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PWA vs Responsive Website: What Are The Differences

PWA vs Responsive Website: What Are The Differences

Progressive web apps (PWAs) and responsive websites are essential for providing a good user experience on different devices and screen sizes, but they have distinct differences. PWAs are web apps that use modern web technologies to offer a native app-like experience. At the same time, responsive websites are designed to adjust to the size of the user's screen and provide an optimal viewing experience. 

This article will explore the key differences between PWAs and a responsive website, including their capabilities, advantages, and use cases. This will help you understand which technology best suits your project and how to implement it.

What Is PWA And Responsive Website?

Pwa Vs Responsive Website

1 – Progressive Web App

A progressive web application (PWA), sometimes a progressive web app, is software distributed via the internet and created using standard web technologies, including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and WebAssembly. It is designed to function on any device with a standards-compliant browser, including desktop and mobile ones.

A progressive web app does not need to be packaged or distributed separately because it is a form of the web application. Users can add the web application to their home screen by publishing it online and verifying that it complies with the minimum installation requirements. Distributing the app through digital stores like the Apple App Store or Google Play is optional.

2 – Responsive Website 

A responsive website is a type of website that is designed to adapt to the size and resolution of the device it is being viewed on. This means that the layout and content of the website will adjust to fit the screen size and resolution of the device, whether it is a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone.

Responsive Design is achieved through cascading style sheets (CSS) and media queries, which allow the website to display different layouts and styles depending on the screen size and resolution of the device. This approach enables the same HTML code to be used across all devices while still providing an optimal viewing experience on each device.

Example of Progressive Web App And Responsive Website 

Example Of A Responsive Website

Responsive Website – Shiseido 

Shiseido, a famous cosmetic store that offers high-quality skincare, makeup, and fragrance products, is a fantastic illustration of a responsive website design. 

It is easy to notice that the Shiseido website interface differs when accessed via computer and mobile phone. The layout of the Shiseido website is changed from four blocks to stacking one column on a smaller screen. 

Example Of A Progressive Web App Pwa

PWA – Starbucks 

Starbucks created a PWA of the online ordering system intending to give their customers easy-to-use, accessible online ordering. This PWA provides a similar user experience to their native app. To put it another way, Starbucks PWA's offline mode functionality enables users to peruse the menu, make changes to their orders, and add products to their carts without constant internet access. Once online, consumers can order food and drinks and examine location-specific prices.

Most PWA services are available without a network connection, making it ideal for mobile users with intermittent connectivity throughout the day or emerging markets with unstable connections, such as rural areas. Starbucks has already made significant progress by implementing the new ordering PWA. The web app is a favourite among customers since it is 99.84% smaller than Starbucks' current iOS version. As a result, they increased the daily volume of orders on the website, and desktop and mobile users now place orders at almost the same rate.

Critical Differences Between PWA And Responsive Website

Responsive Jewellery Web Design


Responsive website 

Responsive websites will dramatically change the look and feel of your website depending on the screen size. The layout will adapt automatically to different screen sizes. They adjust their layout and content to match the device used so that no matter which phone or tablet someone uses, they can access your website without any problems. 


With a PWA theme, your website will have a native app-like design. It also brings along a responsive and mobile-friendly for your website. Moreover, a Progressive Web App will deliver a sleek, stylish, and eye-catching appearance to your online business. PWA is built using the same technologies as regular websites but with one crucial difference: they are designed to work well on mobile devices. This means that your PWA can take advantage of features like push notifications and in-app navigation, which make it easier for users to navigate and find what they're looking for. 


Responsive Website 

Fluid grid 

A fluid grid is a type of layout popularised by responsive Design. It allows websites to be resizable and adaptable to different devices and screen sizes without losing any information or functionality.

When designing a website using a fluid grid, you'll create a series of columns (or rows using a table-based layout). These columns will be set at fixed sizes and proportions, but the widths and heights of each one will change based on the device or screen size used. This way, the homepage will look different on laptops than smartphones, for example. 

In addition to adapting smoothly to different screen sizes, responsive websites also can animate their content and images. This allows them to appear as if they're moving when you browse through them on a mobile device or desktop computer. 

Responsive design is a great way to create websites that look good no matter what device or screen size is used. It makes it easier for users to navigate your site and find what they're looking for while giving you enough flexibility to make changes as needed.

