You’ve likely heard the phrase, “change is the only constant in life.” And it’s true. Throughout history, human evolution has been key to our survival as is innovation to our prosperity. Invention boomed during the first industrial revolution and the second. Then, the third phase, the Digital Revolution, gave birth to the internet, which forever transformed the processing and sharing of information.
The Evolution of Web Development
1970’s: Clunky and difficult to use personal computers were developed.
1989: The world wide web was invented for automated information sharing.
1999: The first version of mobile specific web browser connected our phones to the World Wide Web.
2000 -2007: Phones got smarter, became more portable and signal coverage improved. However, poor phone resolution and the absence of touchscreen mobiles made surfing the web difficult. In response, developers redirected users to mobile web sites with the M.Dot methodology. Unfortunately, multiple redirects slowed things down and maintaining multiple websites came with pricey development costs.
2008: Google Play and the App store were released. At the time, slow phone internet speed and expensive data use charges allowed companies to capitalize on Native App development. Because there was no easy way to create an app that could work across Android, Apple, Windows, and/or other operating systems, specialization was required. Developers had to write multiple code for the same app to run across different types of devices. Unfortunately, this like previous methods also came with pricey development costs.
Naturally, developers adapted and debuted Responsive Web Design (RWD) to resolve the need for multiple codes. Over the past decade, web app development further evolved in pursuit of reducing the gap between web and native app development while simultaneously improving the customer experience. And so, Hybrid App development came into the picture.
And soon, Progressive Web Apps (PWA) revolutionized the industry once again.
The Next Wave: further improved customer experience
As web development matures, PWAs elevate the customer experience into the future by maintaining the engaging and user-friendly native app experience, but with less development and maintenance headaches for utilities as well as instant access to platform enhancements.
The Native-App Feel: Much like native-apps, PWAs can also be downloaded into customer’s home screens as real applications. They function and feel just like native apps.
Write once, run anywhere, save on costs: With the rise of competing smart phone brands and the desire to make platforms accessible to everyone, PWAs are developed to allow for the same code to be used across all device and operating systems. This is an innovative enhancement for web development from its Native App predecessor. So whether customers have the Google Pixel, an Apple iPhone, an Android, or whatever the newest smart phone may be, they will still be able to access a PWA immediately. Thus, making it easier, faster, and cost effective to offer the same features regardless of where your customers are. There’s no longer a need to maintain multiple apps, perform extensive testing, updating and ongoing maintenance across all device platforms.
A single app with a consistent look-and-feel across all platforms also makes it easier for staff members to assist customers and lessens the confusion for everyone. It's a win-win!
Ease of maintenance, higher security: With native apps requiring manual updates, users often missed out on powerful new features and critical security patches. Thankfully, the evolution to PWAs automatically provides users the renewed experiences as soon as updates are published.
No revenue sharing: Because PWA’s are not offered through App stores, utilities providing self-service apps via PWAs don’t have to share any revenue from in-app purchases (for add on services such as protection plans). For reference, app stores apply a 15-30% fee of pre-tax revenue on any transaction made within a native app.
Native Apps may have had a leg up over PWAs due to timing, but PWAs have quickly taken the lead as best practice. For example, Apple will soon roll out new features to PWAs such as dark mode, authentication methods (including Face ID), application previews and more. Google has already introduced new features such as immersive full-screen experiences, shortcut actions and graceful permission handling. PWA’s are becoming the default future for utility self-service apps.
VertexOne has been building both native and progressive web apps for customer self-service since 2014—before most utility companies even realized the importance of self-service apps. As an industry pioneer, we currently provide mobile solutions to roughly 15 million customers across North America. Though we create both types of apps, it’s clear why most of our utility partners opt for PWAs. The time and money saved along with expanded and robust capabilities make it a no-brainer for those wanting to build a more future-forward utility. PWAs is where innovation meets essential services.
Download this infographic for more information on how PWAs might just be the more modern and better option for your customer self-service app. We encourage you to share it with your utility customer service team.