What Are Progressive Web Apps?


November 27, 2018
progressive web app example

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Progressive Web Apps are, putting it simply, web pages in mobile apps’ shells. They provide similar functionalities and user interactions to the best native apps but are a lot cheaper, and the development runs much faster. What defines a Progressive Web App? What unique functionalities does it have? Find out how can it be beneficial for you.

Progressive Web Apps — What Are They?

Progressive Web Apps are mobile apps delivered through the web. In other words, they are web apps displayed through a browser which use modern web capabilities to provide the look and experience of a mobile app. Progressive Web Apps combine the best of the apps and the best of the web. They simply evolve from pages in a browser to mobile apps, and they maintain the web’s low friction, which is a considerable advantage of the web. Above all, a mobile app shell enables the same gestures and navigation, which we can find in native apps. Therefore, Progressive Web Apps provide functionalities and user interface similar to the best native apps. What is more, they are deployed on servers, are accessible through URLs and indexed by search engines.

Compare Trivago webpage on the left to the Progressive Web App on the right:

progressive web app example

Every Progressive Web App has to meet some requirements. Google has defined a specific set of characteristics which determine an app as a progressive one.

According to that, a Progressive Web App should be:

Working Perfectly on Every Device, Even with No Internet

Progressive — that means, that a PWA has to work perfectly on every device possible and regardless of the browser being used. A native app experience should be available to users with newer versions of the browsers which support the technologies for Progressive Web Apps. However, users with older browsers should still have a standard experience.

Responsive — it has to fit perfectly with any form factor and every device’s screen. In consequence, a PWA should provide the best and equivalent user experience on mobile, desktop, tablet, and every possible device.

Network independent — that app should be connectivity independent. A PWA should work in areas with low internet connection and even where the connection is not available. Thanks to Service Workers a Progressive App can work offline or with a weak connection.

Providing Native-like Experience

App-like — a PWA is made with an app shell. As a result, it should provide app-like navigation and interactions. It needs to respond quickly with minimal page refreshes. The experience connected to scrolling, transitions or animations should be smooth. When a user displays a PWA at full screen, launching it from a home screen, it doesn’t have any URL bar or forward and backward banners provided by a browser.

Compare Flipkart Progressive Web App on the left and the mobile app on the right:

progressive web app example

Always Updated, Secure and Easy to Find

Fresh — a PWA should be always up to date. Updates are easy because a user doesn’t need to download the newest version from an app store. Service Workers provide them. After the publication of the new content, it displays in our app the moment a user connects to the internet.

Secure — we serve every Progressive Web App through the HTTPS connection and SSL encryption. That secures all the sensitive data our application needs to process.

Discoverable — A Progressive Web App is served by the web. As a consequence, users can find it in search engines. It is possible thanks to a service worker registration scope. That is one of the most significant advantages of Progressive Web Apps over native mobile apps.

Interactive and Installable

Re-engageable — that kind of app is highly engageable thanks to push notifications it sends to a user. A PWA uses service workers and the push API to deliver notifications and updates, which increases the engagement.

Installable — a Progressive Web App should be easily added to a home screen without the need to download it from app stores. When it’s installed on the device’s home screen, a user can launch it immediately, so he perceives it like any other app on his device.

Linkable and easy to share — the app doesn’t require installation so can be easily shared through URL. A user simply clicks a link and gains access to the content. Therefore, anyone with a web browser has access to the application.

How Does It Work?

A Progressive Web App begins its life as a regular browser tab. We build it using special features like TLS, Service Workers, Manifests and responsive design, and that is what makes it progressive. What wakes its superpowers is visiting the web page for a couple of times. The second, third or fourth visit raises its abilities. As a result, a browser shows a prompt to a user. After that, a user can decide if he wants to keep the app on the screen or app launcher. When launched from the home screen, these apps are at the top of their abilities. Above all, they’re full screen, top-level, can work offline, send relevant push notifications, and load quickly even on slow networks.

See how notifications look like:

progressive web app example

It’s crucial that browsers send notifications when users engage with Progressive Web Apps. What is more, it doesn’t happen during the first visit so as not to be spammy. The user has to build a relationship with the app progressively. As a consequence, an app becomes powerful over time, earning the right to send notifications.

Advantages Of Progressive Web Apps

There are a few Progressive Web Apps’ qualities and advantages (also over native mobile apps) which make it beneficial to the business. Below we present the most important ones:

  • PWAs provide excellent UX delivering information and experience with the fewest steps possible. They load really fast and work fluently. Moreover, they can work with a poor internet connection and even offline.
  • Progressive Web Apps are easily accessible because a user doesn’t need to download them from an app store. Updates are also simplified because again, a user doesn’t need to download the newest version of the app. An updated version waits for him every time he runs an app.
  • They can be easily added to a home screen, what seriously increases their capabilities. What is more, Progressive Web Apps have the power to send push notifications to a user. It increases engagement and interaction.
  • They offer vast possibilities, especially for startups and companies from a highly competitive market. Progressive Web Apps cost less and developers create them faster than native ones. A developer only needs to write one code in web technologies to run a cross-platform app on every device. As a consequence, in a short time, we obtain a product that works on every platform and device: that seriously expands the reach.
  • Native-like Experience
  • PWAs look like native apps. The app displays at the full screen, with no bars or buttons characteristic for the web page.
  • Progressive Web Apps have a native app-like navigation and interactions. Therefore, a user feels like he interacts with a mobile app.

Progressive Web Apps are user-friendly, engageable and easy to access. If we add low costs and the speed of development to these qualities, we get a compelling product. It allows, especially for startups, to get ahead of the competition and obtain a great app which enables to expand a reach fast.

At Appstronauts we will be glad to help you to make your dream come true and create a fast and reliable Progressive Web App with a flawless user experience, which will fit your market perfectly and allow you to get ahead of the competition.

Create your first Progressive Web App with Appstronauts! Send a short description of the project to hello@appstronauts.co and make your dream come true!


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