Get fast, easy access to online services without the building costs, says Alex Painter, senior web performance consultant at NCC Group.
Ever since it became possible to access the internet on a smartphone, we’ve struggled to find the best ways to deliver and consume online content on a growing range of devices.
An optimised user experience has never been so critical. A slow, unresponsive website can have a massive impact on whether a user chooses to follow through and make a booking. There is also an increasing trend of consumers browsing on a smartphone and moving to a desktop to complete the transaction.
But how can we keep mobile customers engaged and increase conversions on this platform?
Apps are one way to deliver a better experience than a mobile optimised site, especially when connectivity is limited. However, they have a lot of drawbacks, not least of which is the extra cost of developing and maintaining them alongside the website.
An increasingly popular option is to use a progressive web app, which bridges the gap between websites and apps, delivering most of the benefits of an app but without the disadvantages.
What is a progressive web app?
To put it simply, a progressive web app is just a website.
What differentiates it from any normal website is that it looks, feels and behaves like an app when you load it on certain mobile devices.
The biggest advantage of a progressive web app is that it can save you the time, effort and money that’s invested in creating a separate app. It allows travel providers to offer customers the fast, easy access to online services that an app can deliver without the overhead of building one.
But to make an informed decision around what will benefit you and, more importantly, your customers most, you need to consider the pros and cons of both apps and websites.
What’s good about apps?
Apps can be launched from phone or tablet home screens almost instantaneously. They also work offline, allowing a user to access some, if not all, of the features even if they don’t have internet connection.
What’s good about websites?
For travel companies especially, searchability is key, and a fast mobile website will make it easier for consumers to find you using a search engine.
From the user’s perspective, not having to download an app means saving valuable storage space on their phones or tablets, as they only need a web browser to access to all sorts of websites.
While apps require regular updates, which are time consuming for developers to make and users to install, websites offer the latest version instantly. Websites are also easy to share across social media and communication platforms, helping to reach even more potential holidaymakers.
The best of both worlds
Progressive web apps save both time and money for developers. Building an app requires considerable investment and maintenance for at least two versions, Android and iOS. But with a progressive web app, you can focus your attention on optimising one platform, instead of three.
Deploying changes to your website and apps can also be challenging as there will be a number of teams working on each platform, which could cause discrepancies and create brand-damaging inconsistencies. A web app is more convenient for customers too, as they get an app-like experience without the problem of storing it and downloading frequent updates.
Progressive web apps are relatively simple to build – there are a lot of online tools and tutorials that mean it doesn’t have to be a painful experience.
Of course, it’s important to weigh up the costs, especially for those who have already invested in a dedicated app. But with user experience and conversion rates at the top of the priority list, progressive web apps can offer the best of both worlds without having to build and maintain multiple versions of what is essentially the same thing.