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The mobile web has become an integral part of our daily lives, as we use it to access information, entertainment, social media, shopping, and many other services. According to Statista, mobile web usage accounted for 54.8% of the global web traffic in 2021, and it is projected to increase further in the coming years.

Progressive web apps

However, despite the popularity and convenience of the mobile web, many users still prefer native apps over mobile websites for various reasons. Native apps are applications that are developed specifically for a certain platform or device, such as iOS or Android. Native apps offer better performance, usability, and functionality than mobile websites, as they can leverage the device’s hardware and software features, such as camera, microphone, push notifications, etc. Native apps can also work offline or in low connectivity situations, which is not possible for most mobile websites.

But what if there was a way to combine the best of both worlds? What if you could create a mobile website that behaves like a native app, and that can be installed on the device, run offline, and integrate with the device and other apps? That’s exactly what progressive web apps (PWAs) are.

What are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)?

Progressive web apps (PWAs) are applications that are built using web technologies, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, but that provide a user experience similar to that of a native app. PWAs can run on any device that has a web browser, and they can also be installed on the device’s home screen or app launcher. PWAs can also work offline, receive push notifications, and access device features.

The term progressive web app was coined by Google engineers Alex Russell and Frances Berriman in 2015, and it describes a new approach to web development that aims to deliver app-like experiences on the web. PWAs are not a new technology or framework, but rather a set of best practices and standards that make a website a PWA.

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PWAs are called progressive because they progressively enhance the user experience depending on the capabilities of the device and the browser. For example, if the browser supports service workers, PWAs can cache resources locally and work offline. If the browser supports web app manifests, PWAs can be installed on the device and have their own icons and splash screens. If the browser supports web push API, PWAs can send push notifications to the users.

Why are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) important?

Progressive web apps (PWAs) offer many benefits for both users and developers. Here are some of the reasons why PWAs are important:

  • User engagement: PWAs can increase user engagement by providing a fast, reliable, and engaging user experience. Users can easily access PWAs from their browsers or install them on their devices. PWAs can also re-engage users with push notifications and updates. According to Google, PWAs can increase conversions by up to 36%, page views by up to 88%, and session length by up to 137%.
  • Performance: PWAs can improve performance by loading faster and using less data than traditional websites. PWAs can also work offline or on low-quality networks by using service workers and caching strategies. According to Google, PWAs can reduce bounce rates by up to 42%, loading time by up to 53%, and data usage by up to 92%.
  • Cross-platform compatibility: PWAs can run on any device that has a web browser, regardless of the operating system or screen size. PWAs can also adapt to different devices and input methods by using responsive design and progressive enhancement techniques. This means that developers do not need to create separate versions for different platforms or devices, which reduces development time and cost.
  • Lower development cost: PWAs have a lower development cost than native apps because they use standard web technologies and share a single codebase. Developers do not need to learn new languages or frameworks, or use different tools or environments to create PWAs. Developers can also use existing web development tools and frameworks to create PWAs. Moreover, developers do not need to update their PWAs frequently or submit them to app stores for approval, which saves time and money.

How to create Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)?

Creating progressive web apps (PWAs) is not very different from creating regular websites. However, there are some key features that make a website a PWA:

HTTPS: PWAs must be served over HTTPS to ensure security and reliability. HTTPS also enables service workers and other APIs that are essential for PWAs. HTTPS encrypts the communication between the server and the client, preventing unauthorized access or modification of data. HTTPS also prevents malicious attacks such as man-in-the-middle or phishing, which can compromise the user’s privacy or identit

Service workers: Service workers are scripts that run in the background and enable offline functionality, caching, background sync, push notifications, and other features for PWAs. Service workers act as a proxy between the browser and the network, intercepting requests and responding with cached resources or custom logic. Service workers can also communicate with the main thread of the website using events or messages, and update the website’s content or behavior accordingly.

Web app manifest: Web app manifest is a JSON file that provides metadata about the PWA, such as name, icons, theme color, orientation, display mode, etc. Web app manifest enables browsers to recognize PWAs as installable applications and customize their appearance and behavior. Web app manifest also allows users to add PWAs to their home screen or app launcher, and launch them in full-screen mode or standalone mode.

App shell: App shell is the minimal user interface of the PWA that is cached locally and loaded instantly when the user launches the PWA. App shell consists of the static elements of the PWA, such as header, navigation bar, footer, etc. App shell improves the perceived performance and user experience of the PWA, as it reduces the loading time and provides a consistent look and feel.

Conclusion

Progressive web apps (PWAs) are the future of mobile web because they combine the best features of websites and native apps. PWAs provide fast, reliable, and engaging user experiences that can work offline, receive push notifications, access device features, and be installed on the device. PWAs also have lower development cost and cross-platform compatibility than native apps. PWAs are built using standard web technologies and require some key features, such as HTTPS, service workers, web app manifest, and app shell. PWAs are progressively enhanced depending on the capabilities of the device and the browser. PWAs are important for both users and developers, and they can be created using existing web development tools and frameworks.

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I hope this blog has helped you understand progressive web apps (PWAs) better. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!