with no book and a snack. We’re easily distractible creatures.

While PWAs are made to look like native apps, You'll find that they don’t perform like them. Native apps promise high-quality UI and UX - customers expect this nowadays. If you are using a PWA and feel that something is strange or just doesn't flow, you and your customers will avoid using it. With a native app, it’s much simpler and easier to satisfy you and your customer's expectations.

8. Security

PWAs rely on a variety of browsers and underlying technologies such as JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS. Because of their non-standard nature, there will likely be more security and performance issues using web apps. Native apps, on the other hand, benefit from the more proactive security and performance upgrades of the platform itself, and are therefore seen as more secure. 

9. Customer loyalty and branding

Native apps are capable of being more interactive than websites and it's easier to access. Through a native app, you can strengthen your direct relationship between you and your customer gaining their trust, which builds customer loyalty with interactive programs furthering and increasing user engagement. As you probably know from your own experience, once it's downloaded and showing on your smartphone, apps serve as constant reminders of your brand and offering, serving timely messaging that demonstrates an ongoing value to them.

10. Data

On a native app, when your app is downloaded, you can gather additional information about your customer or user which in return you can target that customer or user with specific ads and/ or recommending products based on previous purchases. Obviously, there are data restrictions and you need to be sensitive, but the date may prove highly valuable to your business (and to learn more about your audience/customer/user). And, in addition, more data can help you and your business to meet the ever-increasing customer expectations, creating more relevant buying experiences.

Successful native apps at Page Lizard

We at Page Lizard are continuously looking for ways to improve things using technology. As such, we’ve built many apps that we’re proud of, and if you are interested, here is a link to a few of our recent achievements we’d like to share with you.

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash



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