The Rising Era of Web Application Development With PWAs
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are hotly debated at the moment. What exactly are progressive web apps, and what are their advantages over native apps?
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Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are hotly debated at the moment. But what exactly are progressive web apps, and what are their advantages over native apps? We're getting to the bottom of the matter.
What Is A Progressive Web App Anyway?
Progressive web apps combine the properties of websites and native apps. They adapt progressively to the respective device, and the browser is used and is called up like a website by entering a URL.
The web apps are accessed via a URL. A corresponding advantage over native apps is that you no longer have to go through the respective app store. You call up the web app in the browser and add it to your "home screen". A download from the app store is no longer necessary. Updates via the app store, as we are used to from native apps, are also carried out automatically.
Add progressive web app to the home screen. The nice thing about the so-called add-to-home screen functionality is that you and your customers save a lot of storage space compared to native apps. The days when you could not download an app from the app store because your storage space was too full are a thing of the past.
Why Develop A PWA Instead Of An App?
A PWA has a code that works independently of the various mobile platforms. The maintenance is much lower than with native apps.
- An app must first be downloaded and installed from the App Store. A PWA works without installation and can be shared with others via URL.
- PWAs require less storage space on the device and can be more easily compatible with older smartphone operating systems.
- The development and maintenance of apps are usually more expensive because web developers have to program versions for different platforms.
- Apps are first validated and approved by the web stores. PWAs are ready for immediate use.
- They are called PWAs to ensure that every user is using the latest version. With an app, users can delay the update.
- For example, according to Google's information, Alibaba.com was able to increase conversions in the mobile area by 76 percent with its PWA because there was no need to download an app.
Disadvantages Of Progressive Web Apps
Compared to native apps, PWAs also have disadvantages:
- PWAs have limited access to the functions of an end device.
- If PWAs are to support multiple mobile browsers, development and maintenance costs will skyrocket.
- Users may find a progressive web app worse because it doesn't have to be listed in app stores.
Single-Page Applications To Start With
Although advanced web apps are considered a hot topic in the tech community, they are still not widely used. Already their definition often creates confusion. Some companies make no distinction between a Progressive Web App and a single page application (SPAs).
This is a website that reacts very quickly, thanks to decentralization. This means that in the case of a SPA, the server only provides the user data and sends it to the browser. The web client manages the session and can react independently to user actions. While the website is being used, only the information necessary for continuous display is updated.
A SPA is only the first step in developing a PWA, but not an actual progressive web app. This is often not differentiated. Even if companies offer their customers a PWA-like experience with SPAs, they do not belong in such a web app without offline functionality.
What Additional Functions Do Progressive Web Apps Offer?
In addition to a responsive website's typical functions, developers can use numerous additional functions with a PWA.
Push notifications, which are also available with native apps. They increase the interaction rate. Push messages are notifications that are displayed directly on your smartphone, regardless of whether the app is open or not. Please read our blog article "Push notifications: A wake-up call for successful customer contacts" for more information about push notifications.
You can use push notifications to inform your customers about promotions, discounts, or events. Your customers receive the message directly on their smartphones. Consent to receive push notifications is required here. As with native apps, push notifications are also possible with progressive web apps. Here, too, the service worker plays a role or the central role.
They have a faster loading time than native apps. Progressive web apps are designed for fast loading times. It is generally said that users will jump off mobile websites if the website does not load within 3 seconds. If a PWA is called for the second time, it packs in less than 3 seconds. Thanks to Service Worker, even when the respective user is offline.
Add to Home screen enables the PWA to be added to the smartphone's home screen. Users can start the PWA like an app by clicking on the icon — even in offline mode. In this way, there is a high level of customer loyalty, without installation effort and without taking up a lot of storage space.
Offline functions are available to the service workers thanks to the caching function. Once retrieved, information is then available offline. Use is possible without installation and a lot of storage space.
Apple doesn't fully support PWAs yet. Unfortunately, it is currently still the case that Apple does not, however, fully support Web Apps. Apple is still lagging a bit here. In August of this year, there was a status update, from which it appears that Apple has started with the implementation.
Can Also Be Used Offline Or With A Slow Internet Connection
Another advantage of progressive web apps compared to native apps: They also work offline or with a slow or low internet connection. Once you have loaded the web app's content, you can call it up again at any time offline or if the internet connection is poor. Who of you does not know it: You are sitting in the tram (subway) or on the train and have a poor or no internet connection. The use of native apps is now rather difficult and tedious.
By using the Service Worker, the web app can also be used offline. The PWA uses the content and functionality from the cache. An Internet connection, as is the case with native apps, is no longer necessary.
Goals and Necessary Steps of a Progressive Web App
The application should fulfill the following functions:
- An application icon for quick access from the home screen.
- The display of a start screen while the functions are loading in the background.
- Smooth use — online and offline.
- Web push notifications to increase interaction.
Functions Only For Smartphones And Tablets
Even though they only run in the browser, progressive web apps can access hardware, apps, and data on smartphones or tablets using web technologies. The support of the individual functions depends heavily on the browser in question. Safari, in particular, still has some catching up to do, but other browsers on the Apple platform also offer a reduced scope. "Progressive" web app also means that the app works for every user and adapts to the device's technical possibilities.
The list of access options and functions that a progressive web app can already use on a smartphone or tablet is impressive.
PWA Functions (Selection):
- Camera, microphone, and voice control
- File access, memory access
- Access to contacts, SMS, clipboard
- Saved payment methods
- Radio technologies (e.g. Bluetooth, NFC)
- Cast functions for presentations
- GPS tracking
- Sensors (ambient light, acceleration sensor and device position in the room)
- A query of device status (battery level, online connection)
- Vibration, notifications (push and local notifications)
- An icon on the home screen
- Full-screen mode of the browser
- Offline mode, background synchronization
To assess what the next web app or e-commerce application should look like, the customer's requirements are essential before consulting a web application development company. What elements of the online buying process are most important to you? Is it the seamless multi-channel experience, the provision of the latest product information, or offline availability? Although PWAs provide easier access and a more consistent user experience for users than mobile apps, the technology is still evolving. At the moment, it is still not ready for the market, and it should take a while until then.
Nevertheless, it becomes clear: Classic applications on the web, which consist of several linked HTML documents, will be replaced in the foreseeable future by apps that no longer differentiate between desktop and mobile devices. Therefore, it is advisable for companies to carefully observe this development and take it into account when planning future modernization of their e-commerce presence — this applies to both the selection of the technological platform and the design concept, which must meet new requirements with technologies such as PWA.
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