In our mobile world, we have gotten accustomed to using apps on our phones. Let us first explore the different types of apps available. Native apps are built for a specific platform, such as iOS for the Apple iPhone or Android for a Samsung device. They are downloaded and installed via an app store and have access to system resources, such as GPS and the camera function. Mobile apps live and run on the device itself. Instagram, Google Maps, and Facebook Messenger are some examples of popular mobile apps.
In the past few years, there has been growing support for a new type of app called a Progressive Web Application (PWA). It is a term to describe a specific way to design and build applications. So where is this term from? “Progressive” means that the user experience is enhanced gradually based on the browser’s capabilities, and “web application” refers to an app running as a website, for example, Twitter or Uber.
PWAs provide an installable, app-like user experience for desktop or mobile and are delivered directly via the web. These web-based apps are fast, reliable, and always loading and performing at the same speed, regardless of network connection. Users can easily install a PWA and once installed, a PWA integrates with the operating system to behave like a native app. PWAs are a hybrid application that combines the functionality of a native app and the accessibility of a website, providing a superior user experience.
The term Progressive Web Application was first introduced in 2015 by Google Chrome engineer Alex Russell in a blog post. Here are the original nine requirements of a PWA, and a brief explanation of each.
The page looks good on different screen sizes (e.g., smartphone, tablet, desktop).
Some functionality exists without an internet connection.
Has the look and feel of native apps.
Always up to date.
Utilizes a secure connection to mitigate multiple types of security threats. PWAs are served over HTTPS, where the communication protocol is encrypted using either Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).
Browsers identify PWAs automatically.
Can bring users back to the app using, for example, Push Notifications.
It can be stored to the home screen through browser-provided prompts, allowing users to “keep” apps they find most useful without the hassle of an app store.
Can be shared as plain URLs.
How Does a PWA Benefit End-Users?
A PWA can be accessed directly from the browser, skipping the need to visit the App Store, and saving valuable storage. Instead, users can simply open the browser, go to the PWA website, and use it as a native app. It can be stored to the home screen and launched from the Start menu, and run like all other installed apps, without an address bar or tabs.
A PWA provides fast, efficient functionality with the advantage of a responsive user interface like a native app. The application runs seamlessly like a native app with the help of cache and saves data like a regular website. It offers short loading time, instant updates, and responds quickly to user interactions with smooth animations and little to no scrolling.
A PWA responds quickly, even if the connection is unstable. If the user’s network connection is interrupted, either by a server error or internet issue, their cached data is stored in the browser. So, the next time the user logs in or reconnects, that data will still be there rather than it being lost.
The modern and natural feel offered by PWA makes it difficult for users to distinguish which native apps are using PWAs. Without having to install an app, users can use the application like a native app with a more user-friendly approach.
A PWA leverages modern capabilities and best practices to deliver a better end-user experience, without losing the advantages offered by the web. Users will be much more satisfied with the easy access, rich look, impressive loading speed, and many other features that a PWA offers!