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Building the modern web with Progressive Web Apps

Dean Hume
progressive web apps
© Shutterstock / franz12

No one wants to wait for a web page to load. But how do you make sure your mobile user experience is great? In this article, Dean Hume explains why progressive web apps are crucial for a modern mobile web experience with more clicks and interactions.

How many times have you been on your phone and gotten frustrated with the patchy internet connection? The reality is that browsing the web through your mobile can at times be slow. With a growing number of the population accessing the web through their mobiles, mobile user experience is becoming a key consideration for consumer engagement and retention.

That is why businesses are increasingly searching for ways to improve mobile web performance for all users, including those who may have limited network connection. Building a modern web experience and leveraging to the power of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) is one such solution. By improving mobile user experience, PWAs have the potential to lead to higher conversion rates and increase revenue volumes for businesses.

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Tech giants like Twitter and Uber, publications like the FT and Forbes, as well as smaller businesses such as UK proptech startup Settled have been among those to realize the  benefits of switching to PWAs and have rebuilt their mobile websites as a PWA.

So what are Progressive Web Apps?

PWAs are a set of features that leverage new, open web application programming interface (APIs) to offer a mobile web experience that loads fast, uses less data, and re-engages with users in multiple ways. They allow consumers to access a web app whilst offline and also enable them to see features on the go.

Benefits

PWAs can create a sophisticated user experience on the web and their benefits for businesses looking to increase user duration sessions and retention are many.  

  • Easy installation: PWAs are built on the fabric of the web and are installable without the need for an app store.
  • Quick access to data when offline: Service worker caching makes it possible to cache the results of relevant network requests, allowing quick access to data even when the user has limited or no connection. These apps also pre-cache key resources, to reduce network dependence.
  • Less data downloaded and improvement to page load times: Google’s Service Worker Toolbox provides common caching strategies for dynamic content, meaning that once a user has visited the first page on the dashboard, they had all of their resources cached allowing for easy and fast visits to other pages on the site. This means that user can have a fast and engaging experience as soon as they land on the website.
  • Longer engagement with website: PWAs allow for visuals to be delivered faster, which increases the time consumers spend on a website.

The Settled case study

At Settled, we created an online property platform which enables consumers to buy and sell properties in a transparent, efficient and straightforward way. As more than 50% of traffic to the Settled website comes via mobile devices, we focused on developing a platform, which would provide a fast and engaging experience for our consumers.

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We built a PWA for our user dashboard, or the Settled Hub where buyers and sellers can easily see the status of their listings, chat with interested buyers and sellers, sign up for legals, mortgages and much more. This has meant that when users visit via their browser they enjoy a fast app-like user experience. When they come back, it loads nearly instantly, even on flaky networks. The Settled Hub has also been optimised for mobile devices of any size.

Switching to Progressive Web Apps has delivered strong efficiencies for Settled – we have reduced mobile page load times by nearly 3X, our users spent twice as long on the site and they consumed 15x less data. We are able to offer our users the same experience as a native application with one codebase, which in turn means we are able to release features faster and build a great experience for our users.

 

Author

Dean Hume

Dean Hume is a software developer, web performance expert and currently Chief Technology Officer at fast-growing UK proptech start-up Settled. Dean has over 13 years experience building, growing and scaling software development teams, and is also the author of Fast ASP.NET Websites, a book aimed at improving the performance of high transaction websites. 


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