Progressive Web Apps (PWA) won’t save mobile WordPress speed.

WordPress Mobile Speed

Updated: October 2019


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Are Progressive Web Apps a remarkable phenomenon? Or another fad touted as rescuing mobile experiences?

Should you convert to Progressive Web Apps? Not today. And maybe never.

Progressive Web Apps salvage loser applications. These are the ones buried in oblivion on Apple store and Google Android store. Market noise grew loud – an ocean of app offerings. No one gets discovered. Lost in the wash. Thus the “brilliant” idea of converting apps into mobile websites hatched. A website with regular-old organic SEO may give a better chance of attention and adoption.

Android store contains 2.1 million apps. Apple’s App Store is the second-largest app store with 1.8 million available apps. – Source

Typical free-download iPhone apps are:
  • Bitmoji.
  • Snapchat.
  • YouTube.
  • Facebook Messenger.
  • Google Maps.
  • Netflix.
  • Spotify.
  • Uber.

Apps are heavy. They convert to heavy slow websites. There’s no advantage for users – only SELLERS. PWAs consume about 50MB of available space. It consumes the user’s bandwidth. And Apple purges the PWA from cache after two weeks. That’s bad news for PWAs.

This alternative idea reminds us of the failed Google AMP propaganda. Another solution without a problem? Simple site source optimization is always a better strategy.

It’s touted PWA – Progressive Web Apps load instantly, respond to user clicks, and include an immersive UX. Wow! Really? Are they saying web pages don’t achieve these simple goals already?

PWAs are currently not supported by Safari on iOS. Fifty percent of mobile browsing is on Safari. Standalone PWAs use the weird Web.app process and WebApp1.app. That means it’s not 100% Safari compatible so it has its own bugs and issues. PWAs on iOS can’t make use of camera streams as there is a several-year-old bug.

Some people see PWAs as the dawn of a new era in mobile technology. We view it as another future bone pile. It’s creative but not an innovation. There’s no audience applause.

The most used and popular mobile apps are Facebook, Instagram, and email apps. The average page weight of native apps is 30 megabytes while the average size of a PWA is only 2 megabytes. And they think 2 megabytes is cool? Weird.

That reported PWA “optimization” is no miracle. This isn’t an improvement for the Internet! It’s average performance optimization. Ordinary, average page weight is 2.3 to 3 megabytes. Optimized web pages are much lighter – less than 1 megabyte – in the 350 to 750 kilobyte range. PWA weight is mediocre. Their main goal is converting loser and drowning apps to web pages. Trying to get submerged apps to float to the surface. The hope is salvaging investments lost in the sea of iOS and Android store apps.

Installations from app stores have a negative and cumbersome user experience. The PWA idea is increasing app installation using URL access. User experience is not the main motivation of PWA authors. The goal is the sunset of mobile apps. App authors replace them with PWAs to reduce costs and the hope of increasing usage. PWA is a marketing bandaid. A mere salvaging ploy.

There is no redeeming value in PWA for users.

Turns out there are already about 15 plugins for WordPress PWA conversion. Half of those only have less than 100 active installs. The largest has around 20,000 installs. Insignificant. We don’t have the time or interest to test the PWA plugins since we see them as bogus or faddish.

The idea is loading your site as an app into a mobile device – then it’s a permanent download into the device. You get a supposed instant load with a click. Faster than a website? Doubtful.

Who is willing to clog their smartphone memory that way? Would you download a bulky website on your mobile phone? The potential blowback on PWA ignorance hasn’t occurred yet. Aren’t people afraid of risking precious device resources? The horror stories will unfold.

Google scared site owners into thinking SEO is now dependent on being “mobile-first.” Google states responsivity (screen-size adaptation) is claimed the number one priority. And speed number two on the mobile-first criteria list. Do those SEO signals outweigh relevant content? Google wants to manipulate and keep us in the dark. As usual.

Our answer is relevant content is still more important than speed.

Google claims the big switch to mobile-first listings arrived in July 2018. But geeks employed by Google say mobile-first rankings “won’t count” for SEO. At least not until 70 percent of the Internet adopts the practice. Why? They can’t afford to tick off their big advertising income. Big account’s ranking-damage would be bad for Google business. So do as Google says, not as they do.

Google employees think they’ve achieved a 30-percent mobile-first adoption. Uh? That’s the same stat they brag about for SSL adoption. But other sources like BuiltWith say it’s only around 4 percent of the Internet. We suspect this propaganda is a plea for “get-on-the-bandwagon” bias.

Mobile-first ranking doesn’t matter as much as relevant content. It may never matter. Google dogma sometimes has no teeth in the real world.

And PWAs waste energy and resources. Period. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Godspeed-

Steve Teare
performance engineer

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