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Opinion

Everything you need to know about progressive web apps

Recent studies show that only about one-third of US smartphone owners download any apps in a typical month. This reflects that application downloads have considerably declined in recent times, with web-browsers gaining popularity and continuing to be considered the most trusted platform by users. As customer experience remains key, the fundamental challenge for businesses remains — is it better to develop native apps or make sure that the core website is fully optimised for all devices?

Traditionally, native apps have been the most favoured by companies and are believed to perform faster as they are developed for specific platforms. Apps have the ability to use device-specific hardware and software, and can take advantage of the latest technology such as push notifications available on mobile devices. Although native apps can provide additional advantages, they can also turn out to be highly expensive with upgradation and submissions to app stores such as Apple Store and Google Play.

To optimise the mobile web search experience further for end users, tech giant Google introduced a new technology in the form of Progressive Web Apps (PWA). The prime objective behind PWAs is to deliver reliable, responsive, safe and engaging app-like experience via mobile browsers. PWAs are supposed to be responsive regardless of form factor and browser choice. What’s even more interesting is they are not an app, rather web pages modified with much-loved features of established platforms such as email and web-browsers.

As PWAs are considered to be the future of web-hosted apps and will open new doors in terms of customer outreach, here are some reasons why it makes sense to switch to PWAs:

Optimising the user interface

Placing user experience at the centre of customer engagement and retention will encourage businesses to search for ways to improve web performance. For instance, accessing internet through mobile devices can often be frustrating for users due, in part, to patchy network connection and sites with poor mobile compatibility. As a result of these lame mobile experiences, customers are less likely to revisit websites.

To avoid such outcomes and to keep users with flaky networks happy, companies need to focus on developing Progressive Web Apps, a lighter version of their app allowing quick access to data. This means that the customers can have a fast and engaging experience while visiting the website. Unlike native apps, PWAs are not linked to any app store, which enables users to download it straight from an URL. It also frees consumers from the tedious job of upgrading apps manually as it does this automatically.

Making your website responsive

To ensure that your visitors have an optimal experience it is essential to offer a browser that is highly responsive and flexible to use on any device. By replacing a website for a PWA, companies will provide users with fast and responsive interfaces, enabling instant website load and subsequently eliminating network dependency. Another advantage is that the users can use the app while offline as it utilises cached data from previous online activity. This ensures reliable experience with dynamic functionality allowing users to re-engage with web push notifications.

As web experiences are key on any device, it’s essential to consider your mobile audience. Due to the ease of personalisation, email still remains one of the most important tools for marketers. Hence, it is crucial to be certain that they are optimised and mobile responsive with call-to- action (CTA) buttons. To minimise the chance of being blocked by spam filters and maximise user experience, marketers should ensure that those who click through are sent to a secure and optimised site. While customer retention remains a significant factor in building brand reputation, by optimising email landing pages companies can improve user experience driving value for both businesses and customers.

In the era of digital evolution, communication has evolved with technology allowing businesses to leverage advanced technologies and create relevant tailor-made customer approach. At present, there is a need for businesses to become more mobile-optimised rather than just mobile-compatible. Washington Post, Flipkart – one of the Indian largest e-commerce site, Apple, Magento Commerce to name a few, have already adopted PWAs and are witnessing a significant change. While native apps are not going to be completely ditched, the promise remains that PWAs look as good as native apps offering the best of both worlds.

Rohan Lock is the regional director of APAC at dotmailer.

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