What is a PWA - An Intro to Progressive Web Apps
The advent of smartphones and mobile apps has enabled mankind, to access any system, be it online shopping, paying bills, booking hotels and the likes, in a jiffy. The fact that smartphones are mobile, allow easy internet access, do not require complex hardware etc, has forced users to move over desktops and workstations. Mobile apps offer users easy and quick connectivity to any service, faster transactions, anywhere in the world, thereby helping them exceed web apps.
But, as observed, the download margins of these mobile apps is very less, despite the fact that there are thousands of them in the market. The cost of development of these mobile apps is substantial but simply cannot be justified as compared to web apps. Therefore, smaller firms cannot afford to have a native mobile app built due to several constraints like cost, development time, resources etc. Also, there is a section of web users who prefer to use web apps as opposed to mobile apps.
The answer to all the above issues, is the PWA - Progressive Web App.
So what precisely is a PWA, what are its benefits, why do you need a PWA, etc - this article will provide you an intro to progressive web apps.
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Progressive Web Apps, in simple words, are websites that look, feel and work like a mobile app. Like any conventional website, a PWA is accessed using a specific URL, after which users can navigate through the app, similar to a mobile app.
“Progressive Web App (PWA) is a term used to denote a new software development methodology. Unlike traditional applications, progressive web apps are a hybrid of regular web pages (or websites) and a mobile application. This new application model attempts to combine features offered by most modern browsers with the benefits of mobile experience.”
Source : wikipedia.org
A PWA promises to offer a mobile-app like user experience, but on a website. It can be considered like having an app without having to install or download it. Some very common examples of PWA are Instagram, Pinterest, Uber, etc.
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There are several advantages of Progressive web app development. Besides providing mobile app like features, below listed are some very important benefits that a PWA extends.
1. Offline usability
You may have observed that even while in a no network zone, you can access Whatsapp. Though you cannot send/receive messages, you can still see the UI and type the message. Once the smartphone catches signal and can access the Internet, your message is automatically sent.
PWA offers you the exact same thing on the web. Currently, if you try to load a website without internet connectivity, you get a message saying you are offline. Progressive Web pages enable you to connect to the website, even when you are offline (provided the PWA was visited at least once before, in an online mode).
2. Page Loading Speed
As compared to normal websites, progressive web apps have an instant loading time. As it is based on the method of intelligent caching, the first load as well as the subsequent loads are faster. Due to this, the bounce rate for PWA is lower compared to mobile websites.
While native mobile apps are platform specific, and can only be accessed from their respective OS like Android or iOS, PWA’s are not platform dependent and can run on any OS since they are browser based.
4. Background synchronization
While mobile applications frequently ask you to re-install or update the apps to integrate new or additional features in the app, the content is updated in the progressive web apps in the background, and new features/updates are automatically integrated within the website, with a simple page refresh.
5. Indexability for SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
SEO helps in garnering more visibility to any website that a search engine like Google can index. As PWA is technically a website, it is indexable and can reach a larger audience, by applying SEO techniques.
6.Push notifications that are pop-up boxes, encouraging user action on click for e.g: pop-up for subscribing to a particular feature etc, is also a functionality a PWA offers (except iOS). You can add a PWA shortcut icon connecting to a website on your desktop home screen, using this feature.
7.Additionally, Progressive web apps are quicker to develop with lesser developmental cost.
8.Also, you don’t need require platform specific native app development technical expertise, as they run on any OS.
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With Google endorsing Progressive Web apps, it would not be incorrect to say that PWAs are ruling the market and how!! The benefits and results PWAs offer are innumerable. PWAs have managed to act as an advanced version of the web apps and have bridged the barrier between web and mobile apps. Still in their infancy stage, there is a lot of room for improvements and enhancements,but nevertheless, progressive web apps have attracted a lot of significance in recent times.
This blog provides a basic intro to progressive web apps. In our next blog, we will look into the technical aspects of a progressive web app (PWA).
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