Benefits of PWAs Over Native Apps

By: Beverly Anderson
Red tulip among yellow tulips

Due to the last decade’s frenzy of native app demand, my early career can almost be defined by how efficiently my teams could ship iOS and Android mobile apps to the stores. But after a decade, users are downloading fewer and fewer apps, and clients are increasingly skeptical of the strategy of paying for the same product twice.

Modern developers and business owners now have a much better option for delivering the native experiences and rapidly iterated feature sets that users expect: Progressive Web Applications (PWAs).

PWAs are pushing the industry forward in terms of how mobile experiences are built, shipped, and used. As a Project Manager for a digital product development agency, I am all in on PWAs, as well as on demonstrating to clients why they are a more sustainable investment than native apps. Here are some top reasons why Progressive Wep Apps are the smart choice:

1. One Design

With native apps, a designer has to accommodate two sets of design standards — the official HIG established by Apple, and Google’s Material Design guidelines. If this sounds like extra work for the design team, added potential for human error, delayed approval on deliverables, and additional expense on your invoices, you’re not wrong.

Instead, PWAs use a single, responsive interface with a consistent app-like experience that is available to more people on more devices, with widely variable screen sizes, browsers, and operating systems. One and done — and yes, you can still have your home screen icon, push notifications, and device hardware access.

2. One Code Base

Software isn’t perfect. It’s built by humans, and it has changing dependencies outside developers’ control. When creating both iOS and Android apps, every single feature is built twice, and every single defect or update has to be resolved in both code bases. This means that the project teams have to reproduce the issue on both, and log and track the issue for both. Make the fix on both. Then re-test on both.

With Progressive Web Applications, there is one team, one tech stack, one test strategy, one backlog, and one code base.

3. Say Goodbye to App Stores

Any release strategy for native apps means preparing for both App Store and Google Play, and that means tracking a lot of dependencies months in advance. Then, despite your best laid plans, while your developers are crushing last minute bugs, you’re emailing marketing at 2 a.m. to tell them that the was rejected because of its title, or because the header is off.

In contrast, shipping a PWA is so simple that it’s downright old-fashioned — you just publish it. And that means the most recent update is immediately available to every user. Missed something? Update it again five minutes later.

4. Complicated Distribution Strategy

Pop Quiz: Have you ever downloaded an iOS app not from the App Store? And if so, why?

Use Case A: Beta Builds

My teams used to send out multi-page documents to our clients detailing the hoops of beta app distribution on the thin hopes that this might aid internal test users in reliably accessing early builds via TestFlight. And yet, users would inevitably log dozens of bugs against an outdated version of the app, or better yet, never get the TestFlight invite at all. Did this cause release delays? You bet.

Use Case B: In-House Distribution

Stores are for consumers. If the app isn’t consumer-facing, Apple’s in-house and proprietary distribution options explain your best options for distributing your app without the App Store. But best of luck setting up the right native distribution solution for your existing operations while also accommodating business needs. More often than not, the shoe just doesn’t fit.

In contrast, here’s my elevator pitch on distributing PWAs — type in a URL, then download an icon. Or better yet, just Google the app name; the SEO benefit of Progressive Web Apps is amazing.

It actually is that easy, which is just one reason why Progressive Web Applications are here to stay. While supporting the same UX and feature set of installed native apps, PWAs offer unparalleled product development success, distribution simplicity, and opportunity for business growth.

DockYard is a digital product agency offering exceptional strategy, design, full stack engineering, web app development, mobile development, custom software, Ember, Elixir, and Phoenix consulting. With a nationwide staff, we’ve got consultants in key markets across the U.S., including Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, and New York.