Progressive Web Apps | Reliability, Speed, Engagement

What Is a Progressive Web Application? 

A hot topic among developers, PWA or Progressive Web Applications, introduced and promoted by Google, combine simple development and effective user engagement.

Additionally, such type of apps resolves one of the main issues customers face in today’s digital environment: an abundance of choice that makes the users jaded or even frustrated causing a so-cold paradox of choice.

Having thousands of mobile applications to benefit from, users reach a surprising conclusion: a number of apps a smartphone user download a month is increasingly tending to zero according to the research conducted by Statista. Thus, the fact that mobile apps are waning in popularity is undeniable: 

Statistics demonstrate that number of downloaded apps per month is decreasing
A number of app downloads per month in 2017, US. Source: Statista

These statistics scream the need to find a new & fresh solution that will disrupt the market, and progressive web apps may be the things we are searching for. 

Contents:


PWA Characteristics

As a progressive web app is neither a technology nor a new framework, the notion of PWA got blurred, particularly for those who only make the first steps in developing such applications. The right direction to understand and build a PWA is in compliance with the following characteristics the apps must have:

FeatureCharacteristic
ProgressiveInteract with every user disregarding the environment taking the method of progressive improvement as a core ideology.
ResponsiveAutomatically resize depending on the device: users of desktop, tablet, smartphones, etc. All users should get a good-looking version of PWA.
Independent of internet connectionThe heart of the app, Service Worker, should allow working in offline mode while the internet access issues.
Native-likeCorrespond to the usual ways of user’s interaction and navigation.
Easy-to-update
Service Worker API should control the process of automatic update.
SafeUse HTTPS to prevent any data manipulation.
DiscoverableCan be easily classified as an “app” by search engines based on W3C manifest and Service Worker operation.
EngagingMotivate users to get back app using push notifications and other similar technical features.
InstallableAllow adding an app directly to the home screen without opening the app store.
Easy-to-useShouldn’t be installed in common sense. Opening the URL is enough to become an app user.

Technological stack

HTML, JavaScript, and CSS allow developing a progressive web app
Technological stack to develop a PWA

To develop a PWA app, the technological stack of the company should include JavaScript, HTML, and CSS to combine the simplicity of the website usage with specific for the native apps operating system and technical opportunities. 

Technologies to Build PWA

Progressive web apps are based on Service Worker, JSON manifest, push notifications and HTTPS technologies

Progressive Web App Manifest is a JSON file with a pretentious name, whose main goal is providing meta information about the app including: 

  • name;
  • description;
  • icons;
  • start URL;
  • background color;
  • display;
  • theme color;
  • model of behavior after being “installed” on a user’s device. 

* Optional fields have been highlighted, however, PWA developers from Jellyfish.tech fill out each of the fields to give comprehensive information about an app, in this way helping the search engines to better understand what it’s dealing with.

JSON manifest for a progressive web app
Example of JSON web manifest for a progressive web app

Both options of writing the manifest ourselves and generating the one using GitHub or Google instruments are available. 

Service Worker is a JS file that acts as a proxy between the network and app running in the background, resolving the issue front-end developers have been fighting for years: this technology helps store the website information properly so that a user could obtain it offline. Called the game changers for web industry, service workers (as a modern API) are the key technology to turn your website into an app.  

Serving the website content for a user isn’t the only capacity of service workers, they can offer much more including: 

  • dealing with notifications;
  • synchronizing the background data;
  • handling calculations;
  • receiving updates; 
  • controlling user’s requests to provide custom responses from the cache. 
Web server, service worker, and web page interaction
Scheme of web page, service worker, and web server interaction

As Service Workers are so powerful, they could only function in a secure environment that brings us to the next point. 

HTTPS keeps the level of progressive web app security high to allow the service worker to operate properly as opposed to HTTP that makes a service worker be susceptible to cyber attacks. Moreover, in human terms, with HTTPS you implement on the website, your users will be sure their data is secure that, in turn, will increase their engagement. 

