Looking for a faster, cheaper, and easier way to build, manage and maintain a mobile app for your organization? A progressive web app might be the answer.
Traditional native mobile apps like those launched in the Apple or Google Play app stores can be a bit involved to build, manage, and maintain. Depending on the platform (iOS for Apple or Android for everything else), they require deep working knowledge of a variety of highly specialized programming languages—and if you’re planning on releasing the app across different types of devices, you will essentially need to build two separate apps (or figure out a way to translate one to the other by building a cross-platform app, which is almost more labor-intensive). This translates into duplication of development work across code bases and a variety of complications: more cost and more time building, managing, and updating separate apps.
Luckily, there’s a better way.
What is a progressive web app?
To the user, a progressive web app (PWA) looks and behaves just like any other mobile app. It can be accessed by its own icon, and when open it’s virtually indistinguishable from a native app. The difference is that the PWA is running in a browser—which makes it easier, faster, and cheaper to build and support.
Want to see real-life examples?
Starbucks developed this PWA. You can check it out by visiting, app.starbucks.com, on your mobile phone.
The “progressive” in progressive web apps comes from the use of service workers, code scripts that can approximate a native app experience by allowing users to access the app even while offline. In the Starbucks PWA, for example, ordering obviously isn’t possible without a connection, but users can still be able to open to the home screen and read the beverage menu—something common in native apps but relatively unheard of in web browsers.
There are a few tradeoffs for choosing a PWA over a native app, but in many instances a PWA is a more effective solution for company and user needs because it is easier to create and maintain. Here are the main benefits.
Progressive web apps save development time
Another benefit is that in a progressive web app, there is one code base for the app, rather than separate code bases for iOS and Android versions. That means one set of updates rather than multiple and less troubleshooting across platforms—and as PWAs are web based, updates to the app happen automatically and don’t require users to download them to access the latest security features or improvements.
Progressive web apps are more accessible and easier to launch
It’s not easy to launch an app in the Apple App Store. There is a tedious approval process with high (and, some would argue, arbitrary) standards for acceptance, along with high competition with other apps. In addition, having to visit an app store (iOS or Android) to download an app adds another required step in the buyer journey. Requiring potential users to visit an app store and follow through on their intent to download the app creates friction and may lose potential users in the process. By contrast, a progressive web app can be downloaded directly from anywhere—a company website, an email attachment, or anywhere in the cloud.
To be fair, there are a few tradeoffs that make native apps a better choice for app store launches. If your app depends on integration with other native mobile apps (such as calendars or social media apps like Facebook) or in-app purchases that would normally be handled through an app store, a native app might be a better solution. And if your heart is set on launching in an app store, a progressive web app adds some complexity to that process as it requires extra steps for approval.
But for internal apps and a large array of customer-facing ones, the benefits of an app store launch don’t outweigh the drawbacks of an easier development process and a simpler launch process. In these cases, a progressive web app is a practical, lightweight solution to your needs.
Progressive web apps save your company money
Both above advantages are benefits in themselves, but progressive web apps also translate into lower costs for development and maintenance. Time is money in many aspects of business, and software development is no exception. Why build a native app in multiple codebases, resulting in up to twice the development costs, for no real advantage? Why make your app more difficult and expensive to update and maintain, requiring even more developer or DevOps professional time, when you could invest in a process that’s easier to support internally?
The truth is that if a more lightweight progressive web app can accomplish what you and your users need, it is a far wiser, better use of company resources. By saving developer time and simplifying the process, your company could benefit significantly in terms of cost savings and ROI. And because PWAs are easier to maintain and extend, that time and money saved extends into the future with quicker, less complicated updates.
Interested in determining if a progressive web app or a native app is the right fit for your organization? At MercuryWorks, we can guide you through each step of the process and advise you on what type of development solution will work best for you. Reach out to us today.