Blog / Progressive Web App / Things You Need to Know About Progressive Web Applications

Things You Need to Know About Progressive Web Applications

The web world has been changing drastically, with the various concept and technologies emerging to solve the existing problem and deliver information smoothly to the end users. There has been a great help to the business owner in reaching out to their potential customer. In order to ensure smooth workflow of your business, and rush to attain new heights of success, you need to amplify your online presence in the form of a mobile app, websites, social profiles and much more.

You need to work a lot on your user experience to ensure that end users have smooth access to your brand information, to assure that every user has a positive thought regarding your brand once they visit. This will help you, in the long run, and increase your sales and enhance your growth rate.

There has been a tremendous rise in the number of mobile web usage as compared to desktop usage. These figures very well reveal the fact that the mobile platform is the new destination for most of the business where they can capture the attention of the end user. Businesses owners have realized this changing behaviour in the ongoing market and have started creating mobile websites which are much responsive, fast, reliable even in poor internet connectivity.

Mobile web vs Desktop

Most of the companies rely on native mobile apps for all sort of mobile platform apart for the dependence on web app or website. However, maintaining the native app, web app, the website and as well as establishing a proper synchronization is a much hectic and costly exercise.

Many developers were trying to fill the gap between websites and app but all in vain, until in 2015 Chrome engineer Alex Russell and designer Frances Berriman coined the term Progressive Web Application (PWAs). Progressive Web Applications bought a revolution and relief not only in the development field, but it helped to enhance the globality of the business allowing it to reach masses because of the ability to run in areas with low network bandwidth.

What is Progressive Web App?

They are sites running on mobile devices and having features similar to that of a mobile app. It has added advantages of modern browser features and can be pinned to the home screen of the smart devices.

The behaviour and functionality of the Progressive web applications are similar to that of a native mobile app, it can send push notifications, can have access to the hardware of smart devices and most importantly it can work smoothly even in poor internet connection.

PWA is the next big revolution in the mobile app industry. It utilizes the open source community and lots of plugins from the web ecosystem.

Progressive Web Apps are application combining the best feature of Websites and Native App. And as per the nature of these apps that they are constantly evolving, they are termed as progressive.

Why Progressive Web App?

We all are acquainted with Android and iOS apps which we have been using on our smartphones. These apps have become a necessity. But we face several problems when we are about to install these apps.

  1. Are we having enough memory?
  2. Is the app worthy to be downloaded?
  3. Data consumption.

As per the recent survey, most of the people are turning away from apps, not willing to download and install and new app as most of the apps fail to satisfy the user experience and worthwhile.

On average, every user has at least 5 apps which they have downloaded but don’t use them regularly. Most of the apps work properly when there is a high-speed internet connection.

Now the most hilarious thing is that most of the business has a fully responsive website representing their brand still they waste their time and money to build a large size app wasting precious disk space and data of the user. The average size of a native app is 30-200MB apart from these regular updates are there.

With the introduction of Progressive Web Applications which have the size in KBS and automatically updating feature, the app market has revolutionized engaging more user. All credit to Service Worker.

Will, it is not beneficial and easy if the website does all work of an app?

We can summarize and say Progressive Web app has the best features of a native mobile app combined with the features of websites.

In words of its inventor Alex:


Just websites that took all the right vitamins”

Powerful features of PWA

Features of PWA

The above figure speaks a lot about the features of PWA. Among all this feature the feature of PWA running perfectly fine in poor internet connectivity and we can add that it has offline features. It works smoothly in low bandwidth connection. All this is possible because of Service Worker.

PWA enhances user experience save much of their space on devices and their data.

Brief Comparison of PWA with Native App

PWA being the current trend have some advantages over the native app in some important aspects and features. The figure below is a brief comparison between the Native app and the Progressive Web App.

PWA vs Native Apps

Brands using PWA Technology

Brands using PWA Technology

Key components of PWAs

Reading the above context related to PWA and its advantages its time to dive in the technical aspect of PWAs. Basically, the Progressive web applications have four technical components which provide many features:

Key components of PWA

The Web App Manifest

The Web App manifest — a JSON file — is the first component that provides the end user with the look and feels similar to that of a Native App. The manifest empowers the developer to control the way the PWA app is displayed to end user. (full-screen mode excluding the URL part). This JSON file serves as a centralized place for the web app’s metadata.

