Maybe you do not necessarily know what a Progressive Web App is, but most likely you’ve used one before. PWA is a term that is currently on everyone’s lips with app developers. However, it is sometimes difficult for users to understand what exactly these types of apps are doing.
So in this article, let’s take a closer look at what constitutes a Progressive Web App and whether you should create such an app for your business (versus classic apps). Let’s start with the basics:
What is a Progressive Web App?
First, it helps to know what a web app is. This is an application that runs in a browser. Gmail.com or Ebay.com are examples of web apps. You can call them (via Chrome, Edge, Firefox, etc.) and perform certain tasks in them, whether from a desktop PC or smartphone. You can, for example, read / send emails or bid at an auction – doing things that go beyond reading text or looking at pictures like a standard website.
The definition of “progressive” is rather broad. The term was coined in 2015 by Google Chrome technicians and actually means only: “web apps that support the latest browser technology”. Since then, however, the meaning has evolved and now stands for:
Progressive (Logical) – The apps must work for each user, regardless of the browser used.
(logical) – The apps must work for each user, regardless of the browser used. Responsive – you have to fit any screen: desktop, smartphone or tablet.
– You need to fit any screen: desktop, smartphone or tablet. Offline features – It must be possible to open them offline.
– It must be possible to open it offline. App-like – you need to feel like an app in terms of interaction and navigation.
– You need to feel like an app in terms of interaction and navigation. News – You must always be up to date (without manual updates).
– You must always be up to date (without manual updates). Safe – You must use HTTPS for increased security.
– You must use HTTPS for increased security. Findable – You have to find them through search engines like Google.
– You have to find them through search engines like Google. Customer loyalty – You should make it easy for users to reuse through features like push messages.
– You should make it easy to reuse users with features like push messages. Installable – Users should be able to “keep” apps that they find particularly useful on their home screen without having to visit an App Store.
– Users should be able to “keep” apps that they find particularly useful on their home screen without having to visit an App Store. Linkable – You have to spread easily via URL.
Returning to our examples of Gmail and Ebay, we see that they do not meet some important criteria. You can not open it offline and also not install on the home screen of the smartphone – which is very possible with native apps.
Apple is beginning to provide support for PWAs
Wait a moment. Does this mean that web apps are not completely progressive if they are not supported by all browsers? Technically, but the answer is a bit more complicated since most of the features are still running on iOS.
As of March 2018, the following current iOS limitations apply:
the PWA can only store up to 50 MB of offline data
If the user does not use the app for a while (a few weeks), iOS will automatically flush the app cache, so it will load slower the next time still cannot access contacts, background localization and native social apps, no push notifications, no support for in-app payments, etc.
What about app kits?
GoodBarber has long pioneered PWAs. We tested one of them and the result surprised us positively. Other platforms like AppYourself also offer PWAs.
At GoodBarber you can definitely see what PWA features look like, as there is the option to add SEO keywords for pages.
The app can also be linked to a separate domain:
It should be noted that in GoodBarber no push messages can be sent, which is a limitation compared to native apps. Apparently, however, is working for an upcoming version of this feature.
A big plus at GoodBarber is the handling of the app design. Web apps do not usually impress us, but the GoodBarber solution is very efficient – thanks to the splash screen that mimics a menu entry page with menu.
When you start a new project or business, GoodBarber (free trial) might be ideal. If your needs are simple enough, you could get a Progressive Web App and Website in one. What this could look like is shown in our demo of a Progressive Web App and the following link: https://apptooltester.goodbarber.com.
Should I choose a Progressive Web App?
Progressive Web Apps are a fascinating format but in a strange position. Google calls it revolutionary. Apple fights against her. Developers seem to like them, but only as an improvement to traditional web apps and in direct competition with native apps. And for sure, having a good, responsive website is even more important.
In short, it’s certainly a technology that should be used if you know what it’s all about. In the following cases we would recommend a PWA instead of a native app:
- You do not want to sell your app.
- Your users often need quick access to the information you provide.
- You have a blog or a content-intensive website.
- Your users have low or slow internet access.
- Their users are spread all over the world (Android’s global market share is 84%, Apple’s 16%, but the distribution is 50/50 in the US).
- You want your app to be found through Google.
- You want to send push messages (only possible with Android, not yet available on GoodBarber).
- You want to be able to add updates quickly and easily – without the review process of an app store.
The reason why Progressive Web Apps cause confusion is probably that they are on a hybrid level between a website and native app. They are not really revolutionary, but they are a good step in the right direction to making apps more accessible to everyone thanks to the World Wide Web. However, many still have the image of a “native app” in mind for the word “app” – so it will take a while for the competition to prevail, especially as Apple places more emphasis on the App Store.
However, you should know that you are in good company with a Progressive Web App. More and more large organizations prefer this variant of a native app. Financial Times and Washington Post are prominent examples.
Also published on Medium.