Has the Time for Progressive Web Apps Already Come?

Has the Time for Progressive Web Apps Already Come?

Progressive Web Apps seem to be the bridge between "mobile only" and Web app development.

By Iryna Pototska, Yalantis

The mobile industry has been on a quest for the perfect software solution that combines the best features of native mobile apps and Web apps.

It's been a while since industry leaders realized that "mobile first" never meant "mobile only." Most companies that develop apps to promote their products and services employ both mobile apps and Web sites that share most of their app's functionality, and companies often struggle deciding which platform they should invest in first.

At some point, it seemed like mobile apps were going to be the dominant solution on the market, but desktop and Web solutions are still alive.

Figure 1: Growth in digital media time spent

For a couple of years now, companies have been on a quest for a solution that would be fast native apps but without their current restrictions.

In 2015, Facebook introduced Instant articles, which allow publishers to post their articles directly to Facebook. Instant articles quickly became popular with the likes of The New York Times, the Guardian, and BBC News. But, as much as Instant articles were an innovation, it was always clear that they wouldn't be that perfect "hybrid" solution everyone is looking for.

But now, Progressive Web Apps seem to be the solution everyone has been looking for.

What Are "Progressive Web Apps?"

Alex Russell introduced the term Progressive Web Apps in an article detailing this new technology.

In the most general sense, Progressive Web Apps are built on the collection of technologies, design concepts, and Web APIs that work together to provide users with app-like experiences. Progressive Web Apps combine various technologies including HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, Transport Layer Security, Extensible Web Manifesto technologies, and Application Shell Architecture.

Why Are So Many People Putting Their Hope in Progressive Web Apps?

Progressive Web Apps offer a number of benefits over both native mobile apps and Web apps:

  • They load quickly.
  • They work offline.
  • They can send push notifications.
  • They can be linked to from the home screen of the device.

Browser vendors, including Google and Microsoft, are incentivizing businesses to adopt Progressive Web Apps; but what do Progressive Apps really offer to businesses?

We decided to investigate, so we looked into three online marketplaces that already use Progressive Web Apps to find out how this new technology has benefited the marketplaces.

5miles Marketplace

5miles is a popular mobile marketplace where you can buy and sell anything: furniture, electronics, and even services such as auto repair or gardening. As the name suggests, all goods and services shown by 5miles are located within a 5-mile radius.

Even though the startup already has more than seven million app downloads, they struggled with low retention rates and high bounce rates, likely because more than 50 percent of their users discovered the marketplace through the mobile Web, but their mobile Web solutions didn't provide a very engaging user experience. Even though 5miles had a lot of traffic, they suffered from a high bounce rate.

To address this problem, 5miles built a Progressive Web App that has both a broad reach of the app and the engaging user experience of native apps.

The new 5miles Progressive Web App loads quickly, uses less data, and has a higher retention rate. Since their Progressive Web App was introduced, 5miles has seen a drastic decrease in their bounce rate (down 50 percent) and a 30 percent increase in average session length. This brought engagement rates of the Progressive Web App to levels that can compete with a 5miles native app.

The Progressive Web app has become 5miles' recipe for success, proving to be an efficient customer engagement tool.

Flipkart, India's Largest Ecommerce Site

Flipkart offers electronics, appliances, clothing, furniture, and home decor.

In 2015, Flipkart fell into the "mobile only" trap, and decided to temporarily shut down their mobile Web site. But, after doing so, they observed their engagement rate falling down.

Then, Progressive Web Apps came to the rescue. After they identified this trend, they decided to counter it by developing a Progressive Web App—and it worked. This brought a 70 percent increase in their conversion rate. Users also spent three times more time on Flipkart's site and were 40 percent more likely to become return customers.

Buyers were drawn back to Flipkart's app because it ran instantly, worked offline, and helped with re-engaging users.

NET-A-PORTER, a Global Leader in Online Luxury Fashion

If you're into haute couture and are looking for items from recent collections of world-famous designers, NET-A-PORTER is for you!

Unlike our two previous examples, NET-A-PORTER faced development rather than marketing challenges.

In 2016, their engineering team decided to evaluate what the company could do to reduce development time. NET-A-Porter turned to Google's Polymer library to implement their component-based design for their online properties. Polymer library is a powerful platform that allows developers to extend HTML and present their apps as several independent components. The Polymer App Toolbox can be used to build Progressive Web Apps that load quickly, respond instantly, and work offline.

Polymer allowed NET-A-PORTER to save a lot of development time and helped them standardize their code across various sites. This was particularly useful for the company because it also improved the search engine optimization of their site.

What Do These Three Examples Tell Us about the Advantages of Using Progressive Web Apps?

Users benefit because:

  • They don't have to install an app on their device.
  • Progressive Web Apps take up less space than a native or hybrid app.
  • Users get a pleasant user experience.

Developers benefit because:

  • They don't deal with app stores.
  • There's no more waiting for your apps to get published.
  • Bugs can be fixed and new features can be added instantly.

The question that naturally follows is: If Progressive Web Apps are so awesome, why aren't we all using them already? As with any other new technology, Progressive Web apps have their limitations.

What Are the Disadvantages of Progressive Web Apps?

  • Many people search for apps on app stores, so you miss out on a lot of potential traffic because a Progressive Web App is not found in app stores.
  • With Progressive Web Apps, plug-ins like Facebook login and Google login can't retrieve data from Facebook and Google Apps, which means that you need to separately log in on to the Web.
  • Progressive Web Apps can't use some of the latest hardware features (such as fingerprint scanners), so depending on the functionality of your app, you might still have to build a native app.
  • Full support for Progressive Web Apps is not available in some default browsers. For example, to make your app work online, you need to implement Service Workers (scripts that run in the background and can intercept network requests and return a cached response). Only Chrome and Opera currently support Service Workers.


Progressive Web Apps still have miles to go in terms of making them widely available on different platforms, being able to use all hardware capabilities of a device, and so on. No technology is perfect when it's first introduced, but Progressive Web Apps open a new and exciting page in the history of app development.

About the Author

Apps2 Iryna Pototska is a tech journalist at Yalantis, a mobile development company. She writes about mobile app development, industry trends, app marketing, and app monetization strategies. Working with developers and designers, she also writes case studies about Yalantis projects.


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This article was originally published on Tuesday Sep 27th 2016
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