Progressive Web Apps – The Dawn of New UX

Today there are over 1.3 billion websites and more than 3.5 million mobile applications on the wide web. But most developers around the world are talking about a new hot trend: Progressive Web Apps. In 2018 they are expected to become a powerful competitor for natives or hybrid apps.

Native mobile applications, the original mobile apps, are developed specifically for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. They use languages such as Java for Android and Swift or Objective-C for iOS. Progressive web apps, however, feel like native apps, but in fact are web pages designed for outstanding user experience. Compared to their predecessors, PWA’s do not need to be accessed through an app store. This means that users can find the app on any browser. Thus, they can use them on any device and don’t need to download the app.

Hybrid mobile apps are similar to the native apps in one’s phone, but use web technologies like JavaScript and HTML5. Contrary to native apps, hybrids are programmed using a combination of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, just like websites. However, unlike websites, hybrid apps are hosted inside a native application. They use a mobile’s platform WebView. WebView allows them to access certain device capabilities, such as the accelerometer, camera, contacts, and more. This is the main difference between hybrids and websites as these features usually cannot be accessed through a browser.

Hybrid frameworks for building mobile apps have been evolving massively over the past few years. Today, Google’s Ionic and Facebook’s React Native are leading the way. These frameworks enable developers to build hybrid apps that can pretty much do what native apps are capable of.

What are Progressive web apps?

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) make use of multiple technologies to develop websites that perfectly mimic a mobile app. They bring together the specifications of typical web pages and mobile apps. This means that they offer the smooth “app-like” experiences. However, being a website at the core, PWAs need to be programmed only once. For this reason, they work the same on all devices, ensuring an improved performance and enhanced usability. This also means that PWA’s have the potential to positively impact mobile web conversion rates while eliminating the need for app stores and reducing development costs.

Many big companies have started to use PWAs due to their high functionality. Some examples of progressive apps are Flipboard, AliExpress, and even the famous game 2048.

How do PWA’s work?

https://clockwise.software/blog/progressive-web-apps-the-new-word-in-user-engagement/

PWAs’ structure is simple:

  • The shell – the HTML, CSS or JavaScript code that creates the interface of the app;
  • The content – the information provided by the app, like blog posts;
  • The manifest – information about the app, like name, authors or icon;
  • The service workers – JavaScript files working in the back of an app;

The design and content of an app or website depend on the industry, business model, developing team, and so much more. But, in general, Progressive Web Apps work based on two main building blocks: the manifest and the service workers. The manifest provides basic information about the app. This information is contained in the JSON structure of the app and can provide the name, authors, the icon and the description of the app. The purpose of this data is to help users cache the app on their screen just like they would do with any other mobile app.

The service workers are JavaScript files added to the app and registered in the browser. The workers run in the background and are responsible for many tasks. One of them is recognizing the network state and responding in case the network or internet connection is unavailable. Service workers are also the ones keeping data in a browser’s cache and provide it when the device is offline. Finally, these workers are the ones pushing notifications to the user to invite them to access your website. This action significantly improves chances of increasing traffic and improving conversion rates.

PWA, Native or Hybrid?

While all three types of apps have their qualities to offer, PWA’s have some improvements over both the natives and the hybrids, such as:

https://www.slideshare.net/omranic/progressive-web-apps-gdg-devfest-season-2016

As shown above, PWA’s, being websites, can easily be found in any search engine and indexed. This eliminates the need to go through the long process of going into an app store, download and install the app and so on. Also, when developing a progressive web application, developers need only to create one version of the app, that will work the same on any device. Unlike native or hybrid apps that need to be written in different programming languages for different devices and operating systems.  

The only downside of PWAs is that they do not work fully with Safari (iOS). The apps offer all the features above, except working offline and push notifications. However, Apple is considering implementing Service Worker to solve this issue.

Conclusion

In conclusion, PWA’s are an improvement to apps as we know them. But if you already have a website or an app, you do not need to give them up. All three types of mobile apps have their advantages and disadvantages.

Regardless, if you venture into a new business, you need an online presence. If you are interested in what does it take to develop a mobile application, or you want to get one for your business, then we are here to help and answer your questions. Whether you want to try and create your own progressive web app, native app or a beautiful website, let us know about your idea. We can help you unleash your creativity. When you work with Wiredelta®, you work with the best.

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