PWA vs Mobile Web: Which way to go and why?

Way back in time when smartphones just started to gain popularity, responsive design was embraced as the first design principle to help websites perform better for mobile users. Responsive and mobile-optimized web design quickly became the key requirement for all websites and soon the vast majority of websites embraced it to deliver a smooth and engaging web user experience.

This norm soon went one step further to make standalone mobile websites the new digital trend. Stand-alone mobile website versions besides their desktop version could offer different user experiences optimized for mobile users. But still, the mobile web couldn’t deliver advanced features such as offline access, push notification messages, and native app-like user experience. This is where Progressive Web Apps or PWAs step in.

Progressive Web Apps (PWA): Websites that mimic native apps

Though a progressive web app, to a great extent, looks and feels like the native app, it actually isn’t an app but a website. Like a website, it is developed by using tried and tested technologies such as CSS, HTML5, and JavaScript. Yes, app prototyping design tools are also utilized to shape the look and feel of PWAs, just like native apps.

Unlike regular websites, a PWA, after detecting the device screen size, delivers the befitting version of the visitors’ target device screen. In contrast, a mobile website is designed once and for all with a fixed mobile-optimized layout considering the common mobile screen dimensions. Naturally, PWAs offer a more device-optimized look and feel with a great user experience.

Let us explain other value propositions of PWA that make it popular over the traditional mobile web.

Push Notification

The big differentiator between progressive web apps and mobile web is the push notification. Progressive Web App offers a popup to ask the user to subscribe to push notification messages. Any user can subscribe to get the push notifications sent by the respective website. As and when the user subscribes, the user gets a unique subscription ID. This feature puts PWAs at par with the native apps in direct app-like communication with the users.

For many consumer-focused web services, PWAs opened opportunities for real-time communication for marketing and customer support. This app-like feature is a key value proposition of PWA that makes marketers turn to this web technology instead of sticking to mobile apps.

Home screen access

PWAs can be directly accessed from the smartphone Home Screen by clicking on an icon. Once you open a website, you can save the web link with its brand icon on the Home Screen and can access the website just like any other native app.

On Android, the users get Home Screen icons of PWAs directly, while on the iOS Safari browser, you need to choose the option “Add to Home screen” to save the website link with its icon. Home Screen access allows a website to create a more visible digital brand identity, just like apps.

Closer level of device integration

PWAs are more device optimized to help users get a more smartphone-specific user experience than many websites. Apart from running across all types of mobile devices across multiple platforms, PWAs allows accessing device features, capabilities, and sensors like GPS, camera, accelerometer, gyrometer, face recognition, and location data more easily for a variety of needs.

Faster Loading Speed & offline access

PWAs use “App Shell”, containing the code ready to be cached to the target mobile device when loaded for the first time. Once it is cached to the mobile device, in subsequent times, it can load instantly, just like a native mobile app. Web contents cached locally in the mobile device, ensure superfast app performance.

The same local caching allows offline access to content with ease. Thanks to localizing caching of the data, PWAs can be accessed without an internet connection, and as soon as the connection is restored, the app is updated.

It is great for SEO and SEM just like mobile web

Responsive websites and mobile web were always highly regarded for their output in Search Engine ranks and Search Engine marketing output. Even Google search algorithms give importance to the mobile web for their superior performance and user experience.

PWAs being the same high-performance mobile websites with more value-added features, actually fulfil search engine criteria of performance and ease of use, just like mobile web if not better. If you employ the same search ranking attributes, PWAs and mobile web offer similar mileage in search ranks and search engine marketing.

Awesome mobile user experience without a huge cost burden

Progressive web apps can give your old website a facelift by turning it into a high-quality, high-performance, and feature-rich app while you spend the same as your regular web development budget. That means while you actually deliver something closer to fully-fledged apps, you don’t need to spend as much as the native mobile apps.

On the other hand, hiring the right talents for your project gets easier since PWAs can develop by using the same tried and tested web technologies such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. You can also stay clear of the worries over selecting platforms and the app testing tools.

PWA vs Mobile Web: Conclusion

So, should you opt for PWA? With such big advantages and promises on offer, already big brands such as Twitter, Flipkart, Lyft, Starbucks, and several others have embraced PWAs. With the emergence of PWAs, responsive websites and mobile web are increasingly becoming a thing of the past. Since PWAs offer everything of the mobile web and a lot more, the comparison will always favour it as the cutting edge and most well-equipped web technology so far. So, if you want to get the best of web and mobile presence with one solution, PWA should be your choice.

Your comments are welcome!

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