A manifest file helps the developer to customize the appearance of the app.  It can be used for defining if your app needs the URL to be displayed or you need a full-screen mode app, linking icons and icon’s size, type and location and few other key elements which can be used for giving your PWA app the look and feel of a real app.

Overview of web manifest properties:

name
short_name
start_url

display with a value of standalone or fullscreen

To have all these features, developers need to link the manifest file in their header section.

Sample Manifest file:
{
  "name": "My Application",
  "short_name": "my_application",
  "theme_color": "#208075",
  "background_color": "#208075",
  "start_url": "index.html",
  "display": "standalone",
  "orientation": "landscape",
  "icons": [
	{
  	"src": "launcher-icon-3x.png",
  	"sizes": "144x144",
  	"type": "image/png"
	},
	{
  	"src": "launcher-icon-4x.png",
  	"sizes": "192x192",
  	"type": "image/png"
	}
  ],
}

To use this manifest file in your PWA app you just need to upload it on your server and link it in the header part.

<link rel="manifest" href="/manifest.json">

Note:  Service worker and Manifest are two major technologies used in PWA rest other depends on the requirement of your app.

Service worker:

Service worker is a JavaScript file which executes separately from the web page and helps in providing the features of both native and web app to the end users.

Service worker lies between the network and the device, enabling the app to work even in offline mode, synchronizing the data in the background and enabling features like push notifications. As the service worker executes only to serve a specific purpose it has a short life cycle.

It has a mechanism like intelligent caching, syncing the content in the background, and enabling the app to fetch previously visited pages.

Push Notification:

Push notification has always been a part of the successful strategy for any app. Sending push notification to a user increases user re-engagement.

If you are using Progressive Web Apps for your business, you can easily send notifications to the user even when they are inactive or have not launched the app.

Synchronization in the background:

The service feature is the manager of this feature. It allows offline browsing of the pages which are revisited and automatically syncs the dynamic content needed in the background. Sending a message right before a connection failure will be marked as sent and will be sent once the connection is back.

Offline work mode:

The service worker works on caching mechanism and fetches the interface through cache on a revisit to any page. The dynamic content which is necessary like the cart for shopping, history of payment is refreshed every time the internet connection is established.

The application shell architecture

The structure is as such that the static content is separated from the dynamic content. The static app shell is once loaded and then the dynamic content changes when the page is rendered.

PWA shell architecture

This approach of development where only dynamic content is changed is a great way of enhancing user experience. The whole page need not be loaded again only the dynamic content is fetched from the service worker.

Transport Layer Security (TLS)

PWAs follows the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. These are the set of rules that all PWAs apps follow while exchanging of data to ensure the integrity of the data. The site is served over HTTPS which enhances and ensure the security of both user data and as well as of the site.

Key advantages of PWA:

The progressive web app has features which are interlinked and elaborates much about why are they in the current trend.

Eases Development

The companies who are specialized in building progressive web apps use a web stack for their development. This approach saves much of the time and effort of developers and is cost-efficient.

This is because the developers don’t need to build the app for a different platform, a single progressive app works on all devices and platform ( Android and iOS).

Use without being installed

Unlike the native app, Progressive web apps need not be installed it can be added easily to the home screen.

The customer need not visit the Android or iOS app store to install and launch the app. The feature that they need not be installed, reduces several steps, and the customers are much closer to the process of launching the app. More the number of steps required to launch the app more is the loss in user engagement.

Once the PWA are added to the home screen, the site can be launched on clicking the icon added to the home screen of the user.

The tremendous rise in user engagement

The various features and advantages of PWA increase user engagement to a great extent. Research has stated that 80 percent of the users pin their app on the home screen for easy use. This feature adds to its competitiveness as compared to the web app.

There are other factors also responsible for user engagement such as simplicity of the app, the speed of access, offline mode working, push notifications and integrity of data because of the use of TSL (Transport secure layer).

EndNote

Concluding from the above fact, we can very well analyze and figure out the importance of PWAs and what role it can play in helping business to reach and engage their audience. The features like offline working, easy sharing, push notifications, zero installation and responsiveness has added weight to PWAs app as compared to native and web app.

Chandrapal Singh
Chandrapal Singh

A technocrat and an entrepreneur who is the Co-Founder and Chief Delivery Head at Appventurez. Skilled in object-oriented programming (OOP), iOS Development, Design Principles, Data Structures, and Swift, he has served different organizations as Tech Lead.

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