7 minutes of reading

Features of progressive web apps

PWA, as a trending approach to the mobile channel, is often compared one-to-one with native applications. However, to make a fully informed business decision, it‘s vital to precisely establish the features of PWAs and point out the differences and similarities between them and native apps.

Progressive web apps became a hot topic in the media. However, media coverage is often a little bit shallow and focused on finding simple answers, like are PWA capabilities better or worse than those of native apps, for example. Meanwhile, we shouldn’t just compare progressive web apps’ features to their native app competitors. They can bring benefits even to a company that already has an app. They’re cross-platform, and dividing the shopping experience into a variety of platforms is less and less effective in the omnichannel era.

It’s evident that not every user is keen to install or use a native app. They may, however, still drop by the website from time to time. So, providing the best possible user experience on the web should be a goal in and of itself. PWA features, which combine the reach of the web and the user experience of a native app, allow you to do just that.


The core features of a PWA

Capability of offline work

Progressive web apps are not only ultra-fast apps. They can also continue to work even when the user is offline or has an unreliable or slow internet connection. Service workers, the technology responsible for that feature, allow the app to store things offline and flexibly manage network requests to retrieve them from the local cache. It leads straight to another benefit which is minimizing the amount of data we need to use to run the app.

Discoverability and easy installation

One of the most important PWA functionalities is its discoverability. A PWA, since it’s a website with some extras, can be found through regular search engines, like Google or Bing. There’s no need to dig through the piles of apps popping up every day in the sea of apps on the app stores. A PWA's installation is a piece of cake: it happens in the background during the first visit.

Using device features

PWAs have a lot of functionalities to access device features on Android and a few less on iOS. The usage of a camera, GPS, or fingerprint scanner in an app-like way enriches the user's experience.

Automatic updates

Launching a new version of a mobile app can be a nightmare for publishers. With a PWA, there’s no need to wait for Apple's or Google's acceptance to have users' download the update. All we have to do is upload new files to our server. PWA features allow publishers to implement patches immediately, for example. It enables them to keep full control of the content. Customers always use the most current version of the application.


By using the HTTPS protocol, the data we transmit is encrypted, so it’s more difficult to intercept and change. Users also perceive HTTPS as a guarantee of the safety and reliability of publishers, and Google provides additional points in the search ranking for using it.

App-like experience

The whole idea behind PWAs is finding a way to connect the best possible experience, an app-like one, with the open nature of the web.

From a user perspective, the differences between PWA features and native apps can be barely noticeable, excluding the way of downloading. However, the methods of building, launching, updating, and sharing PWAs are entirely different from native apps.

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Cost-effective development of PWAs

While talking about PWA features, we have to mention how cost-effective this technology is. Clutter in the app stores, a dangerous dependence on giants like Google and Apple, and fees have already pushed developers to look for an alternative to native solutions. Products like Windows Hosted Apps and Electron were the first trials to use web technologies to create apps that could exist outside the browser.

Progressive web apps, until now, have seemed to be the closest to reaching the primary goal of these efforts. 

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that progressive web apps prove the power of modern web standards. They use pure HTML, CSS, and JavaScript but in a way that no one could have imagined a couple of years ago.

The native-like approach is an entirely different story. Native apps are built with code used exclusively for the device and its OS. Developers write iOS applications in Objective-C or Swift, and Android apps are created in Java. Long story short, they require more niche skills, which increases their time and cost of development.

"PWAs escaped from the browser's tabs to live as their apps but retained the ubiquity and linkability that make the web what it is."

Jason Grigsby

in "Progressive web apps"


PWAs are easy to launch

According to BusinessDIT, 93% of online users begin their online experience with a search engine. That’s where PWA features come in handy. They allow for omitting middlemen like AppStore and Google Play and reach users directly through an internet browser.

Mobile-first indexing has been the norm for over three years now, and PWAs are one of the best ways of embracing the mobile-first approach to design online services. Mobile users expect fast and seamless interactions with content that they can tap or swipe. Social media, like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and WeChat, have already embraced those needs and serve mobile-first experiences to users with PWA functionalities. Now their mobile entities, apps, and mobile websites are more engaging than desktop ones, and users are also more likely to click through. For instance, the introduction of Twitter’s PWA, Twitter Lite, increased the number of Tweets by a whopping 75%, and the average pages by session by 65%.

Mobile-first indexing means Google predominantly uses the mobile version of a page’s content for indexing and ranking. Historically, the index primarily used the desktop version of a page's content when evaluating the relevance of the page to the user's query.

