What is Progressive Web App design and why is it significant?

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What is Progressive Web App design and why is it significant?

What is progressive web app design? And why is it significant?

The term, ‘Progressive web app’ was introduced in 2015 by Alex Russell, a developer at Google, and Frances Berriman.

Recounting a conversation Alex had with a colleague the night before, he explained that it was critical to create a new kind of application for users. It needed to be:

Progressive: uses progressive enhancement principles to work for any browser choice and settings. (And of course, where the name comes from!)

Responsive: to work seamlessly on any screen size device and browser

Connectivity independent: ability to work offline

App-like: create navigations and interactions that felt like a native app

Fresh: Transparently always up-to-date

Safe: to prevent snooping

Discoverable: allowing search engines to find them

Re-engageable: e.g. Push Notifications

Installable: allowing users to “keep” PWAs without the hassle of an app store or needing to open the browser

Linkable: zero-friction, zero-install, and easy to share.

Was all of this possible?

It was and it still is. Alex Russell came up with a fitting name for this approach - ‘progressive web app design’ - as it is a pretty forward-thinking approach. It combines the personalised, engaging format of a native app with the seamless technology of a website. The end result is a highly usable, intuitive and accessible application that doesn’t require a download by the user.

This is significant because native mobile apps are a really mixed bag of pros and cons. On the plus side, they can access inbuilt tools on your phone, like your camera and files, and provide in-app notifications to enhance your service.

Many people still favour native apps over the web because they perceive native apps as more secure, but they actually offer multiple barriers to use. Research shows that users drop out at every stage of accessing a new native app. From the point of viewing an app in the iOS Store or Google Play Store, to the point of actually using it, about 20% of users will drop off.

Progressive Web App design can help

The beauty of progressive web apps is that they have solved many of the accessibility issues of a native app (anyone can view a web app on their phone without needing to download anything). And, they offer a similar, sometimes almost identical, user experience to that of a native app. This is possible thanks to the way they’re built.

Progressive web app design uses common web languages like HTML, CSS and JavaScript. It’s the approach and the way the code is applied that makes a difference. Often, companies will build a progressive web app as an additional option to a native app on iOS or Android. This is a really great way to deliver choice and value to users - they can select their preferred format and away they go!

A perfect example was when working with one of our long-term clients, Vodafone, we built a PoC to demonstrate the smoothness of a PWA and compared this directly to Native – stakeholders couldn’t tell the difference.

Progressive Web App design in action

At Digital Detox, we believe in using technology to solve needs, simplify processes and delight users. With this in mind, we apply the best technology format to each project based on our customers’ needs first. The technology is merely an enabler!

Progressive web apps combine clever technology with a user-based approach to development. They solve a big user need by providing an intuitive interface that is easy to access and secure to use. But, whilst it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the technology, it’s really important to remember what matters; people, connection and experiences.

Progressive web apps are only as good as the problems they solve and the opportunities they create. As a business, we’ll continue creating progressive web apps that benefit the environment, save time, improve people’s lives and genuinely make a difference. This is truly progressive.

Our work

To find out more about Digital Detox and what we do for clients, take a look at our portfolio. We take a human-centered approach and have been fortunate to work across a wide range of industries and subject-matter. Our ethos is simple: do good. For people, the environment and our wider world, we believe we have a unique opportunity to use our experience and skills as a cross-functional team to build products that benefit those around us.

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss any challenges you’re facing and we’ll find a way to help you achieve your goals.