Businesses of all scales and kinds are rushing to be among the first to embrace technologies that allow them to provide UX beyond expectations and grab even just a pinch of people’s fragmented attention. User experience (UX) is something that can make or break a company’s digital operations. It is not just a dry marketing theory but an actual requirement for a site to be highly ranked by Google. Either by intention or design, the PWA approach invented and heavily promoted in Mountain View, is becoming one of the best ways to please both end users and Google. And there are a number of PWA example sites worth looking at for inspiration. 

Recently, the world of SEO and UX experienced seismic shock when Google created a new standard for websites and announced the introduction of Core Web Vitals. Why the fuss? Long story short, there will be new metrics forcing publishers to put more effort into adequately addressing performance and UX issues on their sites. 

As is always the case with Google updates, users don’t have a choice; they can adapt or pay the price and risk losing visibility and traffic. Changes take effect in 2021, so there is some time to prepare, though not enough to rebuild the sites from scratch. Fortunately, there is no need to do that as there is an approach that enables developers to speed up the sites and take good care of UX. Even better, it’s already available and field-tested by some giants… 

What is PWA?

PWA (Progressive Web App) is not a new concept. On the contrary, the idea of apps that are linkable, accessible, deliver superb UX, and can be freely distributed across the web came out in early 2000. Years later, the concept was raised again by Steve Jobs. In the end, however, it turned out that the time of PWA was still to come. Jobs realized that walling Apple’s data garden would make more business sense: the App Store was born and, with it, a decade of native mobile apps running the world began. 

But times have changed. The stores are cluttered, users are not very eager to dig through them, and – in general – operating on several fronts (native apps require a separate tech stack) is tiring and expensive. It can still bring the expected profits… but even this continues to get harder. 

In 2015, Frances Berriman and Alex Russell observed a new class of websites characterized by giving up the browser’s tabs and living on their own while maintaining their ubiquity and linkability. They called them “Progressive Web Apps.” A year later, during the Google IO conference, Eric Bidelman, Senior Staff Developers Programs Engineer, introduced PWA as a new standard in web development.

It is tough to describe PWA in one word. Essentially, it is the bridge between the mobile and desktop worlds that brings out the best of both. However, this doesn’t point to any specific approach or even a tech stack. Based on the standard web technology (JavaScript, CSS, HTML), PWA is focused heavily on user and developer experience. 

Given the clutter mentioned above in app stores, along with the general “friendliness” of using, building, and sharing PWAs, many prominent companies started to explore the area.

Read more:
- 17 sites that use PWA and how it works for them by Kaja Grzybowska
- Vue Storefront: The fastest-growing PWA frontend in the world by Krzysztof Basel
- Kubota's case study of launching PWA in a mobile-first store by Aleksandra Kwiecien

PWA example sites that rule the eCommerce world 

The benefits of Progressive Web Apps can be valuable for businesses of any kind, but the eCommerce sector has some of the most impressive PWA examples. At the top of that list, given its impressive operation scale, has to be the Alibaba Group. 

Delivering the best possible mobile-friendly UX was the main reason that Alibaba Group decided to implement PWA. This Chinese eCommerce leader runs Alibaba.com, the world’s largest online business-to-business trading platform, and AliExpress.com, a marketplace offering products to international online buyers, as well as Taobao that has grown to become China’s largest C2C online shopping platform. And that is just the top of the list of its ventures. 

Despite their scale, these brands all faced the same challenges as smaller ones. At some point, the mobile users’ engagement started to be far from satisfying, which was causing money to leak as more and more of the users connected to the platform via mobile devices. Alibaba decided to reach for a PWA to improve that aspect of their business. 

After implementing Progressive Web Apps onto Alibaba and Aliexpress sites, it noticed a significant increase in total conversions across browsers with limited costs compared to native apps. 

There are a lot of companies that have followed their lead, starting with Jumia. The eCommerce website in Africa was struggling with motivating users to download a data-heavy native app, which led to high customer-acquisition costs. To overcome these obstacles, it decided to adopt Progressive Web Apps technologies and reduce friction. As a result, conversion rates have increased.  

