Why Build a Progressive Web App Instead of a Website

Person looking at website on mobile phone
Lauren Palazzo

Director of Marketing

Lauren Palazzo

Imagine entering a store to purchase a mobile phone. The store signage is confusing and you struggle to find the device on the shelf. When you finally do, only the floor model is available and you can’t add it to your shopping cart.

You search for a store representative but when you find help, they’re unresponsive to your questions. Then, out of nowhere, a gnome pops up to offer you a discounted vacation in the Florida Keys.

No, this is not a dream; this is shopping online.

For many users, the above scenario is what it feels like to navigate and use an outdated website. While once the face of a brand’s digital identity, websites are increasingly difficult for end users to navigate across devices.

Responsive Websites: Yesterday’s Answer to Tomorrow’s Challenges
Responsive websites offer better digital experiences for those who use mobile devices to access pages in a browser. However, they continue to be more time consuming for web developers to design and build. They also fall short in delivering consistent experiences across different web browsers and devices.

While responsive websites can prioritize mobile-first capabilities and adapt to screen or browser size, they don’t take full advantage of device functionality.

Delivering Excellence, Simplicity, and Consistency with PWAs
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) have emerged as an innovative approach to creating a single web property that takes full advantage of all modern device and browser types.

PWAs take the best of native mobile apps, mobile sites, and responsive websites to deliver the flexible experiences and advanced features today’s users demand. In short: PWAs simplify design, development, and even project management by helping organizations build and maintain one app that can fully realize and convey a brand’s vision.

Responsive Websites vs. PWAs
Innovative businesses are turning to Progressive Web Apps to meet the rising expectations of today’s sophisticated users while lessening development and maintenance costs. This is not surprising when you consider how websites and PWAs compare in terms of speed, functionality, ease-of-use, and adaptability.

  • Speed: Websites often include various tracking scripts and rely on real-time data transfers to deliver information “on-demand” to visitors. This can lead to slower or incomplete page loads that test a user’s patience and lead to unnecessary frustration.

    PWAs can cache more data and offer a faster experience by using less data. Their ability to work offline can also maintain useability in low or no connectivity areas. With increased speed, PWAs also can support higher search engine rankings.

  • Functionality and ease-of-use: While websites are optimized for search engines, they are unable to leverage many more advanced mobile device capabilities. Building a single website that accounts for variances in all device and browser capabilities is a lofty undertaking.

    PWAs take advantage of unique native mobile capabilities, including instant access from the home screen, availability in app stores, and geolocation standards in a stable and secure environment. Similarly, PWAs offer push notifications and are capable of delivering content offline.

  • Adaptability: While a responsive website means only one site to update (as opposed to having desktop and mobile websites) they do require more resources to optimize for devices, develop, maintain, and meet user expectations. And as new, connected devices continue to emerge, responsive websites become increasingly more difficult to adapt to new formats and functionalities.

    PWAs can be written in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript while also providing the functionality of mobile applications. With PWAs, businesses can develop and maintain one code base to create flawless website and mobile app-like experiences across all devices and browsers. This reduces time and costs associated with rolling out digital product enhancements, as well as minimizes ongoing maintenance costs. PWAs can also enable more rapid adoption of tech advances.

While responsive websites have closed the gap between desktop and mobile experiences, PWAs are the future of digital experiences that seamlessly transition from one device to the next. PWAs empower organizations to create a single web property that delivers exceptional user experiences, and can set those digital experiences up to adapt as business and user needs evolve.

Now that sounds like a dream come true.

DockYard is a digital product agency offering custom software, mobile, and web application development consulting. We provide exceptional professional services in strategy, user experience, design, and full stack engineering using Ember.js, React.js, Elixir, Ruby, and other technologies. With staff nationwide, we’ve got consultants in key markets across the U.S., including Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Dallas, Miami, Washington D.C., and Boston.


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