Progressive Web App: A well-established Approach to Architecting a Modern Website

11 Feb 2022
Mike Patel
Mike Patel
Progressive Web App: A well-established Approach to Architecting a Modern Website

If you’re like a lot of business leaders, then you may not see the point of an app when you already have a website and social media presence. We understand the apprehension because you don’t want to add another thing that could clutter your reach.

Yet, 24 percent of online merchants are considering building a progressive web app to optimize their mobile traffic. Progressive Web Apps are a well-established approach to architecting a modern website. Why? Because they are built for speed, are easy to adapt, and are reliable and engaging.

 Furthermore, they rank well in search engines and support push notifications just like native apps–making them an attractive proposition to developers everywhere. With the advent of service workers for offline support, PWAs also have a huge advantage over their native counterparts, thanks to their ability to work without an internet connection by default. 

1. What are PWAs?

Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs for short, are a group of technologies used to build a website with an app-like presence on the user’s device. For example, they can even behave like native applications and load quickly, even without internet connectivity. They can also offer an immersive, full-screen experience by taking over the browser.

PWAs are here to stay. They’ve already found themselves a niche between native apps and older website experiences that aren’t updated or don’t work anymore on mobile devices.

2. How does a PWA work?

In a nutshell, Progressive Web Apps have some characteristics of native apps. They download from the network just like websites, but they run as a shell or container app–even if you close or move to another app.

Does it seem too good to be true? In some ways, yes. The first two times I heard about Progressive Web Apps, my reaction was somewhere along the lines of, “That’s great for mobile sites! But what about desktops?”

There isn’t a lot that a PWA can do on the desktop that a full-fledged native application couldn’t do better. However, there are cases where PWAs make sense on desktops and laptops. For example, a content-driven website without a ton of dynamic behavior or a site that you’d like to add some app-like functionality to.

3. The Benefits of PWAs

If you’ve built a website in the last few years, you’ve probably considered how to make it function well on both mobile and desktop devices. You might also have heard about progressive enhancement–the idea that your site should work entirely without JavaScript, and then add extra features when available. But progressive enhancement can be hard–what if one of your users views your site with a browser that doesn’t support progressive enhancement? Do you just hope they’ll upgrade? Give them an unoptimized experience?

Well, what if there was another way? What if we could build our sites so that we didn’t need to depend on JavaScript at all? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. This technique has been around for years and is known as PWAs.

  • Better user experience

PWAs can deliver capabilities that replace native apps – sometimes better than the app – and let people access their content everywhere, including places where applications aren’t available.

  • Engage more frequently

By bringing pieces of your app to users’ browsers, you can engage them more frequently with targeted content. And service workers make it possible to do so without relying on third parties or the burden of installing an application.

  • Fast and reliable

PWAs load like any other website, but they feel like native apps. They can be added to your phone’s home screen and appear on your desktop taskbar–they’ll even work offline when the browser loses its network connection. Plus, once loaded, PWAs can run on your computer with very little memory usage.

  • Progressive

A PWA is progressive in that it accommodates all users regardless of browser choice thanks to service workers that cache content from the network. In addition, when using Chrome on Android, PWAs can be installed directly from the web as if they were native apps.

  • Engaging

Thanks to an application manifest file, these websites can have their interface with a name and a theme color—you’ve probably seen examples of this when you add a favorite website to your iPhone or Android home screen. The Twitter PWA, for example, takes full advantage of this feature.

4. Overcome Challenges on the Small Screen & Convert Rising Mobile Traffic

When you have an app for your business, you can guarantee a good experience for your mobile browsers that a website typically can’t. This is mainly due to the different phone experiences out there. It’s hard for a website to format itself to suit everyone.

But when you have an app, it’ll be able to adjust itself to the users and fit the devices’ needs.

That adjustment will draw in more mobile traffic than a website ever could. It will also keep them coming back for more of the same conveniently tailored experience. 

5. Combine Traditional Website Functionalities With the Best Features of Mobile Apps

Don’t let our point get lost, websites are useful. They have a lot of advantages, that’s the whole reason people use them. However, when you develop a mobile app, you can take all of those advantages from websites and throw in a few features only available to apps.

One of those features is offline browsing. Even in today’s world, it’s fairly easy to lose service. Yet, just because someone doesn’t have it, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to look into the things that are important to them. The offline feature on a mobile app gives them the shot to do that. 

6. Ensure Your Customers Come Back

In the mobile world, a bad experience will quickly deter anyone from using your business. Especially if your website is slow or unresponsive and the person can’t browse how they’d like to. But as we said, when you have a mobile experience that is easy and convenient to use, your customers will be happy to come back.

That’s because if they believe that they can at least count on your app, then counting on your business isn’t too much of a reach either. 

7. How can developers implement PWAs?

Web developers can employ several techniques to improve the responsiveness and performance of their PWAs. Using tools like Lighthouse, they can audit existing websites for best practices that will carry over well into PWAs. They should also take advantage of application caching for PWA functionality, as this can allow their app to work offline.

Developers should also consider using service workers to effectively intercept and respond to network requests. Service worker code can be run in the background independently of page lifecycles, so it’s ideal for those cases where you want to modify response data before passing it back to the browser as part of a push notification or an error handling scenario.

One final technique developers should consider adding is user authentication with JSON Web Tokens. It will allow users to seamlessly log in and register for their account across different devices and browsers, which is critical to functionality if your PWA aims for native-like app status.

Get ahead of the competition and develop your app

As you can see, there are a lot of benefits that you can take advantage of with mobile apps. You and your business only stand to gain. 

Mike Patel
Mike Patel linkedin

Mike Patel is a digital marketing enthusiast, innovator and President of a leading Digital and E-commerce Development Agency in Dallas, Texas. Mike holds a BS, Computer Science degree from Wayne State University and is a key player in the E-commerce development and digital marketing industry since 2004. The scope of technology in his extensive experience of more than 15 years ranges from Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce SEO (Search Engine Optimization), PPC (Pay Per Click) management, E-commerce SEO, Google Shopping Ads and more.

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