Why successful commerce PWAs rely on an API-led approach

Google is pushing the development of modern technologies like Progressive Web Apps (PWA) or Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to help retailers find a successful advantage through better online customer experience. However, implementing a successful commerce PWA is easier said than done.

Here is what you need to know before taking the leap into PWAs:

What is a Progressive Web App (PWA)?

PWAs are applications which load in the browser just like any web page. It can give people that rich mobile experience with native functionalities like the possibility of working online, getting notifications and so on.

It can feel like a native app and it can offer the same experience. You don’t need to download it to use it because it can run and work in a browser.

They promote the mobile-first approach and represent it well everywhere. Web app development has evolved a lot and many concepts and technologies have been introduced and are used actively today.

While there is an app for everything, users find it complex to install and maintain different app on one device. You need to take several factors into account with native web apps, such as:

  • The size
  • Lack of use
  • Bad internet connectivity
  • Huge data consumption
  • Multiple updates and permissions
  • Variety of alternatives

Reasons to build a PWA:

  • Rich experience due to modern standards
  • App-like experience and functionality
  • HTTPS security
  • Modern service workers functionality
  • Responsiveness
  • Works well offline and on low quality network
  • Doesn’t require separate installation

Building and maintaining PWAs means separating the static content from the dynamic content. The app shell is generally static while the content is versatile and easy to change.

“The use of app shell architecture which is actually the base of the user interface is the only approach to the development. The app shell consists of the core elements of design which need to make the apps run without connection,” says Crystal Holt, a marketing writer at Writinity.

The app shell approach works well for apps which are full of JavaScript, consist of one page and have a stable navigation as well as changing content.

APIs lead to high performing PWAs

The most important part of PWA is the speed. They decrease the time it takes for the customers to complete the tasks and to find the items they need.

However, not all PWAs have the same speed. An API-led approach makes it easy to have a customer-first strategy by reducing the amount of data that is sent to the device – ultimately making it faster. It provides a separation between the customer experience and the backend business logic which helps it unlock agility across the organization.

For instance, the product listing can only load the first ten products and then load the rest as you scroll down. This is similar to how Facebook works, and it enables the app to send less data to the server meaning it will be a lot faster than before.

“Your frontend won’t need replacement when it comes time to replatform because it won’t be connected to the backend. It enables you to test UX frequently and make deployments which are smaller and less risky. It also helps you create an agile organization. It also empowers teams to make UX changes” says Marianne Sears, a tech blogger at Researchpapersuk.

Delivering a PWA would mean that you need to focus on mobile experience, including the tablet experience while continuing to deliver a great desktop experience. A PWA uses the existing APIs or it converts HTML into an API to pull content from the CMS. The advantage of this is that you can get the PWA to the market very quickly.