PWA development is easily the next big thing in smartphones. The current generation has developed a great affinity to mobile devices. And also to web and apps. And then there is PWA which is being picked up by companies and business to gain an edge over their competition to acquire more customers. With more than half the population using mobile phones to access the web, PWAs have a huge potential customer base. Native apps and web apps are great but they all have their strengths and weaknesses. PWA being platform free and fast provides an interesting solution.

What’s a PWA?

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) act much like a bridge between native apps (apps you currently use by downloading from App Store) and traditional web pages. You can think of it as an app-like website with extra layers of functions using web technologies which are added onto them.

To use a Progressive Web App, users won’t have to download an app even if the name suggests so. Instead, users can simply visit a site and add their PWA to their home screen. They act similar to the native app on your cell by providing features such as caching, push alerts, background sync, splash screen and offline functionality.

How does PWA Work?

During the PWA development, there are three major components that are used:

1. Website: PWAs are basically websites that are written with web technologies such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript. For the interactivity of this website with the user, there won’t be a requirement of a separate application as the web browser will be used. All modern browsers support JavaScript at its core. So, the interactivity part can be written with JS scripts.

2. Web Manifest: A Web app manifest is a JSON file. It conveys to the browser (that you’re using to open the PWA) about your progressive web append how the browser should behave when installed on the user’s desktop or mobile device. This file contains the name of the PWA, it’s icon and description. Also, the JSON has information regarding the access the PWA needs to have from the device to work properly.

3. Service Worker: Service worker is used to provide the technical foundation for the rich functionalities that PWA provides. Native mobile apps have been enjoying functionalities such as push notification, background syncs among others mentioned previously. PWAs use a JavaScript script that’s running in the background independently from the website itself.

PWA Development of Tech-Giants

PWA is a relatively new concept in terms of the web as the term was coined by Google in 2015. But, it has been growing behind the scenes. PWA as alternative have already been tested by sites such as Twitter, Alibaba and Google Maps.

In 2017, Twitter released Twitter Lite. It’s a PWA to the already existing native app of Twitter. The PWA app consumes only 3% of storage space that the native app would have used on the user’s device. This app allowed Twitter to gain a 65 percent increase in pages per session and decreased the bounce rate by 20%.

This must’ve happened due to the snappiness of the app and also the push notifications. Consider a situation where the user is using a device with a less powerful hardware for using the Twitter app. Such a mobile would have a hard time in handling the clunky thing. Thus, the user experience in the PWA would be far better in comparison due to the snappiness of the app.

Twitter Lite is not just a one off story as AliExpress (Alibaba’s online retail service) reported that the time spent per session increased by 74% across all browsers after the release of its PWA.

Is PWA development the next step?

Without stating the obvious, let’s note down the advantages of opting for PWA development. Firstly, the PWAs have a higher performance even on the less powerful devices. Users also have the simplicity of choice since the users can have access to their favorite site, while having the feel of using a native app with a single click from their home screen.

PWAs can be downloaded across devices ranging from an Android, Windows, Linux to a Chrome OS. Apple is lagging behind as its ecosystem has only just started to provide the most basic PWA features on iPhones and iPads since 2020 after the release of iOS 13. The offline accessibility means the functionality provided by caching will allow the user experience to be similar to that of an app. While converting every app to a PWA is not feasible or practical, most basic sites opting for a native app can provide an even better user experience by providing a PWA alternative.

With developments being made in the hardware such as 5G mobiles and foldable devices, the mobile customer base is bound to increase. All the benefits presented show that as a shift to PWA development starts, it’s only a matter of time for PWA to be the new trend.

Sources:

https://web.dev/what-are-pwas/

https://www.divante.com/pwabook/chapter/02-the-history-of-pwas

https://brainhub.eu/library/is-pwa-the-future/

https://www.statista.com/statistics/277125/share-of-website-traffic-coming-from-mobile-devices/

Image: Stephen Frank

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