While most shopping sites today use responsive design, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and others are advancing modern web technologies that are part of the Progressive Web App movement. PWAs unite the universal customer reach of the web with the engaging experience of a mobile app.

Peter McLachlan, co-founder and chief product officer, Mobify

Peter McLachlan, co-founder, Mobify

Businesses change, competition develops, branding evolves, technology becomes outdated. Whatever the reason, it’s website redesign time. With the rapid pace of mobile adoption and digital experience technologies changing just as fast, what used to be a two- to three-year and fairly predictable refresh cycle is typically sooner for e-commerce sites. Meeting consumer expectations seems like a never-ending treadmill.

Today’s shopping sites are largely responsive in design (nearly 90% according to Forrester). This means they use fluid layout techniques for use on mobile, render well on a variety of devices, and use a single URL for improved SEO. If you’ve gotten this far you’re already on the path to being optimized for mobile users.

Now comes Google, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and others that are advancing modern web technologies like service workers and web push notifications, all part of the Progressive Web App (PWA) movement. PWAs unite the universal customer reach of the web with the engaging experience of a mobile app.

While responsive design and progressive web may seem like a fork in the road, they're not.

While responsive design and progressive web may seem like a fork in the road, they’re not. Responsive web design is part of progressive. It’s a key building block that delivers the same responsiveness needed to adapt to any user device running any browser version. You can think of responsive as a great on-ramp to progressive, and of progressive as the solution that delivers on all the missed promises of responsive for a more mobile-first, performant user experience.


Sometimes we hear the question: Can I just do a responsive website redesign, or should I move to a progressive web app?

If you’re thinking it’s time for a website redesign, a Progressive Web App may be the best way to go about it. Not only do you get the user experience redesign, but you get a technology that enables additional web functionality and a much faster experience. Here are five signs to look for to determine whether your next redesign should be on the progressive web.

1. Your mobile web conversion rates aren’t improving despite growing mobile traffic. When responsive sites don’t produce conversion rates it’s usually because they don’t create the type of engaging shopping experience that makes it easy to buy things. On Progressive Web Apps, the typical shopper journey is 2-4x faster than on responsive sites. That’s because, as Google says, lags are lethal—buyers that have a negative experience are 60% less likely to purchase from that brand in the future. I like to consider journey length (“time to task completion”) as the key way of evaluating the overall friction of an experience, and this is where a PWA will really stand apart from a site that just uses responsive techniques.

2. Measurable performance is a key goal. A website redesign might provide performance improvements, especially if the user experience was poor to begin with. But how will you know which part of redesign to attribute the uplift to? With a website redesign, you will only have before and after data, which is affected by promotions and seasonality, but you won’t be able to test side-by-side. A PWA can let you leave your existing mobile site in place and run an A/B split test so you can prove to your leadership team that their investment is paying off. Typical PWA e-commerce sites are 43% faster than responsive sites alone. Brands are seeing the time to find product through a PWA around 30 seconds faster, and checkout time at a minute faster than responsive sites. The results are 20% lower abandonment rates, 50% more mobile conversions, and 20% more revenue through Progressive Web Apps.

3. You want to deliver better results from mobile engagement. PWAs are installable to the home screen and support web push notifications, two features that can significantly increase traffic and engagement. PWA push notifications appear on the user’s device even if the browser is no longer running. Brands are finding them ideal for re-engagement, for example, to reconnect shoppers with abandoned carts or to take advantage of promotions. An 8-10% open rate from these push notifications is not unusual.


4. You want to be everywhere, and you want to get there fast. Now forward-thinking retailers and brands are extending their superior PWA experience across devices (mobile, tablet, and desktop) and channels (browsers and app stores). This is accomplished with a single codebase, which is important for cost and maintenance reasons. Strategically, having one codebase across desktop, iOS, and Android means you can stay ahead of the competitive curve everywhere your shoppers are. But there is another advantage: PWAs can be live in three months, while responsive web redesigns run five to six months at best. And we’ve all heard of the year-plus-long responsive builds.

5. You’ve reached a plateau in redesign. If you’ve already done some redesigns before with little improvement in your metrics, it’s time to move up to a PWA. Progressive web design best practices incorporate app-like interactions and engagements that deliver a fast, friction-free shopping experience on the web. Leaders in the space are not only seeing the most organic growth in their mobile channel, they also have more revenue coming in on mobile than on desktop. If you want to join their ranks and achieve the types of revenue increases PWAs are seeing, you’ll need to make the jump.

Mobify provides mobile commerce technology and services to 15 of the 1,000 leading online retailers in North America, according to Top500Guide.com.