Omitting the app stores is, however, the source of many more advantages:

Avoiding app store fees

Distributing apps through major mobile app stores is connected with the necessity of paying various registration fees. Google and Apple also keep a hefty percentage of any purchase made by the user, which leads to a considerable decrease in the developer's profit.

Avoiding the censorship of app stores

Apple reviews every app in the App Store. The process is extensive, long, and drawn out, and the results are often disappointing and unpredictable.

Avoiding app clutter

The average number of new apps per day is 2,477. A PWA available directly from Google Search is a way of avoiding that crowd.

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Instant updates are one of the most important features of PWAs

In app stores, update deployment takes time. Every update must be uploaded to a platform and then goes through a review process. It may be tricky, especially in the case of Apple, even though, in general, it’s clear what requirements must be met. The app has to be bug-free, links within it must be functional, and it has to contain accurate screenshots. Yet, in the details, there’s a grey area

"If your app doesn't offer much functionality or content, or only applies to a small niche market, it may not be approved. Before creating your app, take a look at the apps in your category on the App Store and consider how you can provide an even better user experience." App Store Guidelines

Since Apple relies on manual labor in the review process, the decision about good, better, and the best user experience may be highly discretionary.

Last year, Apple rejected 27% of submitted apps, according to the company’s Transparency Report.  Apple emphasizes that many of them are approved after minor changes, but "others present a more difficult decision for App Review." What to do if the application is rejected? Well, there’s a way out, but in Franz Kafka's "The Trial" style. Developers can appeal the decision made by App Review to a board called the App Review Board, which has the right to change the decision or sustain it. 

Sustained appeals can bring an app in front of the Executive Review Board. Apple calls the developer to find out the developer’s reason for wanting to overturn the decision, and, as the company says, reviewers make thousands of such calls every week.

When you leverage PWA capabilities, on the other hand, everything happens instantly. The updates, deployed to a server, are available to users almost in real time. And that's it. No stress, no worries.

Sharing progressive web apps

Around 90% of a PWA is purely JavaScript, but the distribution model is the web. For that, organic search is vital. PWAs are optimizable according to Google SEO Guidelines.

PWA distribution, with its web-like linkability, is way more comfortable, faster, and more accessible than going through the app stores. They’re not attached to any particular platform, operating system, or app store. If the user wants, they can save it with one tap on their home screen directly from the browser and share it via URL.

Adding a PWA to the home screen

With PWA capabilities, users don’t need a typical installation but can directly add them to the home screen on a mobile phone or desktop computer. The first time the user visits the site, the service worker is installed behind the scenes. This enables developers to provide offline PWA functionality, send push notifications, and display a home screen banner.

"Add to home screen" is a feature that uses the information from the web manifest to serve the app on the home screen with an icon and name. It displays a banner indicating that it's possible to install the app as a PWA. 

In theory, if the user accepts the prompt, the PWA is added to the home screen and runs like any other installed app. In practice, however, the ways users can install the PWA differ depending on which browser or OS they use. Chrome and Opera display banner prompts, which are similar to requests for permission to access a person's location. Firefox and Samsung show more subtle badges that inform the users that the website is installable. The main goal remains the same: the user can pin the PWA to their home screen and use it like a native app.


Bottom line

In this eBook, we have explored the concept of progressive web apps and their significance in the digital landscape. Now, as we conclude this journey, let's summarize the key takeaways.

PWAs have emerged as a new standard in web development by providing a compelling alternative to native apps with their ability to deliver native-like experiences through web technologies. They provide a seamless user experience with fast loading times, offline capabilities, and engaging features, such as push notifications and home screen accessibility. Additionally, PWAs can be developed once and deployed across multiple platforms, reducing development costs and speeding up time to market.

All those features make PWAs a powerful solution to the challenges of the mobile world, and in fact, their history is paved with success stories. The examples that we’ve analyzed in this eBook highlight the positive impact of progressive applications on usage statistics and overall business performance. Implementing PWAs has proven to enhance user satisfaction, drive higher conversion rates, and improve business outcomes.

We hope this eBook has provided you with a comprehensive understanding of PWAs and their potential impact on your business. Whether you are an eCommerce professional or a developer, we encourage you to explore the world of progressive web apps and analyze it in the context of your use case and business. If you need a hand with that, don’t hesitate to reach out to discuss PWA development with our experts.

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