Are PWAs the next big thing in mobile web design?

Before May 2015, PureFormulas Inc. didn’t have a website that rendered properly on smartphones. In short, it needed a website overhaul.

PureFormulas did what most e-retailers were doing at the time: It relaunched its site using a responsive web design, a mobile-friendly design technique that uses one code base and automatically formats to the screen a consumer is viewing it on.

The new site was a big step forward, says Michael Cosh, PureFormulas’ software solutions architect. But less than a year later it built a progressive web app on top its responsive website to make the mobile site faster and more user-friendly. .A progressive web app, or PWA, offers the look and customer engagement of an app, but in a mobile website. For example, PWAs allow retailers to send web push notifications to a shopper’s smartphone and typically load faster than traditional mobile websites. A PWA uses responsive techniques to format the web page to the size of the screen the consumer is viewing it on. It can be coded to have the same URL as the desktop and tablet site or it can operate on a separate URL, like a standalone mobile site.

“Progressive web apps are the future of the web,” says Julie Ask, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

PureFormula’s new mobile site launched in May 2016 and the results have been dramatic, Cosh says. PureFormulas.com’s mobile average order value increased 9% and its mobile conversion rate 14%, he says. While Cosh can’t attribute all of these increases to the new site, he’s confident it contributed.

PureFormulas isn’t the only retailer benefitting from updating its mobile site to this new technology. But while retailers that have tested the technology sing its praises, many retailers are slow to even consider it. After Google’s mobile search algorithm “mobilegeddon” update in 2015 that factored in how a website renders on smartphones into how Google ranks sites in mobile search results, many retailers updated their sites to responsive design and are reluctant to embark on another redesign. Plus, many features that make progressive web apps effective are not supported on…

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