Mobile site or app? With Progressive Web Apps you can get the best of both

How quickly your site loads has greater repercussions for your business than just pleasing impatient customers. So which is the better bet: an app or a site? Lisa Bora, head of mobile at Google Australia, talks us through it the options.

Lisa Bora - Google head of mobile

Do you loathe waiting for a page to load on your smartphone? You’re not alone.

In fact, 29% of smartphone users go elsewhere immediately if a site is too slow or they can’t find the information they need.

For brands this has real consequences. Google data shows shopping-related searches increased 120% in the last year.

Google progressive web apps - 29 per cent
Google progressive web apps - 40 per cent

More than 30% of all online shopping purchases now happen on mobile phones.

And with more than one billion monthly active users on mobile globally, it is more important than ever for brands to give users the experience they want.

So, as marketers, what can you do to ensure your brand meets each customer’s need for speed? Here are three things to consider.

Do you need a mobile site or app?

Traditionally, when we talk about mobile experiences, discussion turns to apps. But how many apps do you have on your phone? How many do you use on a regular basis? As many as 25% of us open an app once and never return.

There has been much discussion in recent weeks on the future of the mobile web, with some boldly claiming the future is without apps. Whether it’s a native app or website, consumers want to minimise friction – your brand has different options to do this. And you no longer need to choose – with Progressive Web Apps you can get the best of both.

What is the difference between a responsive site and progressive web app?

When it comes to mobile, responsive sites are a significant improvement but they are not a silver bullet. Responsive sites try to fit what appears on a desktop into a mobile display – which slows things down and, as we all know, mobile users hate waiting.

Many sites are simply built and designed for desktop, then strip functionality for mobile users, whereas a truly mobile-first approach means starting with the elements that work on smaller screens and progressively adding layers of functionality for bigger screens through testing.

google progressive web apps computer screens

This context has inspired the new movement of Progressive Web Apps – mobile sites that function like a native app. The site is accessed through your browser, just like any other website, but it stores key information – the way an app does – and improves the more you use it.

Progressive Web Apps offer improvements in four key areas:

  • Speed – loads more quickly, allowing users to connect with content faster.

  • Security – keeps user information safe as it must be run with https support.

  • Re-engagement – the site can send push-notifications and users can add an icon to their phone’s home screen, making it easier to find and access again.

  • Simplicity – no need to download an app but has the benefits of auto fill to reduce friction at checkout.

Progressive Web Apps in practice – Flipkart

Flipkart is one of the world’s most valuable e-commerce companies and last year decided to shut their mobile site and go app-only. They soon ran into problems as users were deterred by the cost of an install and daunting data requirements. Instead, they designed a mobile site that uses progressive enhancements and Service Worker Technology Web App technology to improve the user experience. The results were phenomenal.

google progressive web app Flipkart graphic

How does your site stack-up?

So how does this relate to your mobile strategy? Take a minute to think about your current site. How does the page load and at what pace? As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos says, your target for latency is 1 second. You can check your site’s speed here. Focus on the main content and consider cutting the rest.

google progressive web apps Ophira graphic

1 second mSite page speed improvement = +27% conversions

Now, what does all this mean for your brand? The main message is you don’t need to choose between web or app. Progressive Web Apps can provide users with a frictionless and highly engaging experience on the mobile web.

With powerful features like push notifications, offline access, add-to-homescreen, fast page load, and a smooth UI/UX, your brand will see a better return on your mobile investment. And it means you won’t end up among the pile of apps never used after the first download.

Lisa Bora is head of mobile at Google Australia


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