Why you Should Start Caring About Progressive Web Apps (If you Don’t Already)?

Have you heard of the term “the best of both worlds”? As utopian as it might sound, there is one place where this may apply -in the application world. Progressive Web Apps or PWA’s are being touted as the next big thing for the mobile web. These apps take the advantages of the latest technology and combine the best experiences of mobile and the web apps to deliver better functionality and smoother and more engaging application experiences. As web interactions move increasingly towards the mobile, application developers are faced with the challenge of creating applications that can be easily accessed over the smartphone without compromising on quality, aesthetics, and functionality. One solution is to create web applications that look and feel like iOS or Android apps that are native to the device. Welcome Progressive Web Apps!

What are Progressive Web Apps?

Progressive Web Apps, PWA’s, deliver a mobile like experience to the users without having them download or install the app from the play (or App) store. With these apps, developers can create a simple web application using JavaScript, HTML, CSS etc. and add mobile capabilities such as camera access, push notifications, offline support etc. PWA’s are deployed to servers, are indexed by search engines and can be accessed through url’s. Mobile web apps that are accessed on a mobile browser usually are not capable of sending out push notifications, do not deliver the look and feel of a native app downloaded from an app store, cannot load on the home screen etc. With PWA’s developers can fix this problem leveraging new design concepts, using new web API’s and standards-based technologies in tandem to deliver a native app like experience.

Why you Should Start Caring About Progressive Web Apps?

Benefits of Progressive Web Apps

Research suggests that “every step you make a user perform before they get value out of your app will cost you 20% of users.” In such an environment PWA’s work well for businesses since these apps do not compromise on user experience as compared to a traditional mobile web browser and neither do they demand a user go through the process of installing a mobile app. Here are a few benefits of PWA’s

  1. Adaptability– Since PWA’s are built with progressive enhancement as a core tenet they have the capability to work for every user irrespective of browser choice.
  2. Responsiveness – PWA’s have the responsiveness to fit any form factor, be it a laptop, tablet or mobile device, thus ensuring a consistent user experience
  3. Workability – These apps have the capability to work offline and in low network quality since these are enhanced with Service Workers. This is a script that runs behind the scenes and runs in response to events such as network requests, push notifications etc. This capability ensures that these apps also run faster than traditional websites and hence improve app speed and performance.
  4. App-like – Provide app-style navigation and interactions using design concepts such as App Shell that provides the web application a shell of an app UI. The content is then loaded later, is kept and cached separately. This helps in fast loading and improving the user experience.
  5. Always Updated – PWA’s are always updated owing to the service worker update process.
  6. Highly Secure – High on security as these are delivered via HTTPS. This also ensures that the content of the application does not get tampered with.
  7. Discoverability – Since PWA’s are actually websites, this makes them easily discoverable by search engines. PWA’s also speed up the process of application indexing and ensures that the app is indexed in Google much faster without worrying about app deep linking.
  8. Frictionless – PWA’s provide a frictionless user experience since unlike mobile apps these are easily installable without using an app or play store. Since these do not have to be downloaded, application updates happen effortlessly from the user’s side and this gives them access to the latest features, security updates, functionalities etc. This feature also helps in avoiding the problem of software fragmentation as faced by native mobile apps.
  9. Expandability – As PWA’s are essentially websites, it is very easy to expand them to add functionalities.
  10. Sharability – These apps are easily shareable via URL as they do not need to be downloaded.

It’s fair to say that we are still in the early days of Progressive Web Apps. Cross-browser support in browsers such as Safari and Edge is limited but the open support that PWA’s have been getting from companies such as Microsoft (they plan to implement more PWA features) and with Twitter, NASA, etc. all using Progressive Web Apps to create new versions of their service, it is quite clear that this craze will catch on quickly. After all, it is becoming evident that the future of mobile apps is the web!

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