Progressive Web Apps (PWA’s) aim to bridge the gap between native and web-based apps. During a meetup at Bi4 Group, the Engineering Team discussed the technology behind PWA’s, how to build them and best use cases.
Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are apps that sit between native and web-based apps, offering the best of both: a reliable, fast and adaptive native web experience without the hassle of installing an app through an app store. Furthermore, PWA’s are platform-, client and user-independent, which means that a developer only needs to build one single app that can be used anywhere by anyone.
Speed is another reason why PWA’s are popular: evidence shows that if an app takes more than three seconds to load, it will lose 53% of its user base immediately. PWA’s respond to the need for fast load times, in combination with a reliable, engaging experience so that a user is likely to return to your website and spend more time online, which is good from an advertising perspective as well.
PWA’s can be installed and used easily. If a website offers a PWA, it can be added to the user’s home screen after visiting a website through a browser. What is installed next is a slim, skeletal app that is enriched with data once users start to use the app more. Through an app icon, the app can be run from the home screen. The app can also be run offline, using the cached data from an earlier online site visit.
Even though some think that PWA’s will replace native apps, there are currently still a number of drawbacks for users and developers. For example, because there’s no app store to search for a specific PWA, people who search for your app there won’t be able find it. This means you’re missing out on important traffic. Also, not all browsers provide full support for PWA’s, or worse, some PWA’s will only work with a certain browser and version number, such as Chrome. Required logins on the web is another drawback, as both Google and Facebook cannot fetch data from their apps. PWA’s cannot access all hardware of a smartphone like native apps do, such as your camera. Finally, PWA’s may not be the best option for your website, as they offer limited performance for computational-heavy operations due their slim size. The ideal PWA use case therefore is a static website: one that not changes over time will offer better offline performance.
At the moment, the future looks bright for PWA’s: the technology is becoming more mature every day. More users enjoy the fast, reliable and adaptive experience offered by PWA’s. Also, more companies are turning to PWA development. One single app that can be used on different platforms means less development time and costs for them. Software companies such as Google, Microsoft and Apple are offering more support for PWA’s as well through their app stores and browsers.