The web has been around for several decades and weathered competition from native apps several times. The rivalry with native applications has been good for the web because it drives innovation, which progressive web applications are a direct product.
Today businesses are deciding should they chose a native app solution or leverage the web.
The answer is more often than not a progressive web application.
Today’s web has almost 100% feature parity with native app alternatives, but enjoys several distinct advantages.
In recent years consumers have grown fatigued with native apps. By 2015 half of adults did not download an app over the course of an average month. Of the remaining mobile users many only downloaded a single app and most downloads were never opened and often removed.
App stores continues to be a distribution channel of frustration. 30% sales tax, growing requirements and restrictions are making it harder and more expensive to invest in a native app.
On top of that Apple has increased its efforts to restrict access to its store and continues to remove existing apps by the thousands each month.
At the same time the web is an open platform and enjoys the benefits of search engines and hyperlinks as a common way for web sites to be discovered.
This is where progressive web applications can shine, discoverability. If you combine feature parity with the ease of distribution PWAs have the clear advantage.
On top of that, PWAs are often cheaper to develop and maintain. You can even upgrade an existing web site to support the key technical requirements with minimal effort. You will need to serve your site using HTTPS, have a valid web manifest file and register a service worker.
Once you do this your website is automatically elevated to ‘app-like’ status. When someone visits your website all the PWA plumbing is installed and they get the benefits. If you do a great job you can also earn a place on their homescreen.
If the user adds your site to the home screen or desktop your application icon will be visible, making you even more accessible. Plus, you PWA can launch in full-screen mode, just like a native app. Consumers typically cannot tell the difference between a PWA and a native app. They just know they did not need to go through the App Store install process!
From there it is up to you to leverage the many features offered by the web to create a great user experience for your customers and even your employees.
If you want a good place to start your progressive web application journey, check out PWA Starter. This is a free online tool that will walk you through the process of creating your web manifest file, HTML META tags, a service worker and even a nice add to homescreen experience.