The discussion around Progressive Web Apps (PWA’s) has grown massively in the tech media as more browsers are adopting support and more and more developers trial it with their clients. But what exactly is a PWA and how does it differ from old web-wrapper apps?
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are web applications that load like regular web pages or websites but can offer extra functionality such as working offline, push notifications, and device hardware access traditionally available only to native mobile applications. PWA’s are an emerging technology that combine the open standards of the web offered by modern browsers to provide benefits of a rich mobile experience.
SimpleServe are leaders in the development of PWA in the United Kingdom. We’ve built PWA Magento, WordPress and custom HTML websites – in case you didn’t know, this website is fully PWA as well (more below)!
PWA’s are web apps developed using a number of specific technologies and standard patterns to allow them to take advantage of both web and native app features. For example, web apps are more discoverable – it’s a lot easier and faster to visit a website than install an application, and you can also share web apps via a link.
On the other hand, native apps are better integrated with the operating system and therefore offer a more seamless experience for the users. You can install a native app so that it works offline, and users love tapping their homescreen icons to easily access their favorite apps, rather than navigating to it using a browser.
PWA’s give us the ability to create web apps that can enjoy these same advantages. It’s not a brand new concept either, such ideas have been revisited many times on the web platform with various approaches in the past. Progressive Enhancement and responsive design already allow us to build mobile friendly websites. Working offline and installing apps was possible in the Firefox OS ecosystem a few years ago.
PWA’s, however, provide all this and more, without getting rid of any of the existing features that make the web, and your online business, great.
Progressive Web App’s are an enhancement of existing web technology. As such, they do not require separate bundling or distribution. Publication of a progressive web app is as it would be for any other web page. PWA’s work in any browser, but ‘app-like’ features such as being independent of connectivity, install to home screen & push messaging depend on browser support.
In 2015, designer Frances Berriman and Google Chrome’s Alex Russell coined the term ‘progressive web apps’ to describe apps taking advantage of new features supported by modern browsers, including service workers and web app manifests, that let users upgrade web apps to progressive web applications in their native operating system (OS). According to Google Developers, these characteristics are:
- Progressive – Work for every user, regardless of browser choice because they’re built with progressive enhancement as a core tenet.
- Responsive – Fit any form factor: desktop, mobile, tablet, or forms yet to emerge.
- Connectivity independent – Service workers allow work offline, or on low quality networks.
- App-like – Feel like an app to the user with app-style interactions and navigation.
- Fresh – Always up-to-date thanks to the service worker update process.
- Safe – Served via HTTPS to prevent snooping and ensure content hasn’t been tampered with.
- Discoverable – Are identifiable as “applications” thanks to W3C manifests and service worker registration scope allowing search engines to find them.
- Re-engageable – Make re-engagement easy through features like push notifications.
- Installable – Allow users to “keep” apps they find most useful on their home screen without the hassle of an app store.
- Linkable – Easily shared via a URL and do not require complex installation.
Absolutely! With once your developer has implemented the core PWA features, the benefits are huge. For example:
- A decrease in loading times after the app has been installed, thanks to caching with Service Workers, along with saving precious bandwidth and time;
- The ability to update only the content that has changed when an app update is available. In contrast, with a native app, even the slightest modification can force the user to download the entire application again;
- A look and feel that is more integrated with the native platform – app icons on the homescreen, apps that run fullscreen, etc;
- Re-engaging with users via system notifications and push messages, leading to more engaged users and better conversion rates.
There are many success stories of companies trying the PWA route, opting for an enhanced website experience rather than a native app, and seeing significant measurable benefits as a result; and we’re one of them!
As leaders in PWA development it’s only natural our website is PWA – right?
You’ll be pleased to know that it is – yes! So to test it, all you need to do is to save the page to your home screen and then open the website from the new app icon on your device desktop. You can browse, contact us and do everything as normal whether you’re online or offline (for instance in a tube or on a plane).
Get in touch with us if you’re looking for help with your existing PWA, Native App or if you’re looking to upgrade your existing website to one.