Mobile Considerations - Progressive Web Apps

The third post in a series on the developments taking place within mobile technology.


Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are a new development in mobile experiences. They combine the flexibility of websites with (some of) the native functionality available on mobile devices.

What are PWAs?

They are a hybrid of both app and mobile web experiences.

PWAs offer rich device functionality, such as offline storage and notifications, but the technology is currently in a very early stage of development. It is the epitome of convergence between mobile web and native applications.

Android has shown strong support for PWAs but they are not fully supported on iOS. There are some early signs that this may change but it’s likely that any progress in this area is 6-12 months away.

The initial PWA use cases focus on users with slow connections, low-end smartphones or mostly text-based websites (e.g. news).

Organisations that have developed PWAs have seen significant improvements across page load times and conversion rates, especially for retail brands.

If significant computational power is required or the experience is highly interactive, a native mobile app is more suitable. If the user is likely to interact with the organisation infrequently or requires simple FAQ-type guidance, a website may be more convenient.

Ultimately the PWA standards need time to mature but a well established and flexible mobile website should be able to easily adopt the future standards.

Benefits of PWAs

  • Low level of friction for installation
  • The same level of prominence as mobile apps on a user’s device
  • Able to send push notifications to users
  • Content can be cached for offline use

Delivery Challenges

  • Platform differences can create inconsistent experiences
  • Technology is in the very early stages of development

Case Study – airberlin

Experiments with progressive web apps have primarily been in the media and retail industries, however a handful of airlines have tested the technology and found it to offer significant user experience improvements as well as high levels of user engagement.

The airberlin experience was focused entirely on the post- booking experience. Using modern web technologies, the PWA allowed passengers to check-in, retrieve their boarding pass and receive flight information.

Additionally, this rich experience could be delivered offline or when the user had a slow connection but retain the simplicity of a mobile website. Airberlin found significant improvements in page loading times. This is key to any mobile experience; 53% of customers polled by Google will abandon a mobile site if it takes more than three seconds to load.

PWA is a technology to keep a watching brief on, in time it is likely that these will replace many existing apps as operating system and browser functionality further develops.

User Benefits

  • Greatly improve loading times, which in turn improve user engagement.
  • Lightweight and low friction experience was simple for customers to engage with and rely upon during their journey.
Written on July 23, 2018