In an age where mobile devices have become omnipotent and the key way to stay connected, it will be a disastrous business decision to not have a strong digital presence that can be accessed anywhere. At the same time, users also want an uninterrupted and seamless experience between their mobile devices and desktops, which means enterprises have to develop and maintain a responsive website as well as a mobile app. Since the launch in 2015, Progressive Web Apps has become the technology of choice for app developers to create such a seamless user experience. Let’s take a closer look.
What are Progressive Web Apps?
Simply defined, Progressive Web Apps are like lightweight websites that behave like an app by combining the best features of native environments with web technologies. Progressive Web Apps development comprises of the following three elements:
- Web manifest: Progressive web apps have a JSON file containing details like the name, the icon, description and access-related info. This JSON file takes care of communicating with the mobile device or the browser that what they have is not a regular website but a progressive web app.
Are Progressive Web Apps the Future?
For many years now developers have been using responsive web design methods to build websites that work equally well on a large or a small screen, eliminating the need to maintain a separate mobile device version of the website. While this was a big step up from older methods, responsive design is now unable to meet the growing user demand resulting from a plethora of mobile devices with different screen sizes. That’s where Progressive Web Apps play a big role by addressing fundamental design considerations and improving responsiveness.
Here’s why we feel that Progressive Web Apps are definitely the future of web and app development:
Low cost of development: Compared to native app development, progressive web apps are cheaper to build because they need a single adaptation for all programs.
More reliable: Progressive web apps technology helps load a site on a device easily no matter what the network speed.
Better responsiveness: Progressive web apps help websites to respond faster, almost instantly, to user prompts with no glitches, jerky scrolling and with smooth as silk transitions. Additionally, progressive web apps easily fit to any screen/display size, irrespective of device or browser, without any impact on the experience.
Native features: Such websites basically work like a native app complete with features like push notifications, alerts, easy access from an icon on the home screen etc. There is no need to visit an app store to download and install any app, or from the developer perspective, there is no need to use the app store to distribute the app. All you need is your progressive web app to be online.
Security: All websites built using progressive web apps have to be served via a secure origin which automatically makes them more secure.
Lightweight: This is perhaps one of the best features of progressive web apps. Despite carrying so many functionalities and features of native apps, progressive web apps are very lightweight and are actually available in kilobytes.
Better user experience: Due to their native look and feel, as well as functionality, progressive web apps deliver a pleasant and easy user experience just like their native counterparts.
No version updates: Progressive web apps don’t need any version updates because they are not really apps. This saves so much developer time because not there is no need to regularly update or refresh them.
Some Leading Progressive Web Apps
- Flipkart Lite
- The Washington Post
- Twitter Lite
Important Points a Progressive Web Apps Developer Must Heed
There’s no doubt that Progressive Web Apps could be the future of website technology. However, there are some key aspects that developers must be aware of:
- Keeping pace: Progressive web apps can keep adding new functionalities so users have to be updated regularly about any new changes by sending out notifications.
- Push notifications: While these are very useful and help keep users updated and engaged, too many notifications can frustrate users.
- Various situations: While designing progressive web apps developers have to ensure that they are attuned to different environments such as working offline, performing during network issues, partial or slow loading of content etc. This is especially useful in locations where users access the web primarily from low-end devices. In such cases, developers must create skeleton screens and transition animations so that users know that content is loading albeit slowly.
- Accessibility: All progressive web apps have to abide by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 that have defined rules on how to help users with disabilities access web content easily.
Progressive Web Apps allow web developers to deliver user experiences that function as an app but have the reach of the web. Of course, they do have some drawbacks as with any technology, but the advantages outweigh these and make progressive web apps a technology of the future.