Flipkart’s PWA example is slightly different but also worth mentioning. The company adopted an app-only strategy and shut down its mobile website because it was hard to provide a satisfying user experience on the browser.  PWA turned out to be a solution to that problem. Flipkart built Flipkart Lite and combined its web presence and native app into one entity. 

Twitter and PWA

The eCommerce industry is not the only one that appreciates the benefits of Progressive Web Apps. The cases from the social media sector are not only equally impressive but maybe even more convincing when it comes to proving the PWA’s impact on UX. 

Twitter is one of the most recognizable social media platforms and, like many of its competitors, at some point in its growth, found it hard to attract mobile users effectively. To overcome that problem, it decided to implement a PWA, which then became the default mobile web experience for all users in 2017. This enabled Twitter to re-engage mobile users more effectively and provide them with a smooth but rich UX while consuming less data. 

PWA for Pinterest

Pinterest implemented PWA for the same reasons. The platform was looking to engage mobile users who were suffering from a poor UX delivered on smartphones and reluctant to making signups. 

PWA allowed the implementation of features for adding the app to the home screen and sending push notifications. It took three months and ended with astonishing results. Time spent by users on the site was up by 40% compared to the old mobile web experience, while user-generated ad revenue increased by 44% and core engagements by 60%.

Trivago: A PWA example of a travel app

Trivago also bet on PWA in the hope of improving the mobile users’ experience and taking advantage of the rising wave of mobile traffic more effectively. Native apps weren’t optimal for users on-the-go as they often need to save their mobile data and thus are not very keen on downloading stuff to their smartphones. 

A Progressive Web App was the way to go. It provided offline features, push notifications, and home screen shortcuts that enable the performance on the level comparable to native apps. User engagement increased by 150%, approximately 500 000 people added Trivago to their home screens, and the user retention grew from 0.8% to 2%.

PWA and Starbucks

Starbucks is another company that decided to go for PWA in spite of already having a mobile app. Its ordering system was developed in 2015 but PWA seemed to offer broader accessibility, which was especially beneficial in emerging markets. However, it needed to deliver UX on the same level as a native mobile app not to lose the existing users. 

It was not an easy task, as the menu had to include various modifications and customization options displayed to consumers as fast as possible, even when they had no internet connection.  The PWA, with the implementation of caching, delivers on that promise. The customers have been given the option to browse and customize their orders offline and, while they are online, can view pricing specific to the location they’re ordering from and place their order. 

Spotify PWA

With the aim of providing the best possible user experience to listeners, Spotify also reached for a Progressive Web App. The streaming platform killed two birds with one stone: it took care of listeners, providing them with a fast-working and easy-to-use app, while avoiding the limitations imposed by the closed environment of mobile technology. 

Uber PWA example 

As a car-sharing app, Uber is strongly associated with mobile usage. However, as Madhur Chadha, Senior Product Manager stated on the blog, desktop users’ needs are just as much of a priority as mobile ones. 

“Since rolling out m.uber.com, we observed that 30 percent of riders primarily request trips on a desktop computer as opposed to on a mobile device. According to our research, riders who wanted to plan their travel in advance also tended to use and appreciate the desktop experience.”

Madhur Chadha, Senior Product Manager, Uber.

Uber’s efforts in searching for a way to improve the web experience focused mostly on speed and accessibility. The end result was a resounding success. 

“Leveraging tried and true platforms like the web has helped us reach a wider audience, including people who may live in regions where network access is slow or where phones based on older technology are more common.”

Madhur Chadha, Senior Product Manager, Uber.

Conclusion 

The PWA example sites from the tech giants mentioned above are just the most spectacular part of a bigger picture. PWA, being cheaper and less time consuming than native mobile apps, is a very democratic solution than small and medium companies can also utilize. What’s more, the businesses which know that nobody these days can afford to ignore the impact of UX on business results have already started.

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Kaja Grzybowska

An experienced journalist writing for Wyborcza.biz, biznes.onet.pl, NewConnect.info and Inwestycje.pl. Previously was a managing editor of Interaktywnie.com, a website dedicated to technology, advertising, digital media and economy.

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