Progressive Web Apps Lead in Usability

Allison Pauley
September 1, 2020

We’ve seen a rise in Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) over the past few years, and with good reason. While the term progressive web app might seem new, many of us already interact with them on a daily basis, including Pinterest, Twitter Lite, Starbucks, Forbes, and The Washington Post, to name a few. This begs the question: what are the advantages of a PWA over traditional mobile apps and how do they ultimately benefit the user experience?

Simplicity

A progressive web app eliminates the multi-step, time-consuming process of going to an app store and downloading an app onto a device. Unlike native apps, PWAs can be downloaded straight from the mobile web page onto the home screen, appearing as an icon alongside other apps. The user flow is uncomplicated and fast; reduced down to three mere clicks.

Because PWAs functions as a web page, there is no maintenance required for the user (e.g. updating the app monthly from an app store), which again simplifies upkeep and allows users to interact with the app seamlessly. Being that it’s a web page downloaded onto your device, there is significantly less data (10x less) consumed compared to a native app, a compelling benefit for users concerned with device storage and cost.

Speed

With 40% of users bouncing from sites that take longer than three seconds to load, speed is essential to user engagement. By using caching, loading speed is significantly faster than native apps (in fact, Google has discovered that PWAs are 4x faster) which increases user retention and engagement.

Outreach

By caching data, users can continue to browse the PWA without access to wifi or in low bandwidth environments. With reliable, consistent performance for all users, PWAs can reach a wider audience, thus increasing user engagement. This is critical especially to users living in areas where wifi networks are sparse and/or costly.

And, by using search engine optimization (SEO) specific to a target audience, users can find PWAs through an internet search, rather than through browsing an app store. This again broadens the audience outreach, while simplifying the process for the user. Additionally, content from a PWA can easily be shared between users and various devices via URL, increasing organic growth.

In a PWA case study for Tinder, evidence showed that users swipe more, message more, and have longer session times on web than on their native app. And with the mobile web being used 2.5x more than native apps, a hybrid option like a PWA is, in many ways, a win-win for both the company and the user. But it’s progressive web apps valuable features like simplicity, speed, and outreach that truly enhance the overall user experience.

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