Why Your Next Web Site Should Be A Progressive Web Application
Businesses are always trying to be found, but also ‘engage’ customers for a long term relationship. Important metrics for businesses include search engine ranking, customer acquisition costs and return on investment to name a few. While these are measurable numbers, how do businesses differentiate themselves and provide the experience customers want? Should your business create native applications or a web application?
What is a Progressive Web Application?
At the highest level a PWA is designed for ‘radically improving web user experiences’. This is a broad term that can take on many meanings. To help clarify what this means the Google Chrome team has taken the lead to create a long checklist to help you become a progressive web application. Here are the primary highlights:
- Site Served Using HTTPS
- Includes a Site Manifest file
- Responsive Web Design
- Loads while offline, using a Service Worker
- A Start URL is defined in the site manifest file
- Load Fast (under 3 seconds) On a 3G Connection
- Works Cross Browser
- Page Transitions Do Not Block on Network Calls
- Each Page has a Unique URL
In exchange for meeting these baseline requirements Chrome, on Android, will prompt users on their 2nd visit to add the site to their home screen. When launched from the home screen the browser chrome is suppressed, giving the web site a native application experience. A customer can add a site to the home screen on their desktop as well, but for now there is no native prompting experience.
Microsoft Edge has supported a variation of a progressive web application for the past year or so. If your site is HTTPS and has a manifest file it can be converted to a Hosted Web Application. This means your site can be added to the Windows Application Store and again opened without the browser chrome. To make this even easier for businesses, Microsoft will start automatically added sites with a manifest file to the store in the coming months. Once in the store site owners can customize the store experience for their web applications.
Progressive Web Application Business Values
At this point you are probably asking how much will this cost and is there any real business value. The costs should be minimal. Creating a web manifest file is simple. The Google Developer’s site has a good walk through with some boilerplate code. Once you have created a manifest, upload it to your site’s root folder and include a reference to the manifest in your document’s HEAD.
The next key component is HTTPS. This requires a security certificate. In the past this was a expensive part of hosting a secure site for many small businesses. Over time the cost has dropped significantly, to practically free. In fact if you are using AWS and their CloudFront CDN you can create a security certificate for free and apply it to your domain for free. The process takes about 60 seconds, depending on how long it takes you to receive the verification e-mail. Other free options include letsencrypt.org, but will require more technical expertise.
Since the cost to become a PWA are relatively low, what about improved user engagement numbers? Several large sites have implemented PWA requirements over the past year and begun to share their experiences. Alibaba.com increased customer conversions by 76% and increased average monthly users by 14% and 30% on iOS and Android respectively. Housing.com stated native application user acquisition cost of 0.07 for their PWA. They also reported a 30% page load time improvement and 38% increased conversions. MakeMyTrip.com says PWA users book 3 times more than native app users.
This is just a sampling of numbers shared at the recent Google Chrome Developer Summit. Your specific business statistics will of course vary. With relatively low costs to become a progressive web application there is only room to grow by adding the minimal requirements. The nice thing about becoming a progressive web application is you do NOT need to change anything about your existing site’s structure. Adding a manifest file does not require any application coding change. Becoming HTTPS only increases your customer trust, not to mention helps your search engine rankings. Again HTTPS does not require any application code changes.
Each browser vendor is looking to define their progressive web application experience. 2017 will be a year where we see explosive growth in PWAs as each platform is pushing enhanced user experiences with PWAs. Initial experiences demonstrate customers engaging with progressive web applications more than native applications. A PWA has many advantages over native applications because they are cheaper to developer, maintain and deploy. You do not need to share revenue with the platform vendor and can update anytime you need without app store friction.
If you would like to upgrade your web site or application to a progressive web application feel free to contact us. We can perform a simple audit to tell you what you need to do. Of you would like we can even perform the upgrade for you.