A Complete Guide to Progressive Web App

A complete guide to progressive Web App

24Jul
2017

Progressive Web Apps 

Progressive web apps could be the next big thing for the mobile web. Originally proposed by Google in 2015, they have already attracted a lot of attention because of the relative ease of development and the almost instant wins for the application’s user experience.

A progressive web application takes advantage of the latest technologies to combine the best of web and mobile apps. Think of it as a website built using web technologies but that acts and feels like an app. Recent advancements in the browser and in the availability of service workers and in the Cache and Push APIs have enabled web developers and web development companies to allow users to install web apps to their home screen, receive push notifications and even work offline.

Progressive web apps take advantage of the much larger web ecosystem, plugins and community and the relative ease of deploying and maintaining a website when compared to a native application in the respective app stores. For those of you who develop on both mobile and web, you’ll appreciate that a website can be built in less time, that an API does not need to be maintained with backwards-compatibility (all users will run the same version of your website’s code, unlike the version fragmentation of native apps) and that the app will generally be easier to deploy and maintain. 

 

Why Progressive Web Apps

A study has shown that, on average, an app loses 20% of its users for every step between the user’s first contact with the app and the user starting to use the app. A user must first find the app in an app store, download it, install it and then, finally, open it. When a user finds your progressive web app, they will be able to immediately start using it, eliminating the unnecessary downloading and installation stages. And when the user returns to the app, they will be prompted to install the app and upgrade to a full-screen experience.

However, a native app is definitely not all bad and this leads to increase in demand of  app development companies. Mobile applications with push notifications achieve up to three times more retention than their counterparts without push, and a user is three times more likely to reopen a mobile application than a website. In addition, a well-designed mobile application consumes less data and is much faster because some resources reside on the device.

A progressive web application takes advantage of a mobile app’s characteristics, resulting in improved user retention and performance, without the complications involved in maintaining a mobile application. 

How to decide:

When should you build a progressive web app? Native is usually recommended for applications that you expect users to return to frequently, and a progressive web app is not any different. Flipkart uses a progressive web app for its popular e-commerce platform, Flipkart Lite, and Air Berlin uses a progressive web app for its online check-in process, allowing users to access their tickets without an Internet connection.

When assessing whether your next application should be a progressive web app, a website or a native mobile application, first identify your users and the most important user actions. Being “progressive,” a progressive web app works in all browsers, and the experience is enhanced whenever the user’s browser is updated with new and improved features and APIs.

Thus, there is no compromise in the user experience with a progressive web app compared to a traditional website; however, you may have to decide what functionality to support offline, and you will have to facilitate navigation (remember that in standalone mode, the user does not have access to the back button). If your website already has an application-like interface, applying the concepts of progressive web apps will only make it better.

If certain features are required for critical user actions but are not yet available due to a lack of cross-browser support, then a native mobile application might be the better option, guaranteeing the same experience for all users.

Tools for Progressive web apps

Progressive Web Apps, aka PWAs, are the best way for developers to make their webapps load faster and more performant. In a nutshell, PWAs are websites that use recent web standards to allow for installation on a user’s computer or device, and deliver an app-like experience to those users. Twitter recently launched mobile.twitter.com as a PWA built with React and Node.js and due to emerging trend of PWA results in demand of Top Node.js Development Companies.  They've had a good experience with PWAs, showing that the technology is finally ready for the masses.

Essential ingredients in a PWA 

  • how to install one
  • why you should build one
  • how they stack up against hybrid and native applications.

A Deeper Dive -PWA 

A PWA is a web application that can be “installed” on your system. It works offline when you don’t have an internet connection, leveraging data cached during your last interactions with the app. If you’re on a desktop, using Chrome, and have the appropriate flags turned on, you will be prompted to install the app when you visit the site.

PWA Requirements: HTTPS, Service Workers, and Web App Manifest

The requirements for a PWA can be quickly added to almost any web application. All you need to do is the following: 

  • Deploy it to a public web server and force HTTPS.
  • Create and include a JavaScript file with code to cache network requests.
  • Create and include a web app manifest.

Merits of PWAs

  • They are progressive and hence work for all browser choices as they are built with a progressive enhancement that allows all the browsers to search the core content without any issues.
  • PWAs are highly responsive and can fit on all the devices be it a desktop, tablet or mobile.
  • They have enhanced the feature of working offline if there are connectivity issues or any form of lapse. They even work on low connectivity networks.
  • Have all the App-like navigations and easy interactions.
  • It is always up-to-the minute due to the service worker update process.
  • It is served via TLS, so it safe from any type of snooping and tampering with the content.
  • PWAs are easily found on search engines and the web due to W3C manifests and service registrations.
  • It is extremely easy to re-engage because of push notifications features.
  • Easily installable and allows users to keep most used apps on the home screen without any hassles of downloading that app from the app store.
  • Can be easily shared via URL, so no installation required.

Building blocks of Progressive app

Every app has some foundation and a frame work to develop it. Certain Building blocks of PWAs are 

  • Manifest for Progressive Web App: A simple JSON file is a manifest for PWA. It provides the developer with the ability to control the appearance of the app, what it launches and how? It also allows the app to have a native app like presence in the mobile phone.
  • Home Screen Banner: It can be easily added to the Home screen banner thereby giving it a more native app like working and presence.
  • Offline caching: Offline Caching with the help of service worker is the true building block of a PWA as it helps in responding to events, network requests etc. Service worker allows one to use Cache API that provides offline connectivity and usability to the app. It also helps in an instant loading of frequently visited sites or web app.
  • Push Notifications: It allows the users to check in the time to time updates from their favorite websites. It requires both a service worker as well as a Web App manifest.
  • The layering of advanced features: Certain additional features like background synchronization, Web Bluetooth are being layered into the PWA so that one experiences more control on the content being viewed through the web app.
  • Framework-friendly: PWAs are framework friendly as they are currently working on a RAIL user centric model and has FLIP based animations. An increasing number of seed projects are also being launched in favor of PWA.
  • Architecture: The architecture for a PWA is based on the Application Shell Architecture. It encourages caching of the application for off line working.

Why Should You Build A PWA

The answer to this question really lies in certain factors that are to be considered by the app developer. Firstly, is your website more like an app. Secondly, are you providing an application-like interface because it allows faster implement and lower barrier of entry than the native running apps in your mobile phone. Also, there won’t be any need to go through the arduous task of installing an app and then using it. Implementing offline support to the already existing website always helps with the navigational controls. It also ensures faster and secured loading of the site thereby increasing the conversions. The principles of the PWA are based on the facts to make navigation easy that will only add another feather to your cap by making your website experience more indulging and easy navigating.

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