Mon, Mar 1, 2021

What is a Progressive Web App?

What is a Progressive Web App?

Between the web app and the native application, the Progressive Web App or PWA is becoming much more popular among the application creators. It provides an interesting alternative to native applications and tackles some technical limitations of web browsers. Which are these features that make it so attractive?

Before looking at the Progressive Web App in more detail, here is a quick summary of the main types of application.

  • The web app is a website with interactive content, responsive and optimized for viewing from a browser. It can be consulted from all devices within a web browser.
  • The native application is an application developed in the language specific to an operating system (iOS or Android, mostly). It is usually downloaded via app stores (App Store, Play Store) and it accesses the native features of mobile devices such as the camera, GPS... The user experience and performance are among its greatest qualities.
  • The hybrid application is a website packaged as a mobile application. It is therefore available from the app stores, but inside, it is an integrated web in the form of a web view.

Features of the Progressive Web App

If the Progressive Web App is so appealing, it's because it offers the best of the web and the native application.

It can be viewed like a classic website from a web browser, but it offers the advantages of a user experience similar to a mobile application:

  • It does not require installation and can be easily added to the home screen of a mobile device.
  • It is available offline: when first used, its data is cached in the browser. Afterwards, it is possible to consult it without any Internet connection or with poor connexion.
  • It loads faster than a classic web app.

How does a Progressive Web App work?

The Progressive Web App is before all a web app. It is developed with web technologies (HTML5, CSS3, Angular or React). It has a secure HTTPS domain, one or more service workers and a manifest file that controls how it appears to users.

Service workers are a script that the browser runs in the background on a mobile device. It provides an intermediate layer between the web app and the network, which runs in the background (even when the app is closed). Using the worker services, the PWA offers a disconnected experience and better performance than a web app.

Why choose the Progressive Web App?

The Progressive Web App offers many advantages that position it as a possible future of mobile applications.

It is easy to install

Unlike a native application, the user does not need to install the application. Just click on its URL to access its content from a browser.

It is easy to deploy

For application creators, it's also easier: the Progressive Web App isn’t published on the app stores. So there is no need to be submitted, no constraints on the content of the application. The deployment process is faster, simpler and the same goes for updates.

To make it more visible, the Progressive Web App can be added to the Play Store in beta version and be found by a classic search.

It can be added to the home screen

The user has the possibility to add the Progressive Web App to the home screen of the mobile device. This is made possible by the manifest file that gives the app an icon and a unique name, as well as a loading screen.

This manipulation is nevertheless less easy than for the native application.

It can be full screen

Another advantage is its immersive and mobile-friendly consultation.

When opened from its shortcut, the app is displayed in the browser in full screen mode.

It is available offline

This is one of the biggest advantages of the Progressive Web App. When it is loaded the first time, the data is cached in the browser thanks to the service workers. The content of the PWA is then available without an Internet connection and without delay.

It works on all devices

The PWA works via a browser on mobile, tablet or computer.

It is powerful

The Progressive Web App benefits from shorter loading times thanks to caching and uses fewer resources than the native application.

It is secure

The Progressive Web App benefits from an HTTPS protocol that allows its use for any type of site and data.

The disadvantages of the Progressive Web App

Everything isn’t perfect even in the world of the Progressive Web App.

Compatibility of web browsers

Even though most of the latest browsers support it, not all browsers are compatible with the features of the Progressive Web App such as service workers. In particular, there are strong disparities between iOS and Android.

On iOS, only Safari browser can be used to get some features related to the PWA such as adding the shortcut to the home screen. On the other browsers, it works as a standard web app.

On computers, PWAs work in a similar way to applications. They are available on Chrome OS, Windows, Linux, and MacOS.

Some features are limited

Even if the Progressive Web App allows access to more system resources than the web app such as the camera or GPS, not all features are accessible such as Bluetooth or NFC.

Create a Progressive Web App

To conclude, the Progressive Web App has advantages and disadvantages, it's up to you to decide according to your objectives.

On the development side, you can create a Progressive Web App without any line of code. This is one of the formats offered by PandaSuite alongside the native application and the web app.

To create a PWA, activate the use of Services Workers and the Full Download of the application from your dashboard.

Choose an icon, a name and a loading screen, and you're done!

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