Flexible visual 

A responsive website looks good on any device, from a desktop computer to a phone or tablet. This means that the website's Design is automatically adapted to match the device it's being viewed on.

Responsive Design has been around for a while, but it has recently become more popular because of its many benefits. First, it eliminates the need for separate websites for different devices. Second, it makes your website look better and more professional – no matter what device it's being viewed. And finally, it saves you time and money by making your website easier to update and maintain.

Responsive menu 

Responsive Design has been around for a while now, but it's only recently become widely popular due to the rise of mobile devices. As more people are using mobile devices to access the internet, website developers must make their websites responsive to look good on all types of screens.

One of the easiest ways to ensure your website looks good on all screens is to use a responsive menu. A responsive menu allows you to create a single menu item that appears in different places on different types of screens. For example, if your menu item is called “Menu”, it would appear at the top-left corner of a desktop screen and the bottom-left corner of a phone screen. Similarly, if your menu item is called “Home, ” it would appear in both places. 

Using responsive Design and a responsive menu will ensure that your website looks great no matter what device or screen it's being viewed on.

Progressive Web App 

Add to the home screen. 

Unlike regular websites, which are delivered as complete files that need to be downloaded and installed, PWA apps are built using the same technologies used to create mobile apps. This means you can add them to a device's home screen without downloading or installing them first. 

This makes PWA apps much faster and easier to use since they have no wait time to load. Additionally, PAWAs are secure since they run in the background and require no user interaction. Your data is always safe, even if you lose your phone or forget to password-protect it. 

Users need to click the “Add to home screen” popup to create a shortcut to the website right on their device. From there, they can go directly to your website without searching the internet. This feature makes PWA more prevalent than responsive websites.

Offline mode 

Users can launch a Progressive Web App in two ways: through a browser extension or by clicking a “progressive web app” button on the app's website.

The first way works like normal web browsing: when you open a page containing a progressive web app, the browser will start loading the entire application as if it were an online page. Once fully loaded, you can use all the same features as any other website, including accessing your saved passwords and notifications. The only difference is that you can utilise the app's full functionality once connected to the internet.

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The second way works differently. When you click the “progressive web app” button on an app's website, instead of opening up its regular website, your browser will load a special kind of page that allows you to launch the progressive web app without having to wait for it to load completely. This means that your progressive web app can always be available offline – no matter how much bandwidth is available.

Push notification 

Push notifications are a feature of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) that allow the app to send notifications to users even when the app is closed or not in use. These notifications can provide users with updates, alerts, or other information and can help to re-engage users and increase retention and conversion rates.

Push notifications are implemented using the Web Push API, which modern web browsers support. When a user opts in to receive push notifications from a PWA, the browser will ask for permission and then subscribe the user to a push service. Once a user is subscribed, the PWA can send push notifications to the user's browser, even when the PWA is closed.

You can use the push notification feature for various purposes, including eCommerce notifications when a sale is happening, news and weather updates, or personal messaging apps.

Background sync 

Background sync is a feature of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) that allows the app to continue performing specific tasks or sending data to a server even when the app is closed, or the device is offline. This feature is made possible by the use of service workers, which are scripts that run in the background and allow the app to cache resources, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and communicate with a server.

One example of how you can use background sync is with an e-commerce PWA. Suppose a user browsing the PWA adds an item to their cart but loses connectivity before checking out. In that case, the app can use background sync to save the user's cart information and send it to the server when connectivity is restored.

Another example is with a messaging PWA; if the user sends a message and the internet connection is lost, background sync can save the message and send it to the server once the connection is back.

Background sync can improve the user experience and reduce the chances of data loss. It allows the app to continue functioning even when the device is offline and ensures that it can send or receive data as soon as the internet connection is back.

What Makes PWA Stand Out From A Responsive Website 

1 – PWA is much faster than a Responsive Website

A responsive website gives your online store a more customisable look and feel. On the other hand, PWA will make your website speedier than before. Users will only take 2-3 seconds for a page to load.

Best of all, integrating PWA technology will cache customers' pages after the first visit. From then on, reloading these pages will be almost instantaneous on subsequent visits.

