The future of mobile applications

Do you really need a mobile app or is the dawn of Progressive Web Apps (PWA) a better alternative? The views on mobile apps seem to vary hugely. With the newer ‘PWA’ kid on the block, is there an alternative option that provides an app experience without the challenges that come with the traditional native app download?

Some businesses have rushed into creating a mobile app in an attempt to keep up with digital trends without a proper strategy behind it, others refuse to even consider apps, fearing they are doomed for failure.

The challenges of mobile apps

Firstly, it is right to be cautious about creating an app. It’s a hugely crowded market place. There are currently over 3m android apps available on Google Playstore, growing at a rate of 1,300 apps per day with an estimated 197 billion app downloads expected in 2017 (Statista).

If your app does successfully get downloaded, retention rates are extremely low. 80% of apps are deleted after one use, with the average app losing 77% of its Daily App Users (DAU) within the first 3 days of install, and 90% within the first 30 days after download (Quettra).

If you think about the apps on your smartphone, they likely include shopping apps like Amazon and Ebay, social networks like Facebook or WhatsApp, perhaps a grocery app and banking app, and then there are gaming apps (Homescapes is my current addiction!).

These common apps are those that most people will use regularly. There are also other apps which are used depending on certain circumstances, for example the ‘Rightmove’ app if you are on the search for a new home, the ‘Indeed’ app if you are looking for a new job and the ‘Cbeebies ‘ app if you have small children.

Whilst these popular types of apps are all fighting for visibility and space on a users’ smartphone, there is still a bit of real estate left for those apps that fulfil the right criteria for the users. This is the key to deciding whether you should develop an app for your business.

Is a mobile app right for your users (and therefore your business)?

When considering an app, you must think about your users and their interaction with your digital presence.

Do your users…
- want to visit your website regularly e.g. to see what’s new
- want to access certain information quickly e.g. account details
- want to undertake a particular process often e.g. make a purchase
- want to access your site when there is no internet connection? 

If you can answer yes to most of these questions, this is a good start. Can you also support your app by investing in the creation of a marketing strategy to drive app downloads and retain those users? If so, then a mobile app could provide a great ROI. 

It is worth noting that the user experience (UX) of a mobile app is of paramount importance when it comes to users deciding whether or not to uninstall.  From technical issues to ease of navigation, asking for too much data to intrusive advertising, if the app isn’t enjoyable to use, then it will be deleted without much hesitation. 

Introducing Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)

If you like the features that a mobile app can offer, but are put off by the development costs as well as the additional requirements for users to make the effort to go to the app store to download, a PWA could be the answer.

Benefits of PWAs

A PWA offers the look and feel of a native app environment and enables installation on the home screen without visiting the app store. They offer an immersive full screen environment with offline availability and web push notifications.

Google describe the benefits of PWAs as: 

“Progressive Web Apps are user experiences that have the reach of the web, and are:

  • Reliable- Load instantly and never show the downasaur, even in uncertain network conditions.
  • Fast - Respond quickly to user interactions with silky smooth animations and no janky scrolling.
  • Engaging- Feel like a natural app on the device, with an immersive user experience.

This new level of quality allows Progressive Web Apps to earn a place on the user's home screen.”

How PWAs work

The key to PWAs is Service Workers, a script that your browser runs in the background, separate from a web page, opening the door to features that don’t need a web page or user interaction. Chrome, Firefox and Opera currently support Service workers, with browser options growing including Microsoft Edge showing public support and Safari hinting at future development. 

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