Updated : November 2, 2022
Over the last couple of decades, we have witnessed exponential growth in terms of how mobile apps can help business owners (in terms of earning profits) and their customers (in terms of availing services).
Sometimes it can be cumbersome and, at the same time, expensive for the business owner to develop and maintain their business website and mobile app at the same time. However, there is a solution that gives you the best of both worlds—a Progressive Web App (or PWA).
Progressive Web App technology renders the user the functionality of a native app and a website at the same time.
Progressive Web Application (PWA), as the name suggests, is a type of application that runs on the web browser – having a native mobile app-like experience. It gives the businesses reachability of the web and the functionality of a mobile app.
One of the most essential features of Progressive Web Apps is that it is always up-to-date, and unlike native apps, it does not need regular updates. A PWA has the flexibility of being dynamic or static as per the business owner’s preference and the user base they are catering to. Also, they are compatible with a variety of modern browsers.
The users can access Progressive Web App via their home screen, docks, and taskbars—as per their preference and ease of accessibility.
Progressive Web App stores its resources and assets in Cashe Storage and IndexedDB, but it is because of the Service Workers that the user gets to access the PWA in offline mode.
Service Workers, in essence, are virtual network proxies that store and cache the network by creating a local algorithm. Doing this enables the PWA users to access the application in offline mode.
One of the most significant characteristics of Service Workers API is that they only run on secure networks (HTTPS) and can be tested before the final production of the code on a secure setup, such as GitHub pages.
A web app manifest file is nothing but a JSON file that allows developers to store the metadata of the Progressive Web App. It is one of the W3C specifications which allows the developers to store the name of the PWA, links (to images and app icons), URL to open and launch the PWA, configuration data, default settings, and display mode settings of the PWA.
Every Progressive Web App should have a web app manifest file linked to all the HTML pages. The official extension used for a manifest file is .webmanifest.
It is a performance-enhancement algorithm. It is an effective code that is compatible with multiple programming languages, which helps Progressive Web Apps to run at a native app speed.
It is also a W3C standard specification which is fast, portable, and efficient. It has human-readable text, which allows the PWA developer to write, view and debug the script manually.
Progressive Web Apps have numerous benefits for businesses. The provision of making the app available over the web allows a business owner to save tons of resources, which could be put to use on other aspects of a business.
Moreover, seeing the contemporary trends, users are keener toward downloading apps that do not take up too much of their device space and run fast. Users are more likely to pin an app on their home screen when they come across an intriguing website rather than switching to a different platform to download the native app.
Progressive Web Apps are much smaller in size than native apps, which means they offer quick installation to prospective app users.
Development of a Progressive Web Apps doesn’t require the business owner to invest in a multiple set of resources that will enable the development of a website and a native app (separately), rather when a business owner decides to develop a PWA app, all their development team has to do it to develop a single codebase that will render both, the website and the native app. Thus, significantly reducing developmental costs.
And since Progressive Web Apps are much easier and quicker to install than native apps for a user due to their small size—it will lead to increased customer engagement rates (at reduced investment costs). Thus, increasing the Return on Investment (ROI).
Employment of the App Shell model, which uses Service Workers to store PWA’s assets and resources in cache storage, enables a PWA to function even on slower network connectivity. However, it is only possible when the initial load is fast and reliable so that enough data can be stored in the cache.
When a business decides to develop a PWA, they don’t have to worry about the distribution channel. This is because a PWA app is readily available for download from the browser itself. Thus, they don’t have to incur extra costs on distribution channels and platforms, and they no longer have to be dependent on Apple AppStore and Google Play Store.
Mostly, a PWA loads from a secure Service Worker API, which considerably reduces the loading time of the PWA app. Since a PWA app runs mostly on the web, updating PWA is quite convenient and fast.
Complement with: PWA examples to get a better understanding of which companies have benefitted from this development approach.
While the term PWA was popularized by Google, the fundamental implementation of the progressive web apps was initially on the first iPhone OS in 2007. However, it did not gain popularity until now (after Google and Chrome introduced improvements in the fundamental model).
Even though Apple has never used the term PWA publicly, since 2018 (version 11.3), iOS started using technologies such as Service Worker and Web App Manifest, which are essential for PWA development. Compared to other browsers’ PWAs, Apple lacks many features, such as push notifications and a few API integrations, such as Web Bluetooth and WebNFC.
Another limitation of PWA on iOS is that even though you can publish apps that are not approved by AppStore, as PWA—but the users cannot experience all the features of native apps.
Although you can still access:
Android devices have always supported PWAs. Initially, PWAs on Android were built with the help of technologies and frameworks, namely Android WebView and Cordova, respectively. However, they have their own set of limitations.
Now the developers use Trusted Web Activity which has made the implementation of PWA easier as it leverages the browser to render PWA in full screen. This increases the PWA’s compatibility with the different features of the Web Platforms and APIs
Despite there are countless benefits of a Progressive Web App, it is not for every business. In our years of experience, we have often come across business owners who are confused about the types of app technologies they should choose for their business. Therefore, it is advisable for business owners to consult an experienced custom mobile app development company to know which app model, native or PWA, will best serve their business goals and enhance user engagement.
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