Smartphones, mobile apps and the digital world all have one thing in common – the ability to provide instant assistance, no matter where and when it is required. We’ve long since been stressing on the increased dependency towards smartphones and their various tools by today’s consumers, and there’s no doubt that everything which follows in the software development sphere revolves around this very dependency. Many leading apps, for example, have become household terms thanks to their competency in providing quick and valuable services – at a tap and swipe. This on-demand lifestyle is now the norm, and isn’t due to reduce traction any time soon.
On top of that, let’s not forget the accumulation of data via even the simplest mobile transaction. Businesses now understand that data is an essential component in order to determine what each customer likes or dislikes, and accordingly suggest the right products/services. While a mobile presence (be it via a responsive website or an application) can establish brand recognition and trust, it can also be a powerhouse for sourcing and analysing trends among your customers. But then again, there’s also no disputing the fact that your competitors are also realising the magnitude that data holds for their own businesses too.
In this case, content becomes an abundant resource for users across the board; whether its independent websites or social media, consumers are inundated with content that for the most part, just gets overlooked due to being in sheer excess. Every brand, both big and small isn’t immune to this problem, so a very key question to address is – how do you stand out from your competitors? Mobile app development companies in Sri Lanka, for example, work with numerous clients on an offshore basis around the globe by being geared with development strategies that are uniquely customised for each client, and only after conducting a competitor analysis to help identify what the final strategy should constitute.
In today’s digitally oriented world, there’s no doubt that any business which wants to stay at the forefront needs to be active across the board – from a robust mobile presence via an application, to leading social networks. As routine marketing duties focus on increasing awareness on a daily basis, it is important to remember that business development is only effective if product development has been optimally established. In other words, building and maintaining a mobile app that helps users obtain what they need from your business and therefore adds value to their lives is the first task you need to adhere to before marketing your brand (and your app) to the world.
This is because your app will be the main touch point (if not the first) towards truly interacting with your brand for obtaining something that adds value to your customers’ lives i.e. your products and/or services. Marketing, whether digitally or otherwise will only help to increase exposure and preliminary engagement. As a result, building and deploying the right app is what will benefit both you as well as your business. Besides, a great app may also generate organic engagement without much advertising! This is where the aspect of progressive web apps come in, and just how this variant of apps and app development can drastically alter your online potential – for the greater good.
In your smartphone, you may have several apps that help you send text messages, hail a taxi or stay up-to-date with your friends over a social network. These are all independent apps (otherwise called native apps) which need to be downloaded from the App or Play Store, and then installed before use.
Now imagine a website that is accessible from your mobile browser, but acts and feels just like an app. It’s got everything that your regular Native app has to offer – a smooth user interface, swift data retrieval and even a shortcut on the home screen. However, there are a few more advantages to the progressive web app; they have the ability to work offline thanks to service workers and offer greater search engine visibility.
Leading brand names, including e-commerce retailers and social networks have adopted progressive web apps for their consumers for heightening use during poor connectivity and data lags. What with almost every organisation jumping on the bandwagon, it’s important to understand why many are switching over to progressive web apps.
One of the biggest challenges pertaining to Native app development is the creation of multiple app versions in order to suit different operating systems, screen dimensions and phone models. With a progressive web app, all that needs to be ensured is responsiveness, irrespective of any of the variables outlined previously. Since the PWA works over a browser, only support from the browser is required for the app to work optimally. In turn this makes overall development and testing easy and convenient, while also offering users an app experience that’s seamless and undisturbed.
By simply accessing via a mobile browser, adding a home screen shortcut and enabling push notifications makes future accessibility all the more flexible, which results in higher engagement as a result. But that’s not the only reason why PWAs attract more engagement. Since the app is able to function in the absence of poor connectivity, cached data can be displayed for as long as it is required, until connectivity resumes. This makes the app usable, thereby increasing engagement overall.
Speaking about connectivity, PWAs by nature are developed to use minimal data, which makes them more versatile furthermore. These apps are ideal for customers in countries or regions that consist of limitations in terms of internet connectivity, and they therefore increase interactions between consumers and the app for greater business benefit.