PWAs are designed to be fast and responsive, with instant loading and smooth navigation. This can provide a better user experience than a responsive website, which may take longer to load or have less smooth navigation on a mobile device.

Meanwhile, customers will still have to wait for the web pages to reload for each new visit when accessing a responsive website. 

2 – PWA brings along a better user experience than a Responsive Website on a mobile

PWAs and responsive websites provide an excellent user experience regardless of browser or device. PWAs, on the other hand, can go beyond responsive websites by offering customers a native app-like experience. It makes your website appear to be a high-end, well-developed app.

PWAs are designed to be lightweight and efficient, resulting in improved performance on mobile devices, especially compared to a responsive website that is not optimised for mobile devices.

3 – PWA is better for SEO 

PWAs, like responsive websites, can be indexed and ranked by search engines like Google. However, PWAs have some advantages regarding SEO due to their ability to provide a more app-like experience and faster loading times.

Google uses a variety of factors to determine search engine rankings, including the content's relevance, the website's quality and the user experience. PWAs can provide a better user experience by providing faster loading times, offline capabilities, and push notifications, leading to increased engagement and more time spent on the website.

Additionally, PWAs can be optimised for search engines using techniques like structured data, which can help improve visibility and rankings. PWAs can also be promoted by Google's features, such as Web App Manifest, which allows them to be displayed as an app on a device's home screen.

4 – PWA embraces top-notch features that responsive websites lack

If a responsive website only covers an interface adaptable to all devices, a PWA incorporates cutting-edge features to help unleash your online business's power. 

It bridges the gap between a conventional website and a native app by blending the essence of both. No responsive website can provide push notifications, offline mode, add to the home screen, or background sync. All these features were formed in the Progressive Web App, and they can enhance the user experience and provide more functionality than a responsive website

5 – PWAs can be accessed offline or in low connectivity areas, while responsive websites require an internet connection.

PWAs use service workers, which are scripts that run in the background and allow the app to cache resources, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, so that they can be accessed offline or in low connectivity areas. On the other hand, responsive websites rely on a connection to the internet to function correctly. This means that PWAs can still provide a seamless experience to users even when the internet connection is poor or non-existent.

6 – PWAs can be directly accessed via a web browser, unlike native mobile apps, which need to be downloaded from an app store.

PWAs can be accessed directly through a web browser, such as Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, by visiting the website URL. This eliminates the need to go through an app store to download and install the app, saving users time and storage space on their devices. Additionally, PWAs do not require additional permissions or access to device features, making them more appealing to users. However, PWAs can also be installed on a device's home screen, just like a native app, but the user has to opt-in and browser support is needed.

PWA Vs. Responsive Website: Which One Is Best Fit For Your Online Store 

Minimal Ecommerce Website Design

Choosing a Progressive Web App (PWA) and a responsive website for your online store depends on your business needs and goals.

Responsive websites are typically the best fit for businesses that want to provide a simple, easy-to-use online store with a minimal investment. They are typically less expensive to develop and maintain than PWAs and can be accessed by any device with a web browser.

On the other hand, PWAs are the best fit for businesses that want to provide a more app-like experience for their customers and take advantage of features such as offline capabilities, push notifications, and improved performance on mobile devices. PWAs can also help to increase retention and conversion rates through re-engagement features.

PWAs are also better suited for businesses with a large mobile user base and want to improve the user experience on mobile devices. Nowadays, many companies offer various PWA services that effectively support your business on customers' experience and retention with reasonable pricing, such as Tigren

Ultimately, the choice between a PWA and a responsive website will depend on your business goals and the specific needs of your customer base. It is best to consider both options and consult a developer or digital marketing specialist before making a final decision.

Wrap Up

Progressive web apps (PWAs) and responsive websites are designed to provide a good user experience on different devices and screen sizes, but they have some key differences. PWAs are web apps that use modern web technologies to offer a native app-like experience, such as offline support and push notifications. They can be installed on a user's device and launched from the home screen, like a native app. On the other hand, responsive websites are designed to adjust to the size of the user's screen and provide an optimal viewing experience. They do not have the same offline capabilities or app-like features as PWAs.

In conclusion, PWAs offer more advanced features and offline support, while responsive websites are focused on providing a good user experience on different devices and screen sizes.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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