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Why do you need to use Progressive Web Apps

smartym profile image Sergey V. ・4 min read

The creation of progressive web apps is one of the key programming trends for today and years to come. Acting as native mobile applications, PWAs offer both customers and product owners many advantages that involve engaging user experience, faster loading time, improved performance, and cost-efficiency.

Using this technology, many world-famous companies—AliExpress, Pinterest, Flipboard, Forbes, PureFormulas, Washington Post—significantly increased customer service and boosted sales. However, what is a progressive web app? How can it help you solve business-specific challenges?

Having been delivering software development services since 2012, we’ve answered all of these questions in this article. Let’s get started!

What is a PWA

A progressive web application works as a regular web page or website and offers in-app like user experience. Combining the functionality of most modern browsers and mobile apps, it contains plenty of features that involve push messages, offline access, and device hardware access.

Deployed to servers, PWAs are available through URLs and indexed by web search engines. Living on the smartphone’s home screen, they can be downloaded directly from the site. Therefore, users save time as they don’t have to open the App Store or Google Play to find and install the desired product. Just imagine what steps you pass to start using a mobile solution.

To start using the product, you need to:

  1. Go to the app store
  2. Search by name or keyword
  3. Press “Install” and accept permissions
  4. Wait until it’s installed
  5. Open it
  6. Register (in most cases)
  7. Start using

When installing a progressive web app, you pass the following steps:

  1. Visit a web page/website
  2. Click “Add to home screen”
  3. Go to the smartphone’s home screen, open the app
  4. Start using it

As you can see, the second way is more simple and convenient. Combine it with the faster loading speed, less data usage, offline access, improved web experience and feel the difference. No wonder that AliExpress increased the conversion rate by 104% after adopting a PWA for its e-commerce service.

“One of the reasons we built a Progressive Web App was to be able to invest in the web experience across all browsers. Not only did we see huge benefits on browsers that support the latest features, but we also got to see a bump across the board. That is the sign of a great investment, and one that will keep paying for itself as browsers evolve.” —Lijun Chen, Director of AliExpress Mobile Team.

There is a number of things that distinguish this software technology and explain its growing popularity. Take a look at them below.

Progressive web apps are characterized as:

  1. Reliable — they instantly load and ensure independence on Internet connectivity: due to service workers, users will still have access to the functionality despite uncertain network conditions/lack of the internet.

  2. Responsive — PWAs allow companies and software engineers to increase user engagement regardless of the device as they look natural on desktop, tablet, smartphone, etc.

  3. Progressive — progressive enhancement as a core tenet enables apps to work equally well despite the user’s browser and location.

  4. Fast — DoubleClick by Google study revealed that 53% of mobile site visits were abandoned if a page load took more than 3 seconds. High speed is one of the most important PWAs’ benefits: they quickly respond to user interactions without janky scrolling and slow interfaces.

  5. Safe — Served via HTTPS, PWAs help prevent snooping. Furthermore, your content can’t be tampered with.

  6. Engaging — Removing the need to go to app stores, they ensure an immersive full-screen experience. By sending push notifications to consumers’ smartphones, product owners keep them informed about shares, discounts, interesting offers, etc. As a result, they improve customer satisfaction and motivate users to make purchases.

  7. App-like — With an app-shell model under the hood, PWAs feel like natural applications including app-style navigation.

Explaining the functionality of progressive web apps

A PWA is qualified under the following criteria:

  1. Runs under HTTPS
  2. Supports a service worker
  3. Involves a Web App Manifest

Servers workers

A server worker, the technology behind a PWA, is a code script which is triggered by events like network requests, push notifications, etc. Representing event-driven workers, they run in the product background and operate as a proxy between product and network. By intercepting requests and caching data, they enable features such as content loading, content updating, and offline accessibility.

Web App Manifest

Simply put, the Web App Manifest is a JSON file which has meta-information associated with a web application. Thanks to it, software engineers are able to manage the product’s appearance: icon, background and theme colors, and much more.

Application Shell

With application shell architecture, you can create a quality PWA that instantaneously loads on smartphones’ screens. In fact, it is the minimal HTML, CSS and JavaScript which is necessary to power the interface. Since data is cached and app shell isn’t loaded from the network every time the user visits your website, its load speed is truly fast for returning customers compared with other sites.

Push notifications

Having two APIs under the hood — Notification API and Push API, push notifications in PWAs are triggered locally or sent from the server. The first API is responsible for displaying alerts, while the second allows service workers to push them from the server. What’s important, they are always successfully delivered to the customer regardless of the network connectivity.

Final thoughts

To conclude, there are multiple benefits of a progressive web application. Employing this solution, a business can dramatically improve user engagement, customer loyalty, and boost sales. What’s more, this software doesn’t require building native products while combining web and mobile features together. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

In speaking about our company , we delivered many PWA projects for startups, medium-sized, and large companies. By integrating it into their services, they either raised the conversion rate by 20-45% and reduced costs on software development.

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smartym profile

Sergey V.

@smartym

I’m the CTO at software development company and a technical expert with more than 10 years of experience. Interested in blockchain, AI, Big Data, and cybersecurity solutions.

Discussion

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A great article! I believe that PWA development is a principal trend of web programming.