It’s been years since mobile phones hit the market and since then, developers have this question bothering them. Should I build a native app or are there other possibilities as well?
Luckily there are other options available, where you don’t have to make that same old native application. You can take a simple and more versatile approach to web app development using progressive web applications(PWA).
What is a Progressive Web App?
Progressive web applications (PWA) are web applications that use modern browser capabilities to give the best user experience, almost similar to native applications.
PWA’s are designed to take advantage of service worker API with
- cache interface
- the responsive design of the application
- push notifications
- modern browsers’ performance
PWA’s are not just about providing a great user experience but also the features that enhance that experience. If we generalize the term PWA, we can say that the PWA’s are one of the newer web application trends that give a similar experience to a native application.
PWA’s are platform-agnostic, which means they are free from any ties to a particular platform and run equally well on all the platforms. In other words, you can provide service to any web server, or use any kind of CMS, or even use web applications like Apache to any client-side platform.
It includes mobile devices and web browsers. PWA’s are not limited to modern web browsers but are also capable of seamlessly providing traditional experiences. If your business invests in developing progressive web applications, it will create faster growth opportunities. In addition, PWA’s are very cost-effective compared to the web or native applications.
While developing progressive web apps, there are two types of architecture you can choose from
- server-side rendering (SSR)
- client-side rendering (CSR)
The selections mainly depend on the way the page is loaded and how much communication is required between the client and server for PWA to work.
In SSR, the rendering and processing are done on the server-side, and the dynamic pre-rendered pages are delivered to the user.
Benefits of SSR:
- Initial renders are faster for the user.
- Well-established tooling and mature architecture
- Supports all browsers
Downsides of SSR:
- You have to generate new DOM (document object model) for every navigation performed.
- Re-rendering is slow as requests round-trip to your web server.
Benefits of CSR:
- CSR offloads page updates to client resources.
- Re-rendering is faster, as there is no need for the request to be sent to the server.
- CSR does not require rendering the entire page; It can render parts of the page as well.
Downsides of CSR
- Client resources might slow down rendering.
Primary Progressive Web App Features
PWA’s are very versatile and are very useful with the sets of features that they can provide. Below mentioned some of the best PWA features.
1. PWA’s works offline
PWA’s are not only ultra-fast, but they are capable of working offline. You can work even if you have no or slow internet connections.
The application saves your work data in the local cache and uses service-workers (technology responsible for this feature) for retrieving that stored data making it more flexible to use. Another useful benefit of PWA’s is that they require lesser data to run the app.
2. Search engine visibility and easy installation
As it’s a website by nature, it is discoverable using search engines only, and you don’t have to search through the sea of applications popping up daily to find it. PWA’s installation happens automatically in the background during your first visit.
3. Usage of phone features
PWA has lots of possibilities using the phone features of your Android and iOS device. Both of these OS have a lot of features that can allow you to use the camera, GPS fingerprint sensors to provide a native app-like experience.
4. Easy updates
PWA’s never get outdated. We know the hassle of releasing the new update for your application, getting approvals from Google or Apple. But with PWA’s, you can update your file on the server, and your application is updated.
It enables the publishers to have full control and provide you with up-to-date information, and the customer will always have the current version of the applications.
5. Secure by default
The HTTPS protocol is encrypted and highly secure, which will be difficult to intercept or change. It is also favorable to google and will give you extra points in google rankings as well.
6. Native app-like feeling
PWA’s whole purpose is to provide a Native app-like experience without the hassles that come with the development of native apps. The best part Is that they are open-source and are an integral part of the world wide web.
From a customer’s perspective, the difference between a progressive web application or a native application is barely noticeable.
The development process of both differs heavily which includes
Pros of Progressive Web Applications
Progressive web application features and their pros are interconnected and give you a broader look at the reason for their development.
Progressive web apps register 50% higher customer engagement.
1. Development cost saving
PWA developers use web stacks for the development process, which requires less effort and time compared to native application development.
The reason for cost-saving is that the application doesn’t require development on multiple platforms as only single development will work on all devices.
2. Reduced installation friction
The most important advantage of the PWA is its discoverability on search engines. PWA’s are easy to find, they are easy to use because fewer steps are involved in the installation process. For native apps, more steps are involved for installation which makes their chances of usage, less than PWA’s.
PWA’s are not on the play store or app store, so they don’t need to be separately installed on your device. All you have to do is visit the website, and it will be installed on your home screen in the background. This is convenient for the user and, in turn, increases the chances of the app being used.
3. Easy updates
As we have already discussed earlier, the updates on PWA’s are automatic and don’t have to be installed. They are pushed from the publisher’s side and installed on the server. The user is always using the current version of a PWA.
4. High User Engagement
It’s known that most people access or interact with their essential apps from the home screen of their device. This gives PWA the advantage of easy accessibility.
Cons of Progressive Web Applications
As there are many advantages to the PWA’s, but there are many cons to them as well. This is discussed in the architecture section of the article.
1. Limited function and heavy battery usage
While PWA’s are swift and versatile, they are still web applications. Without access to the device’s hardware, PWA’s cannot use various sensors such as gyro sensors, advanced camera controls, Bluetooth, GPS, etc. PWA drains a lot of battery compared to native apps as it’s written in high-level web code.
2. Search traffic loss due to no presence on the app store
PWA’s are not on the app store, which reduces the number of steps involved before the user can use this application. But that also means that if you are not discoverable on search engines, you will have a loss of leads and traffic from stores.
Examples of successful implementation of PWA’s
- AliExpress improved its conversion rate for new users by 102% with the help of progressive web apps.
- The Washington post successfully implemented PWA’s as they were looking to deliver content to their audience efficiently. More than 50% of their users are on mobile devices.
- Trivago a hotel app saw an increased engagement rate with their PWA by 150%. They Implemented faster loads time and even introduced an offline mode.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are lightweight and are designed to give you faster load times on your mobile applications. As the load time is faster google will prefer these pages over slow-loading pages. A progressive web app coded with AMP gives the best experience to the customer. AMP and PWA can now be used together; many companies have successfully implemented them.
PWA’s are still in their beta phase, and developers are working hard to provide as many features as possible. In the future, we might see the great implementation of these applications.