What are Progressive web apps (PWAs)?

If you're involved in mobile application development, chances are that you’ve already come across progressive web applications (PWAs) and know that they're slowly replacing native applications. For users, PWAs are applications that are easy to use, require less data and storage, and most importantly offer a frictionless UX—one of the main reasons behind this shift from traditional web applications.

As per a report by Forrester, better UX design can yield conversion rates of up to 400%. That’s why, for businesses, investing in UX has become equally as important as investing in the overall functionality of an application. And to achieve this goal, PWAs are the perfect choice. Add a comparatively short development cycle and cost-effectiveness into the mix, and it gets even better.

So what exactly are PWAs? And what makes them better than native applications, both from a user and business point of view?

Understanding progressive web apps

Progressive web applications (PWA) are simple mobile-friendly versions of web pages that can be installed like an application directly from a website, without the involvement of any app store. What makes them better than traditional web or native applications is their ability to run offline and with lower internet bandwidth—and it does all that while supporting functionalities like in-app payments, API integrations, and more, on top of being SEO-friendly.

That said, these applications work like any other web application. They have their home screen icon and the app launches without the help of any other browser. It's just that the user gets to access the application in a more seamless, friction-free way, as compared to other web or native applications.

This happens because PWAs are built on frameworks like HTML or CSS, and can be pushed directly to users without listing them on different app stores. From a user standpoint, this helps in avoiding navigation and directly installing the app. For businesses, this helps in saving on third-party costs involved in app store listings and developing apps repeatedly for different platforms.

As a result of all these factors, the application retention and adoption rate is relatively high. Gartner predicts that progressive web apps will replace 50% of general-purpose, consumer-facing mobile applications by 2020.

In other words, PWAs are here to stay.

Now let’s take a look at how businesses who've already rolled out PWAs are performing:

For BookMyShow, a popular ticketing portal, the aim of the PWA was to enable checkout within 30 secs for its users—and here's what they achieved:

  • Their PWA application is only about 440KB—54 times smaller than the Android app and 180 times smaller than the iOS app.

  • On 2G networks, the initial load time is just 4 seconds.

  • Even for personalized movie suggestions, the PWA takes less than 2.94 seconds

  • They've seen an 80+% increase in conversion rates.

For MakeMyTrip, a PWA resulted in a 3x improvement in their conversion rate:

  • Page-load speed improved by 38%.

  • There was a 160% increase in shopper sessions.

Twitter’s PWA, one of the earliest PWAs rolled out, improved Twitter app’s performance significantly:

  • 65% increase in pages per session

  • 75% increase in Tweets sent

  • 20% decrease in bounce rate

  • 10M push notifications a day

The difference between PWAs and native applications

Apart from their user-friendliness, there are many reasons why rolling out PWAs is a financially better choice for enterprises—especially if they're still in the initial phase of planning a mobile application to capitalize on the mobile app segment of their target audience. Here’s why PWAs are likely to replace native applications in the near future:

Shorter development cycle

Unlike native applications, businesses don’t need extended development processes to make their PWA available for different versions, like Android, iOS or the Web. They just need to build a single application. Consequently, this shortens the app development cycle and speeds up the roll-out process of the application. This also turns out to be a cost effective alternative for businesses, both in terms of development and third-party listing prices.

No app store friction

On average, it takes about 6 clicks for a user to install a native application from any app store, and with each click, you stand to lose potential users. With PWAs, your users don’t face this app store friction. All they need to do is go to the app URL, try the app, and if they continue to use it, you can ask them to install it.

Less storage and data consumption

The average size for an Android app is 15 MB and for iOS it's 38 MB. However, most PWAs are less than 1 MB. This helps in reducing their average load time and allows users to access them easily, without spending much data or storage on their mobile devices. For instance, Uber’s PWA is 50 Kb and takes only 3 seconds to load on a 2G mobile network.

While businesses are keen to expand their digital footprint using capable and secure PWAs, one bottleneck that they face is their overburdened tech teams. Building any application is both time- and cost-intensive, so app ideas usually get stuck in the pipeline. That's why low-code platforms have become a popular choice for developing PWAs.

Why build PWAs on low-code platforms?

Building PWAs on low-code platforms not only involves less complicated development processes, but also lets you build applications with just the right customizations to make it suitable for your target users. Here’s how you can leverage low-code platforms to develop secure and capable PWAs:

Faster time to market

Apart from having access to a drag-and-drop building tool, low-code platforms offer ready-to-use code snippets, built-in components, and sandbox features to help developers in building and testing applications much faster. Plus, as PWAs just need a single version, with no app store licenses to worry about, businesses are able to roll out capable applications in much less time compared to traditional web or native apps.

Convert existing native apps to PWA with zero effort

If your business is already running native applications built on low-code platforms, then these apps can be converted into PWAs without any additional development effort. This happens because low-code platforms develop native applications for different platforms on a single codebase. So when you want a PWA, it's easily spun out from the existing application codebase with almost no work needed on your part.

Build PWAs with powerful capabilities

With low-code platforms, PWAs can be built with the same capabilities that are supported by native applications. Additionally, these applications can also support offline functionality, access to mobile devices’ capabilities, and any other customization that's required by the application to enhance the end-user experience.

As you can see, PWAs require less investment as compared to native apps, and have more user-friendly attributes, making them highly sought after applications for businesses. Creating them on a low-code platform further enhances all the benefits of a PWA and helps businesses in rolling out more capable and secure applications.

Explore more about PWA

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  • Akhilesh Balakrishnan

    Akhilesh is a product marketer at Zoho Creator with a focus on citizen development and its importance in the future of IT. If not at work, you can find him watching sports, reading politics, or listening to heavy metal.


  • Norma VincentFebruary 22, 2021 at 6:16 PM

    This is really informative and effective. This step-by-step guide on how to use progressive web apps is very useful to me. Thank you for this great share. I will be sharing this with developers.


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