Debunking 5 Common Myths About PWA
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Misconceptions and myths about PWA keep existing. Not a big deal. MPS is here to debunk the most preposterous of them
When Steve Jobs represented the first iPhone in 2007 his idea about mobile applications was nowhere beyond web technologies. There was no App Store in those days as well as no definition of native apps existed. Namely, Jobs was the one who has created the concept subsequently known as “Progressive Web Applications” (PWA). Websites that behaved like ordinary apps with offline capabilities were laying at the core of the concept.
Unfortunately, mobile application development has taken a different path with native SDKs for developers. PWA emerged again about a decade after App Store has been launched. But even today Apple is remaining ambivalent about PWA that multiplies rumors and supports one of the myths of progressive web apps. But more about Apple later.
The present post aims at debunking some popular myths about PWA. This is important since the technology keeps carving its niche in the software market slowly but surely. Every given myth is based on misinterpretations of one or another property of PWA. Let’s separate wishful thinking from the truth to grasp the potential of such a promising technology as progressive web applications.
The Current State of Mobile Applications
Saying that native apps are dominating the mobile market nowadays is the honest truth. About 36.5 billion mobile app downloads happened in the 3-d quarter of 2020 according to Statista. At the same time, we usually use only a handful of our favorite apps in our daily routine. Moreover, only 3 top apps consume the lion’s share of our time.
Another illustrative statistic shows that we spend not much less screen-time on web browsers than on our precious social-media apps: 42% vs 49%. This fact is interesting as such: it seems native apps can unlikely replace web technologies completely anytime soon.
It’s time to recollect what PWA is while getting to the first case among the common myths about PWA. In its essence, PWA is the technology that complements a website with app functionalities. In other words, a progressive web app turns into a hybrid between a website and an app when users launch PWA in a mobile browser. Keeping this notion in mind we can move to the first myth about PWA.
PWA cannot substitute a native app
The favorite app stats suggest that convincing users to pay their attention to a new app is never an easy task. To install a new application a user should take the following steps:
- to visit App Store/Play Store
- to find the app
- to start downloading
- to accept permissions
- to wait until the installation is complete
There is a risk to lose a customer at each step. Besides, an average already-installed app loses 77% of its daily users within only 3 days. After 90 days the percentage reaches 95%. The high cost of development of a native app (especially when it is not a hybrid one and two separate versions for both iOS and Android are to be developed) is worth adding to the cumbersome installation process.
Hence, the following natural question arises: aren’t native apps overestimated?
The issue relates directly to common myths about PWA.
Many users face this question when they reach some popular websites via mobile browsers. There is always a proposition to install a relevant native app there. But if the user experience through the web is excellent (LinkedIn and Medium are the examples), and a native app adds no extra advantage why download megabytes of code to your device memory?
It seems many websites propose their native apps because they simply have the ones. It so happened that the availability of a native app became a must-have attribute of any online project.
Why not optimize the mobile experience for a truly engaging website? This is where the PWA concept comes into play. Tinder PWA, for example, is only 2.8 MB by size while their Android app requires 30 MB of memory storage. The PWA needs less than 5 sec to launch while the Android app needs about 12 sec. Unlikely two ways about better user experience are available.
Perhaps we meet a certain bias when a native app is considered irreplaceable. Only time will tell whether PWA can totally substitute native apps. But one of the myths about progressive web applications has a chance to disappear quite shortly.
PWA is to be created only from scratch
Steve Jobs did not use the “progressive web application” definition in 2007. However, his app development concept was just about PWA in its essence: the apps created under web technologies that could be delivered via the internet.
What internet-based instances do we create? Website, of course. It seems the first half of the task is completed. What’s remaining is to supplement websites with some capabilities inherent in native apps.
This drives us towards another myth about PWA that denies already existing websites to be transformed into PWA.
A starting URL, app icons, and screen orientation are recorded in a manifest.json file. Technically speaking, running a website through HTTPS, Service Worker, and a manifest.json file are sufficient to turn any website to PWA.
As we can see, a progressive web application is not necessarily created from scratch. But it is necessary to know some facts about PWA to debunk the present myth.
PWA is not about big business
What distinguishes a business shark from an insignificant business entity? No, not the size. An ability to control a certain business domain makes a shark a shark. Apple and Google both are sharks since they hold specially created business filters in the form of the App Store and Play Store.
