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Progressive Web Apps in Training

Author: James Barton

Published May 2020

If you were to ask most people what a Progressive Web App (PWA) is, they would give you the blank look that I get most of the time when I am being nerdy. And in all honesty, I am not surprised as this little-known technology is hardly the sexiest topic in the world.

Or is it?

As someone who has been building training apps for the last 5 years, I think the rise of PWAs is something we should all be looking at with some interest as it represents a significant change in the way we can deliver digital training.

So, what the heck are PWAs?

Quite simply, they are websites that can also use the native functionality inside your mobile devices. You can access the biometrics, cameras, GPS and accelerometers in the same way you could if you built an iOS or Android app… except it is a website.

 

This is important for three reasons:

 

  1. A website will run on any device. No longer do you need to write and maintain separate iOS and Android apps: you build once and deploy to any device. The cost savings in terms of development time, testing, security and deployment are huge
  2. A website is simpler to develop with a wider talent pool. This means your development team can be leaner and new talent can be more quickly onboarded and be productive.
  3. You are decoupled from the app stores for deployment

This last point is hugely important for anyone who knows the pain of running the gauntlet that is Apple’s app review process. Submit, reject, change, submit etc etc. In essence, you are not really in control – Apple are.

 

There is also the perception that for some clients an app is something ‘different’ that needs to be regulated. Tell a client you are putting supporting content for your training in a website and they find this perfectly acceptable… mention an app and off we go to IT for approval and then you are months away from what should be a simple deployment.

 

But is it all roses? Of course not. There are limitations, but these are being overcome rapidly both by support from Apple and Android systems, but also through other creative solutions.

For example, the current offline caching limit is 50mb. That’s fine for a well-optimised app, but not brilliant if you have training videos embedded, or other large files.

 

What if you want push notifications on iOS? Not supported right now, but there are a number of new solutions that can help you overcome it.

As someone once said, “New problems require new solutions”.

For me the PWA is particularly powerful in training for the following reasons:

  1. We are often trying to integrate and connect with other platforms. Whether these are HR systems, CRM or an LMS, PWAs make it simpler to integrate
  2. We need to deploy quickly with rapid changes to meet changing needs. With PWAs we are able deploy with a simple click without app store challenges
  3. Not all training is mobile. As a PWA works on a mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop, we are able to meet the user’s needs with one application that works anywhere
  4. We want people to access data offline – and we still can
  5. We want engagement – PWAs are masters at that

PWAs are masters of engagement. Want proof?

 

Here are some of the key statistics and benefits of PWAs taken from the findings for a study from the AppInstitute and Google themselves:

 

  1. 68% increase in mobile traffic
  2. 15x faster to load and install
  3. 25x less device storage required
  4. 52% average increase in conversions
  5. Sessions increased by 78.25%
  6. Engagement is increased by 137%
  7. Page views increased by 133%

Not too shabby… so why the heck isn’t everyone doing this?

It’s a good question and the answer is a little more complex as it has to do with perception, ego and skills; the topic of another blog, probably.

 

 

For now, I know we are focusing our attention on using PWAs to build the next generation of our MPA, so watch this space…

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