The evolution of mobile

Transforming Digital experiences with progressive web applications

At a time when world events are accelerating business transformation, digital experiences are more important than ever. Read on for an overview of the evolution of mobile apps, and what’s next.

Technology is consistently shaping the digital experience for users. As technology drives advances in web design, dynamic and immersive visual experiences along with utility has become a minimum entry requirement for successful brands. Companies that invest in digital experiences by updating legacy strategies and methodologies will thrive in this digital Darwinian ecosystem.

The Covid19 crisis has accelerated the digital transformation of many companies; the remote experience for clients, customers and employees is more important than ever—and its impact will be lasting for years to come. This crisis is separating brands with strong online strategies from less-technologically mature competitors. Brands that have a seamless user experience throughout owned and operated properties will fare better than those looking to execute fragmented tactics.

Users in 2019 consumed twice the amount of content on mobile versus desktop.
SmartInsights

According to SmartInsights1, users in 2019 consumed twice the amount of content on mobile versus desktop. Weaving together experiences from different touchpoints, including web and mobile will be key; and with over 3.3 billion smartphones in the world (some research predicts reaching 3.8 billion in 2020), developing seamless digital experiences, regardless of platform, is key to successful business outcomes.

Historically, developing for web and mobile have been siloed efforts. Requirements for websites and mobile applications have different ownership and stakeholders, and the resulting experiences are typically coordinated by marketing departments. Now, technology allows for one framework for both web and mobile, resulting in a single set of requirements to create a unified experience that is engaging, reliable and quick. This framework is known as Progressive Web Applications (PWA).

Simply put, PWA is a methodology that provides app-like capabilities to users without the need to download an app. They’re often seen as the hybrid between web and mobile apps, bridging the best of both worlds. PWAs will eventually replace the need to build Native apps, which require specific tools and expertise according to mobile devices and operating systems.

The concept of PWAs was created by designer Frances Berriman and Google Engineer Alex Russell mainly in response to a trend they witnessed: a plunge in the number of app downloads. According to TechCrunch2, daily downloads for non-game apps decreased by as much as 65% from 2016 to 2019. The market for apps has reached saturation and there simply has to be a better way to provide users with an app experience without pushing for downloads. In Russell’s words, PWAs are “just websites that took all the right vitamins.”

Daily downloads for non-game apps decreased by as much as 65% from 2016 to 2019.
TechCrunch

The predecessor of PWAs is Responsive design, a notion created back in 2006, which allowed developers to meet a minimum set of expectations across mobile and web. Unfortunately for brands, responsive web apps fall short in terms of functionality: they lack the ability to personalize via notifications, enable location, pair with hardware (bluetooth and smartphone camera access) and the ability to add an icon to a user’s home screen on their mobile device. Responsive design was a good leap in the advancement of web design, but it no longer meets today’s user expectations in terms of functionality. 

Leveraging modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like experience, PWAs work for every user, regardless of browser, or form: desktop, tablet or mobile, and this concept is its core enhancement compared to other development frameworks. They also update like a web page, unlike native apps which require version updates. Version updates across multiple platforms can be a lengthy process, requiring knowledge of each platform’s SDK and subject to approvals, which may cause rollout delays. For ease and speed of pushing updated content to users, PWA is the way to go.

 

Responsive Website

Native Apps

Progressive Web Apps

Adaptive Layout

Yes

Yes

Yes

Loading Time

Low

Variable

Low

Mobile Phone Icon

No

Yes

Yes

Requires User Installation

No

Yes

No

Works Offline

No

Yes

Yes

URL Address

Yes

No

Yes

Hardware Pairing

No

Yes

Yes

Development Effort

Low

High

Medium

PWA isn’t a niche trend; companies that have embraced PWAs include Starbucks, Twitter and Lyft. The benefits of this framework have also been embraced by small and medium sized businesses, as effort in developing a single platform far outweighs the need to develop a digital property by channel.

Business transformation initiatives today require lowering the level of effort in business operations while maintaining (or increasing) return on investment in technology, all while maintaining a competitive edge. PWAs are a component of business transformation that can address the pains of building channel-specific experiences for users, and streamline development operations at a reasonable cost.

A thoughtful Progressive Web Application strategy can fuel digital business transformation by providing a dynamic experience for users, while embracing a lean development philosophy for the brands that build them. Embracing PWA translates into both a meaningful impact on how companies deliver value to users as well as ensuring survival of the fittest in the digital ecosystem.

About Michael Tardif
Michael is founder and CEO of Sourcetop, a digital consultancy with a strong history of leading digital transformations for brands such as IBM, Nestle, Unilever, College Board, Northwell and Ferrari. His early career as an award-winning designer, culminating by working with Paul Rand, has grounded his approach to provide client-driven yet user-focused solutions.

About Sourcetop
Sourcetop is a business transformation partner for brands looking to build their digital ecosystems through User Experience & Design, Software Development and Platform Consulting. To learn more about how Sourcetop helps companies drive real business outcomes, visit www.sourcetop.com.

1) SmartInsights: Mobile Marketing Statistics Compilation
2) TechCrunch: Downloads needed to rank No. 1 on App Store is down 30% since 2016, up 47% for games