All other businesses have to comply with app-store requirements to reach the end-users of native apps. In addition, the app owners have to pay fees for access to the global consumer audience. And both the size and capitalization of a business do not matter in such a case.
PWA offers a different scenario for business owners. Progressive web applications show the way how to bypass the app-store filters. They enable businesses to sneak into the mobile devices of consumers beyond the sharks.
Such an anti-monopoly property is among the most interesting facts about PWA that have been clearly grasped by many famous business entities. Forbes, Airbnb, Tinder, Wikipedia, Aliexpress, Uber, OLX, Starbucks are just few of the numerous PWA examples available today.
The PWA paradigm is about independence for any sort of business. And this is a big deal.
What other business advantages are inherent in PWA?
- Websites can be accessible with no internet
- The loading speed of websites can be increased many times over (PWA Uber needs only 3 sec to launch even in 2G networks)
- Increased retention rate and improved user engagement (OLX has boosted re-engagement on the mobile web by 250% with PWA)
- Sending push notifications from websites to users
It is also worth remembering that PWA does not prevent using websites in an ordinary mode. And again: the creation of a progressive web application is much cheaper than the development of a native one. As we can see, and this other myth about PWA appears groundless.
PWA is beyond Apple’s interests
As the most valuable company in the world Apple remains a special indicator for technologies and innovations that have a chance to become global trends. That’s why the official Apple’s position regarding PWA really matters.
And this is one of the most common myths about PWA that seems to be supported by Apple itself. The thing is that Apple staff has been careful to avoid mentioning the very PWA term in public conversations. Instead, many of Apple’s specs use various euphemisms such as “HTML5 applications” and “ web applications for home screens”.
There is a suspicion that a covert confrontation between Apple and “the empire of Chromium” is the reason for such weird behavior. Since the goals of Apple are not transparent to the public many rumors and myths about PWA keep flourishing.
Even though Apple’s WebKit team does not support the PWA term a more or less viable user experience for PWA is available on iOS. Apple publishes PWAs from time to time unintentionally in some cases.
Corporate policies stay behind many decisions made by large companies oftentimes. Apple and Google are large companies having their own policies regarding such technology as PWA. Actually, Apple is not the only corporation facing problems with the apps that “resemble native ones”.
Something similar was taking place when Google released their Trusted Web Activity - the guideline for publishing PWAs in Play Store. But in contrast to guys from Cupertino, Google was trying to make decisions that could simplify the development of PWA.
Undoubtedly, Apple realizes that the PWA technology is here to stay. Names and terms do not matter much (If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it probably is a duck, right?). Any digital behemoth may not afford to ignore any promising technology. And Apple is just camouflaging its interest in PWA under the ostentatious disinterest that supports one more myth about PWA. But the facts given above witness the opposite.
PWA is not SEO-friendly
This misconception ignores the main property of PWA: the technology as a whole revolves around the URLs. In fact, PWA is optimized for search even better than anything else. Progressive web applications need no special URL such as mobile.site.com to provide a smooth user experience on smartphones. They automatically adapt to any screen size.
Lower bounce rate, higher conversation rate, and higher click rate are inherent in PWAs since they all are HTTPS-enabled by default. This fact about PWA is crucial to realize why both organic search results and the users’ trust go boosted with PWA.
Another interesting fact about PWA is that each PWA page has its own URL. What is in it for SEO? Search engines can easily crawl and discover such “URL-powered” pages even if they reside somewhere far from your home page or landings. The improved trackability and simplified sharing through social media belong to another SEO advantage of pages with unique URLs.
Many business owners and developers from well-developed countries who create native apps oftentimes tend to ignore the fact that at least half the global population has to use outdated devices covered with 2G-3G internet. But those billions of users behave like typical consumers: they simply leave the apps and websites that are slow to load.
Service Workes enable PWAs to be loaded from the cache even if the internet connection is interrupted. The chance to grab the attention of consumers with older smartphones and poor network connections increases many times over, therefore. The best practices making PWA SEO-friendly are worth learning to get rid of many misconceptions and myths about PWA.
PWA is still at the early stage of development. That’s why numerous myths about PWA keep existing. We were trying to debunk some of them by the present post. We believe that the technology that combines the ease of web and convenience of mobile is worth learning and investing.
Contact us to receive exhaustive information on every aspect of progressive web applications capable of representing your project to the whole world with no constraints inherent in native apps.