What are PWAs?
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are, for practical purposes, websites that adapt to the devices they are being viewed on. For people using computers, they behave as expected on web browsers, whereas for people using mobile devices the experience is more like that of an app.
On mobile devices, there is no app to download; an icon appears on the screen, providing access to the website the PWA is linked to.
What’s their advantage over the typical web browser?
PWAs cache specific functional elements and resources, making it possible for the user to continue using the app even in the event of an interruption of the internet signal. This extended functionality is limited. However, it improves the UX dramatically. According to Google, this better and more responsive user experience considerably improved the conversion rates of major online stores. Most people leave a site if they deem it slow to load. Caching gives PWAs an edge here.
Another exciting thing about PWAs is that, because they are not native apps but are more like web links, they are discoverable, so good SEO should allow your potential customers to come across them quickly. Integrations for push notifications are easy to set as an added value of this technology.
Additionally, PWAs work in full-screen mode — getting rid of the upper and lower frame of a typical browser — which further improves the user experience by removing all distractions.
So, what’s the catch?
Although this emerging technology shows great potential, there are still some issues to be taken into account, when determining whether it is the best option for your business. If your customers need to interact with your website often or continuously, thus requiring an active internet connection at all times, PWAs may not be a solution for you. Another critical issue is the fact that, being mostly a Google development, it works fine with Android devices, but not so well yet with iOS devices. Also, there have been doubts regarding security, but since PWAs work via https, content and interactions are as safe as they can be with a secure website.
Can Magento stores become PWAs?
In a nutshell, yes. But user experience needs to be a priority. According to recent statistics, while mobile traffic has increased significantly over the last few years, mobile conversion rates have not. This is mainly due to poor mobile user experience. Google’s Best Practices regarding website design established that you must design for mobile-first, but that mostly applies to appearance, not user experience. To solve this, the team at Magento has come up with PWA Studio, a suite of tools to build app-like versions of online stores with a highly enhanced user experience.
While posing an additional investment in both time and money, PWAs can be built for a fraction of the cost of an actual app, and offer great potential for ROI.
In conclusion, PWA Studio is something well worth taking a look at if you want your Magento store to keep up with the times.
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