All you need to know about the Progressive Web App (PWA)

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PWA – advanced web applications.

Warning. This article is not sponsored by PWA. All views and opinions in the article belong only to its author.

Progressive Web App or PWA Is the best way for developers to make their web applications load faster and be more productive. PWAs are websites that use modern web standards, which makes it possible to install them on a user's computer or device. In work, they are like applications. The most famous example is Twitter, which launched mobile.twitter.com as PWA on React and Node.js.

Before moving on, let's quickly see what PWA is.

PWA is a web application that can be installed on your system. It works offline when there is no Internet connection, making the most of the data cached the last time you worked with the application. If you access the site from Chrome on the desktop and you have the corresponding flags enabled, then you will be asked to install the application.

The term PWA, or the Progressive Web App, comes from technical jargon, but it's actually the next step in user-friendly applications. Application developers should take a close look at them.

They combine the convenience and appearance of the application, while developing them is as easy as a regular website. These modern applications provide access to your content and a first-class service that makes users happier.

Progressive applications can be called responsive sites, because they adapt to the capabilities of the user's browser. They can automatically improve the built-in functions of the browser so that working with the site is similar to working with a native web application. Basic PWA components:

  • web application manifest: to provide native functions, such as an application icon on the desktop;
  • Service Workers Technology: for background tasks and work offline;
  • application shell architecture (application shell): for quick downloads from Service Workers.

The most common examples of using PWA are Alibaba, Forbes, The Weather Channel, and MakeMyTrip.

Key benefits of PWA that make them so productive

What is the difference between PWA and native applications?

A native application is an independent program that lives on a smartphone. It works like any other program installed on a computer, for example, Microsoft Word.

PWAs are sites that appear as mobile apps. They are like Google Docs, because they have all the features of installed programs, but they work directly in the browser.

Let's look at a few differences between PWA and native applications.

1. Progressiveness

The best thing about PWA is that they do not have the limitations that traditional applications have. This means that PWAs can be as progressive as possible and will work on all possible operating systems. PWAs are able to work in any browser. PWAs would not be called progressive if they could not adapt to the user environment.

The factor in which PWAs are significantly different from traditional applications is a progressive improvement. This ensures that they work in any existing browser.

2. Adaptability

Nowadays, users access the Internet from smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, laptops and other devices.

Introducing the PWA to the public, it was assumed that everyone who would use them would do it from a desktop computer. Responsive design is a type of design when a site is rebuilt to fit the dimensions and parameters of the device on which it is open.

Responsive design makes PWA progressive and affordable on a large number of devices.

3. Independence from Internet connection

Everyone understands that we can’t access the site if the Internet is disconnected. Nevertheless, many native applications allow you to continue working with them, despite the low speed of the Internet or its complete absence. PWA allows users to interact with the application regardless of the Internet connection. This is made possible by the application caching data in advance. Caching is done by a technology known as Service Workers. It provides a software method for caching resources.

4. Similarity to applications

Regardless of the fact that PWAs go beyond traditional applications, it is important to note that they should still support a structure similar to applications. This is one of the biggest differences between the PWA and the website. There are many sites that consist of several simple pages with static content, such as contact information, blog articles, and services provided. For such a site to be considered PWA, it must contain interactive functions that are called by the user. It can be added to the device’s desktop and the user will be able to interact with the application as if it were native.

Why do we need advanced web applications

PWAs help solve problems such as low internet speeds, long site loading, and interactivity. This is a good reason to use progressive web applications. Here are some of the key features that PWA provides:

  • Speed. PWAs always load fast. From the moment the user downloads the application until the moment he starts working with him, everything happens incredibly fast. You can also quickly start the application again without connecting to a network.
  • Reliability. Thanks to Service Workers technology, you can fully download the image on the user's screen, even if the Internet is disconnected.
  • Integration. With PWA, everything boots smoothly and seamlessly. This is due to the fact that the application is located on the user's device, it is able to send push notifications and has access to the device functions as native applications.
  • Interactivity. Since we can send notifications to the user, we can increase his interest and involve him in the work with the application.

How to create a PWA

Here are the four minimum requirements for an application to become PWA.

1. Web application manifest

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The JSON file provides meta information about the application. It contains information about the application icon that the user usually sees after installation, the background color, the full name and the short name of the application to display.

2. Service Workers

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Illustration by simform.com/blog

Service Workers are event-driven workers who work in the background of an application. They act as intermediaries between the network and the application, are able to intercept network requests and cache information in the background. They can also be used to download information for offline mode.

3. Icon

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The application displays the icon and the “Add to Home Screen” button, which allows you to install PWA on the user's device’s desktop. This tool helps to generate icons in various formats, which is very convenient.

4. Transmission over HTTPs

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To be a PWA, a web application must run over a secure network. With services like Cloudflare and LetsEncrypt, it’s very easy to get an SSL certificate. A secure website is not only good practice, but also a guarantee that your web application will be considered reliable. Especially for users who fear hacking and covert attacks, trusting only trusted sites.

Benefits of PWA

1. Security

Without sacrificing performance and security, PWA provides users with the familiar experience with the application. One of the main factors on the Internet is a guarantee of security, especially when it comes to identity theft, distribution or hacking. PWAs are able to withstand this problem. Since they are transmitted through HTTPs, they provide a lot of advantages for both users and developers.

2. Easy updates

When we are dealing with a constantly evolving Internet, application updates are very important for improvements, new functionality, troubleshooting bugs and minor malfunctions. PWA has the advantage that updates are downloaded directly by developers, not users. New functionality and updates are added remotely by the development team. Users will see changes and improvements, but they will not need to download these updates on their own.

3. Access from anywhere

Applications have disadvantages in that they need to be updated periodically, they may be too large to download, or incompatible with some devices. There are a number of factors that make them difficult to install and use. And here PWA come to the rescue. Because such applications are simply interactive websites that can be used by everyone who has a browser and Internet access.

PWA does not need to download and think about device compatibility. No need to worry about the fact that the user does not have enough free space on the device. Programs with functional settings require updates from time to time. PWAs, on the other hand, do not need manual updates. A new version comes out and becomes immediately available when the user simply visits the site.

Conclusion

PWAs are undeniably the next step in providing the interactivity and functionality of web applications. PWA technology makes the process of accessing application features convenient for users. This technology will definitely quickly become dominant in the world of application development. The sooner you take advantage of this opportunity in your industry, the faster you will benefit from it.

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