With all the attractive qualities of a Native app, using a PWA that feels just the same whether it’s in terms of UI or load times (but with less data consumption and with greater search engine visibility) makes this a no-brainer even for businesses who have established Native apps in the first place.
As mentioned before, the ability of PWAs to function in the absence of poor internet connectivity is one of the biggest advantages, by and large. This is made possible through service workers, which by acting as a proxy between the internet network and the PWA, cache information to be used in the event of being offline.
Sure, any updates to the content cannot be generated until the internet connection resumes, but being able to make use of the information that is already available at hand is still resourceful, especially during circumstances that can manage with cached data for prolonged periods of time for e.g. a digital map in due course of navigating from one point to another.
As PWAs are generated via your smartphone’s browser, they function via a URL, just like a regular website. This in turn creates the opportunity for the URL to be tracked by search engines, and even perform search engine optimisation to ensure the page ranks at the very top for relevant keywords.
This is one of the ways that product development by means of maintaining a PWA helps digital marketers in your team to also take advantage of the URL availability, thereby enhancing the quality of online marketing that is carried out for greater visibility.
While many tools exist for the purpose of building a PWA, Google Developers have long since been at the forefront of developing the very same. That’s why most of the tools that developers rely on for building a PWA stem from Google; whether it’s APIs or auditing, Google Developer has an entire suite of tools available for the creation and maintenance of PWAs that attain appropriate standards and function resiliently.
Lighthouse is one such integral tool. Used to audit websites, this is a great starting point for those who already have a well-functioning website and need to know where any deficiencies lie, so they can be corrected and a PWA be built as an extension to the overall upgrade. Most experts recommend using Lighthouse to audit websites prior to building PWAs, or even if you are considering the creation of a PWA, in order to ensure that the final outcome is one that is relevant to the user, is easy to operate and is free from any glitches.
All in all, there are four basic constituents to any PWA:
This is a file that contains all the meta information of your app. The name of the app, colour schemes and icon information are some examples.
The service worker is an event-driven worker which acts as a proxy between your internet connection and the application. The service worker is responsible for caching data and then displaying it in the event of a poor connection.
This can be a basic jpeg image file, which is needed for the home screen shortcut and therefore, easy access.
Whether or not you deal with e-commerce operations via your PWA, it is always recommended to establish HTTPS in any website or app so that your platform remains secure. This can also give users a sense of safety, and thereby trust your website/app enough to interact with it.
The digital landscape is driven by smartphones, 24/7 connectivity and of course, apps. What’s more, the on-demand lifestyle has given rise to consumer expectations that are higher than ever before, especially in the context of endless choices and competition between businesses. Users rarely have the patience to wait for pages to load, and the slightest lag can cause abandonment. With so many alternative options available, consumers aren’t at the mercy of one brand alone, and it isn’t long until they’re won over by the competition. In the midst of it all, let’s not forget the importance of data. With every unit of data being considered as the ‘king’ of the business world, there’s no doubt that analysing data right can lead to prosperous turnovers, but also provide users exactly what they need to keep them satisfied.
However, this data cannot be sourced arbitrarily, or through outdated means. An app will be the main, if not the first, touchpoint for your users to not just interact with your brand, but also obtain what they desire in order to add value to their own lives. Therefore, it is essential to maintain a mobile presence that is easy to access and use, even in the wake of hindrances such as poor internet connectivity.
Enter progressive web apps, the more versatile counterpart of Native apps. Unlike its Native cousin, PWAs offer all the perks that we have come to associate with apps, but with a few more advantages. First of all, since the PWA has been based off of a mobile website, it doesn’t need to be tailored to different operating systems, screen dimensions and phone models. This makes it faster when loading, and can be accessed via a home screen shortcut, just like a Native app.
One of the biggest advantages include the ability to use a PWA in the absence of an internet connection, thanks to service workers which help cache the latest version of data. Until connectivity resumes, this data will be accessible and usable, thereby making the app all the more valuable. As for the tools needed to make PWAs possible, Google Developer is one such resource that consists of Lighthouse, an audit tool which enables any website to see its potential in PWAs by showing where improvements can be made.