Smartphones on a tabletop with one phone displaying a white PWA logo on an orange phone screen.

What Is a Progressive Web App (PWA)?

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In today’s digital age, the widespread development and adoption of mobile apps have fundamentally transformed how we manage nearly every aspect of our lives. Thanks to the continuous advancement of technology, mobile apps cater to virtually every need imaginable, from banking transactions to food delivery, learning new languages to shopping online, and even complex tasks like booking flights or purchasing property. While they were once the domain of large corporations due to high development and maintenance costs, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) are increasingly venturing into this space. But, with app development costs ranging from $5,000 to over $500,000, how can SMEs afford such expenses, let alone manage ongoing maintenance and updates? One solution is Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). PWAs are a cost-effective alternative to Native Apps that are reshaping the way we think about applications, opening up new possibilities for businesses coast to coast.

In this article, we will explore the topic of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and answer three of the most frequently asked questions today:

  1. What is a Progressive Web App?
  2. What Is the Difference between a Native Mobile App and a Progressive Web App?
  3. What Is the Difference between a Website and a Progressive Web App?

What is a Progressive Web App?

An image of one phone on a grey surface displaying a white Progressive Web Apps logo on an orange phone screen.

A Progressive Web App (PWA) is an application that seamlessly combines the benefits of native mobile apps available in the App Store or Google Play with traditional web apps found online. Leveraging modern web technologies, including HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, PWAs offer responsive, offline functional, and cross-compatible apps at a fraction of the cost of building conventional native applications. Easily discoverable by popular search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, PWA installation is as simple as searching, signing in, and downloading. Today, some of the most well known businesses have PWAs, including Airbnb, Instagram, Medium, Pinterest, Spotify, Starbucks, Tinder, and Uber. Now that we have a clearer understanding of PWAs let’s further explore its benefits for businesses.

Cross-platform Compatibility

PWAs are designed to cater to all users, platforms, and devices, spanning desktops, smartphones, and tablets. This flexibility allows businesses to deliver a consistent user experience (UX), which helps build trust, reduce cognitive load, and strengthen brand identity.

Lower Development and Maintenance Costs

By leveraging the cross-platform compatibility of PWAs, businesses eliminate the need to develop two distinct mobile apps — one for iOS and another for Android. As a result, they significantly reduce the cost of app development and maintenance, freeing resources to be used in other critical areas of the company’s operations.

Offline Functionality

One of the most significant advantages of PWAs is their offline or compromised network capabilities. Through a process known as caching, PWAs efficiently store information and data, enabling businesses to provide users with an uninterrupted experience. This capability not only encourages user engagement but also enhances product loyalty and prolongs customer retention rates.

What Is the Difference between a Native Mobile App and a Progressive Web App?

An image of two phones on a grey surface. The phone on the left is displaying a white Android symbol on a blue phone screen while the one on the right is displaying a white PWA logo on an orange phone screen.

While Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and Native Mobile Apps share many similarities, they also exhibit significant differences. As mentioned previously, PWAs excel in their capacity to seamlessly function across various devices and platforms. Native Apps, on the other hand, are built to operate exclusively on specific operating systems, meaning an app developed for iOS will not automatically work on Android and vice versa. Therefore, businesses targeting users on both iOS and Android platforms must develop separate native apps for each. This also means businesses are likely to encounter the inherent challenges of app stores, including prolonged app review processes, subscription costs for app store access, and delays in updating their app.

Despite these challenges, native apps typically deliver faster performance, smoother animations, and better overall responsiveness. This advantage stems from their ability to harness the full capabilities of the device’s hardware and software, which means they can also access features such as fingerprint ID, face ID, and push notifications. Additionally, native apps provide a convenient installation process. While PWAs may present downloading challenges for users, particularly on Apple devices, native apps benefit from being easily discoverable and accessible through the device’s app store.

What Is the Difference between a Website and a Progressive Web App?

An image of two phones on a grey surface. The phone on the left is displaying a white website symbol on a dark blue phone screen while the one on the right is displaying a white PWA logo on an orange phone screen.

Although Websites and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are similarly accessible through online browsers, each software application has its own unique advantages and characteristics. Websites serve as foundational online platforms that are valuable for sharing essential information with a global audience. Typically offering static content, websites act as information hubs, allowing users to explore details about businesses, products, or services. While they are accessible on mobile devices, websites lack the dynamic app-like user experience provided by PWAs, which include advanced responsiveness, enhanced interactivity, and the convenience of installation directly on a mobile home screen. Furthermore, websites heavily depend on constant internet connectivity for users to access content, limiting functionality in offline situations. While websites remain crucial for establishing an online presence in today’s digital economy, PWAs represent a more advanced approach to digital interaction.

• • •

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) continue to grow and evolve as a top software solution for businesses everywhere. Once limited to Native and Hybrid Apps, major corporations and local SMEs alike are beginning to embrace the benefits of PWAs. While Native Apps and Websites still play an important role today, it is clear that PWAs are no longer a developmental concept but a practical solution for organizations worldwide.

Are you looking to develop an app for your business? Wondering if a PWA could be the right fit for you? Connect with us today to explore the possibilities and advantages of constructing a PWA tailored to your business needs!

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Vertical Motion is a trusted Canadian software development and entrepreneur assistance company that has supported the global efforts of startups, non-profits, B2B, and B2C businesses since 2006. With headquarters in Calgary and Kelowna, and team members coast to coast, Vertical Motion is recognized as an award-winning leader in the technology industry. Our team of executive advisors, project managers, software developers, business analysts, marketing specialists, and graphic designers have extensive experience in several industries including — Energy, Finance, Blockchain, Real Estate, Health Care, Clean Technology, Clothing & Apparel, Sports & Recreation, Software as a Service (SaaS), and Augmented & Virtual Reality (AR/VR).

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Picture of Ty Mikitka
Ty Mikitka

Marketing | Communications | Sales Specialist at Vertical Motion

Image Credit for Smartphone Mockups | Freepik

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