Every developer is talking about progressive web apps (PWA), the software development methodology that will make everythingabout being online better, faster and, well, cooler. To be sure, we at Something Digital see it as a great way to develop websites for a lot of reasons, and we anticipate the day will come when just about every site is PWA enabled. But, at this point in time, PWA may not be for all online merchants and website owners. In fact, we know of five good reasons why at least some website owners should to wait a year or two. This post examines why you should jump on the PWA bandwagon.
First, what is PWA exactly? There’s a lot of misunderstanding of what PWA covers. Some see it as a framework or new technology, while in reality it’s more of a collection of best practices and modern development styles wrapped into a marketing term. It’s not anything new, per se, rather it’s more about creating websites that provide the best features supported in most browsers with all the benefits of a mobile-app experience. In other words, it’s an idea.
5 Reasons to Implement PWA Now
#1. Higher User Engagement
This is a super compelling reason. Every website and online store wants higher levels of user engagement, because, let’s face it, engagement equals money. There are several ways that PWA makes websites stickier, beginning with the the add to home screenfeature, which installs your website to the user’s desktop and mobile device launcher. If access to your website is right there on their home screens, users will probably visit it more often. It also makes your site feel more like a native app, which, in turn makes it easier and faster for the user to return to it over and over, sans navigating a bunch of tabs.
PWA also allows for push notifications, which may re-engage visitors. You can push order status, tracking and updates, as well as promotional materials, to lure them back to your site.
#2: Faster Page Load Times
PWA typically speeds up page loads (see Service Workers below for details), which, offers a lot of benefits to both the merchant and the user. When pages load quickly, users are more willing to click on additional pages, which translates into more products viewed or articles read. Obviously, this can have a positive monetary impact on your business.
Users also benefit from a better, more seamless browsing experience, which may make them more willing to return to it frequently.
#3: Team Efficiency Gains
PWA offers your developer team some efficiencies, thereby freeing them up to tackle other priorities, which may be an important consideration for you. Granted, the efficiencies are greater for Magento sites rather than Shopify, which may also be a consideration.
For instance, it can be a little tedious starting a project in Magento, taking four to eight hours to set up a local environment that mimics the production or staging environment. This contrasts with PWA, which can shorten set up time to a mere five to fifteen minutes. As a result, onboarding new team members is a lot faster and less labor intensive.
PWA can also ease another concern we hear from clients: make it easier to find talent to work on their sites, especially if they have a Magento environment. PWA allows for “headless” tech stacks, meaning the front end can be separated from the backend. Why is this important for some ecommerce companies? It’s not easy to find developers with experience in Magento’s backend tech stack. In a headless situation, front end developers can be found and put to work with a more modern front-end tech stack.
Finally, it can be a lot easier to keep the code in synch with live data. To break that down a little bit further, when you’re developing locally your data gets stale pretty quickly, or it represents just a snapshot of what was previously happening in a staging or production environment. With a PWA and a headless approach. Developers can directly feed that front end with live staging data, which, in turn, can yield a more accurate development experience, leading to more efficiency gains for all team members.
#4: Gains in Browser Performance
With PWA there are lots of browser or client-side performance gains to be had. Why? With PWA one of three principles will apply. The first is that PWA supports super aggressive caching, far more than the average browser is able to do. Thanks to Service Workers, which is essentially a script in the background a browser separately from the web page, you can provide your users with an opportunity to work offline (to an extent). Service Workers can cache a wide range of items locally, including images and pages, so if your user is bumped off your site due to a lost connection, he or she can still click between pages. Moreover, the Service Workers caching further speeds up page loads, further improving the user experience.
#5: Operational Efficiencies
PWA offers merchants, especially those in the enterprise class, some significant operational benefits. Notably, PWA is basically built once and implemented everywhere — and on your schedule. This simply isn’t the case with native apps, which may require separate development and testing efforts for iOS and Android (that’s on top of your web development). And each time you enhance your app you need to submit it to The Apple Store and the Google Play store, and wait for their approval. With PWA, you and you alone decide when to go live.
If you want to see some examples of real ecommerce sites who are already doing PWA, check out this curated list on Headless.page.
All of these are terrific benefits … so should you jump in ASAP? Check back next week for reasons you may want to wait on PWAs. Have some questions before then let us know!