Beating Corporate Bureaucracy with Progressive Web Apps Instead of Mobile Apps
December 21, 2022Sadiq Damani3 min read
Are progressive web apps (PWAs) a replacement for native mobile apps? No.
But, can they be the smart and pragmatic way to solve a clunky user experience with minimal fuss? Absolutely.
You should actively consider PWAs whenever you think you need a mobile app.
A client approached me insisting that they needed a mobile app, no ifs or buts - familiar territory! Their users were using a paper-based system to place orders for their patients. This was causing obvious time & cost inefficiencies. More worryingly, their competitor had a shiny new mobile app that their users were now turning towards due to its ease of use.
However users didn’t necessarily want a ‘work-related’ app on their personal phone. And those using a device issued by their workplace were unable to download apps that hadn’t gone through a tedious internal approval process with central IT. Therefore, there was no solution for these users.
Intro PWAs - The Saviour
PWAs are web applications that are built to give mobile users a native-like experience - this includes features like offline mode, pushing updates/notifications, and (limited) hardware integration.
Our client didn’t require the phone’s deep native functionalities. Even if it did, PWAs have come a long way and can now do more than you think. By opting for a PWA, the client was able to roll this solution out to every single user. This was thanks to the fact that no prior corporate approval was required from their end, nor by their users’ companies that issue their phones. Simply, they’d receive a link for the PWA via email, open it in their browser and get cracking. If they found the ordering process easy enough, they could add a shortcut to their home screen as if it were an app.
Common Mistake - The Shiny App Which Nobody Can Access
I’ve seen this quite a few times; a business insisting that they need a shiny new mobile app simply because their competitor has it. Whilst the time to develop a mobile app has reduced thanks to cross-platform development technologies like React Native and Flutter, one shouldn’t overlook the additional necessary steps to push a mobile app into the market:
- getting approval from Google/Apple
- convincing your users to download the app, taking more precious memory of their phone
Open-source platforms like Expo have simplified this process drastically, but Expo can’t handle your organisation’s bureaucracy!
Here’s a quick summary of the overhead ‘admin’ costs you need to consider when deciding between a mobile app & PWA. It’s clear that a PWA can get you to market faster with fewer administrative headaches.
|Approval From Google||Required||Not Required|
|Approval from Apple||Required||Not Required|
|Approval from Central IT||Required||Not Required (assuming all websites are ok, unless blacklisted)|
|Pushing Updates||Depending on the size of the update, you may need to repeat the above three steps||Not Required|
|User’s ability to access the application||Medium: download from the stores once the above are OK||Easy: Click on a link|
Conclusion - Ensure you’re considering PWAs
In many cases, a PWA is a brilliant solution that your internal IT team will be more likely to support than a native mobile app. They are:
- quick to spin up
- offer great experiences on mobile, tablet, and web
- can be built by web engineers, in frameworks like React!
If you begin to find tremendous traction, good news, you can continue to iterate or now have a strong use case to invest in that shiny new mobile app…unless you’re now a PWA fan!