If you’re here, chances are you were overwhelmed by the recent mentions of “PWA” in your domain and want to know more about what this word really means.
Let me start it like this…
It’s been years since the beginning of the age of the smartphone. With it came the era of native apps.
These apps continue to play a massive role in our daily life, and many business owners have asked themselves multiple times: should we have an app?
Of course, the only answer to that is — it depends.
Building and running a native app is expensive and often quite time-consuming.
Luckily, there is another option – PWA.
But, let’s start with the basic.
The “progressive” part in the term can better be explained as:
“as the user progressively builds a relationship with the app over time, it becomes more and more powerful”.
With just a few tweaks, you can turn any website into a PWA-friendly.
This means that you can build a PWA rather quickly, in regards to a native app that’s pretty difficult to develop. Plus, you can offer all the features of native apps, like push notifications, offline support, and much more.
Many sites you find online are actually a progressive web app. Take twitter.com, for instance.
If you visit that site on your smartphone, you can install it on your home screen. Now, on opening the saved Twitter site, you’ll notice that it looks and performs just like a native app.
There’s no browser window or nothing. There’s no difference in running it from an iPhone or an Android smartphone. Simply log in and you’re good to go. That’s a major benefit of building your web app with a PWA in mind.
PWAs are gaining popularity.
Many big sites are PWAs, like Starbucks.com, Pinterest.com, Washingtonpost.com, and Uber.com are actually installable on your home screen and offer a comparable experience to their native apps.
Many sites you find online are actually a progressive web app.
A native app, like the ones you download from Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store, is often built in a programming language specific to that platform.
So for iOS apps, that would be Swift and for Android apps, Java. If you want to build an app for those platforms, you need to know the technology.
Yes, there are shortcuts, but these come with their own limitations.
If you want to have an app on all the mobile platforms, you need to know all the different technologies. There’s no easy way to build one and publish it to all the stores out there.
Whereas, a progressive web app, runs in the browser and — once saved to the home screen — functions like a native app.
It even gets access to the underlying hardware and software that the browser can’t access for safety reasons. If the PWA performs great, users will never know that they are using a web-based app instead of a native one.
Let’s take the example of Whatsapp on your phone. When there is no network, you can still open the app, check past messages and even reply to someone. When the phone gets the internet connection, the messages are being automatically sent in the background.
This is what PWA promises to provide in web apps.
The main reason why everyone is chasing after apps is because they offer greater engagement.
Thanks to push notifications it’s much easier to re-engage with users. Apps can offer an excellent experience that can do well for a brand.
Here are some easy-to-explain benefits of PWA:
- You don’t have to go through the process to get into different app stores
- You can build PWAs with common web technologies
- They are often cheaper to build
- Since you’re turning your site into an app, you’ll have fewer code-bases to maintain
- PWAs are responsive and work with many different screen sizes
- PWAs are smooth, fast, and lightweight
- They work offline, unlike the regular site
- PWAs are discoverable via search engines. It means better SEO and engagement
- You can use push notifications to re-engage users
PWAs get deeper and deeper access to the operating system of a smartphone, but a native app can go deeper still.
All in all, it makes a lot of sense to think about having a PWA in your mobile strategy. But, the main question you should ask yourself is: “does my audience want this?”
- PWAs are Reliable
- They are fast in scrolls and page transitions
- PWAs are responsive and can fit all sizes – desktop, mobile tablet, etc.
- PWAs are Installable
- PWA adds a splash screen during the startup of the app
- A PWA is highly-engageable and provides features like push notification, home screen icon, full-screen, and offline-first app to glorify user engagement
Should everyone simply build a PWA and be done with it?
No, consider your business and — more importantly — your target audience. Are they even using apps?
Isn’t this an overly complex way of getting to what you want to achieve?
Again, like everything, you need to research the needs of your audience.
Ask yourself, what do you want this technology to do? Where are your users? Do they have a good data connection and solid hardware? How and where are they using your content? And do you think an app can help them do their job better?
PWAs are awesome and implementing them doesn’t have to be all that hard. But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean you should do it. If your audience has no need for it, why would you build one, right?
More importantly, if you don’t have a technical background, it’s better to get professional help.
The PWA is inherently web-centric.
It was born from the web and developed with search engines in mind to make discovery easy.
Turning your site into a PWA doesn’t mean you directly improve the SEO of that site.
If it makes sense to turn your site into a PWA, do so, but don’t do it for any perceived SEO benefits.
Just like anything new on the market, PWAs pose some challenges to be considered.
- Browsers. It may not have cross-browser support. Yes, Chrome, Opera, and Samsung’s Android browser support PWA, while IE and Edge don’t do that yet. You can use PWA with Safari, but it doesn’t support push messages.
- Limited in functions. PWA doesn’t have support for any hardware that is not supported by HTML5
- Limited in legitimacy. As there is no central download Store for PWA, they lack in giving a sense of legitimacy and confidence, which is usually given by native apps from the Play Store/App Store.
- Cross Application Login Support: Native apps have the capability to talk to other apps and authenticate logins (Facebook, Twitter, Google). As a web page PWA doesn’t have the capability to communicate with other apps installed.
There are three main building blocks of PWA that you need to provide before your site turns into a valid PWA.
- A secure connection (HTTPS): PWAs only work on trusted connections.
- A service worker: A service worker helps you determine how to handle network requests for your PWA, making it possible to do more complex work.
- The manifest file: This JSON file contains information on how your PWA should appear and function.
There are plenty of resources to try your hand at building a simple PWA. This allows you to get a feel for the process.
Google has an excellent, easy to follow tutorial on PWAS on the web.dev site. Mozilla has lots of documentation on building progressive web apps.
Microsoft also has rich developer docs on building PWAs. Microsoft even built a tool called PWABuilder that’ll help you turn your site into a PWA.
Of course, there are WordPress plugins that help you make a PWA of your site. In addition, Google is working on bringing base-support for PWAs to WordPress Core.
Google publishes the success stories of companies which implemented PWA.
Visit this page to read more about how companies have solved problems to handle slow networks, how they optimized the user experience and got up to 80% increase in conversions and SEO performance.
This showcases various problems faced by various companies around the globe and how they solved it using PWA.
NexPWA is an alternative to Magento PWA that’s built for high scale and serious eCommerce merchants. Easier to deploy, NexPWA has advanced features and controls along with the standard features like A/B Testing, RTL Layouts, Magento Checkout etc.
Building a PWA may not be an easy task, but it is definitely worth a shot considering these benefits:
- Reliable: Fast loading and works offline
- Fast: Smooth Animations, jank free scrolling, and seamless navigation even on flaky networks
- Engaging: Launched from the home screen and can receive a push notification
According to Henrik Joreteg, “PWA is the single biggest thing to happen on the mobile web since Steve introduced the iPhone!”
Questionable? Uncertain? Agreeable?
Think before the time flies!