App Shell can be considered as a skeleton common to all app pages, a virtual framework that will be filled with the content later. App shell contributes to enhancing the user experience, as it launches the static rendering page promptly while the dynamic information is downloaded from the web.  

Push Notifications are crucial for user re-engagement as they encourage users to make targeted actions. This technology is applied widely beyond PWA, being the reason you get the requests from websites to send you notifications. 

The working algorithm of push notifications is rather simple:

  1. A user is requested to subscribe. 
  2. Every session & device gets a unique identifier. 
  3. Service Worker manages the subscription.
  4. A unique identifier is used to post a message from an app.
  5. Service Worker is ready to receive any incoming messages.

Progressive Web Apps VS  Native Apps

The basic objective of any PWA is to give so universal and unobtrusive experience of interacting with an app that a user could not notice the difference between two app types.

But you and I both know that the difference does exist, the devil is in details, and the details are in the following table:

Type of appPlatformInstallationConnectionUpdates
Progressive web appThe website or website
that have the application features.
To install an app, a user should only visit a website and add it to the home screen. The app is accessible with any connection quality. Its interface and content are accessible offline thanks to caching. Instant and automatic update.
Native appThe app is developed and optimized for specific mobile platforms.Only a direct installation on a device is possible after going to an app store and waiting for an app to install. A part of the app functionality depends on connection. Certain apps work offline. Before the release, app and any updates should conform to app store criteria.

Progressive Web Apps & Google

As you can tell, the advanced technology that allows building PWA definitely has the potential to benefit from during launching or redesigning a website/ app for your business. All the more, supported by Google, progressive web apps are most likely to expand on the web:

If you’re building a web app today, you’re already on the path towards building a Progressive Web App

Google

Besides, the concept of a progressive web app complies with the Google mobile-first index that enables indexing & ranking the mobile version of a site i.e. the mobile users’ interest comes to the fore. 

This index requires performing numerous actions to optimize websites so that their content could be properly reflected on different devices. The income of mobile optimization depends on numerous factors: 

  • Pages load speed;
  • Code size;
  • Images & video size;
  • Pop-ups;
  • Compliance of website and mobile version content.

Frequently, a site couldn’t be optimized to the point where the criteria introduced by Google are met because of the inner features, while a progressive web app completely corresponds to them having the responsive design and high load speed as the main characteristics. PWA reduces the areas of responsibility thus concern that can’t help enhance the positive experience of both site user and owner. 

Opportunities Progressive Web Apps Open for Business

The only way to remain viable for companies in today’s digital world is to improve themselves constantly searching for innovative solutions, one of which is PWA. The real businesses have contributed to the statistical study of conversion increase after PWA development:

Value of PWAs for your business
This is how progressive web apps may add value to your business

Progressive web applications seem to be the ones to help enhance customer experience by requiring minimal target audience effort during the interaction using the following features:

➡️Customer gets an automatic request to install an app after the second site visit.

➡️Quick installation and small app size contribute to the increase of downloads number, as many smartphones users refuse to install new apps exactly because of low download speed and too much storage space taken. 

➡️Fits for all platforms so during the project development you won’t be concerned about investing in app optimization for different devices and creating the right solutions for different platforms. 

➡️ PWA development requires less time & budget resources than native app development. 

➡️Choosing a PWA, a customer chooses a lower competition for the business, as developing a mobile app, you automatically compete with thousands of apps in stores, while PWAs can be found in organic search as websites and shared on social media. This increase the chances to be noticed in multiple times.

➡️ SEO may become one of the ways to make your PWA stand out, as the usual instruments of search engine optimization may be applied to your app, increasing its traffic on the web. 

➡️Push notifications re-engage users giving the pretext to launch the app one more time. 

Progressive Web Apps: Yes or No?

PWAs are the universal solution that may fit nearly all businesses in any industries depending on their strategy and ultimate objectives. Can’t decide whether choosing this app type is a win-win solution for your business? Jellyfish.tech may share the research-based expert opinion & advise on aligning a PWA with your corporate strategy. Even if a PWA runs counter to your company’s current interests, we will offer another digital option to grow your business.