It has been over four years since the name “progressive web app was coined by Alex Russell and Frances Berriman but it still seems as though majority of internet users have not been able to fully grasp the meaning and its relevance which is why people are still relatively surprised as to why trends are beginning to move in this direction.
We still ask; “what is a progressive web app and how is it relevant?
Has progressive web apps come to replace native apps?
Which platform should my company use for its branding and marketing?
These and many more questions we ask to unravel the nitty-gritty of progressive web apps.
What Is A Progressive Web App?
As far as definitions are concerned we have seen several brilliant and self-explanatory definitions that truly answer this question but since it is something we are not used to as of yet and uncertain if it will ever become the norm, we don’t keep it to memory. Well, here is our take on a definition, one that was truly coined to fit into our memory and draws on all the brilliant takes we’ve seen so far.
A progressive web app is a responsive website that functions like a traditional mobile application.
Talk about bringing the advantages of the mobile web and native applications together, that is what a progressive web app does. In more detailed terms it is a responsive web application that behaves like a mobile app combining all the features of cutting edge websites and native applications.
To be responsive the website has to be user-friendly across all platforms, it must have a modern refined quality, load quickly and it should be accessible offline though caches and service workers.
Characteristic Features of a Progressive Web App (PWA)
The characteristic features of a PWA were established by Alex Russell in 2015. These features make them “progressive” in the true sense of the word and they are as follows;
It must be user-friendly across all platforms; it should load fast and have high quality
App like feel
It should feel like a native app. It should be recognized as an app and function like one.
It should work offline. This is made possible through the use of service workers and caches
It should be installable, though not as a native app from app stores but added to the home screen
It should seamlessly update itself whenever it is connected to the internet
It should be secured over HTTPS.
Sharability is key and it is made easy over URLs
It should be identifiable as an application.
It should be re-engageable through web push notifications.
These characteristics are the bedrock of progressive web applications and they are the reason why it is different from native and hybrid applications.
Attributes of Progressive Web Apps (PWA)
- It needs a web Manifest
The manifest is basically a JSON file that specifies how the app should operate. I.e. like a native app
- It needs to be run through HTTPS
- It requires service workers
Having established all the requirements of PWAs, one may ask why or how is it different? How is it relevant?
Well, it is safe to say that the reasons why this technology surfaced to the limelight was because of its relevance, its advantages and future implications, this does not mean it is a replacement for our native apps as this technology is still in development and from my point of view native applications will most likely co-exist with PWAs because they are not as functional and capable as native applications, they cannot access inbuilt mobile functions, modify settings and do some of the hardcore things native applications are programmed to do.
Quite frankly PWAs have certain advantages that make them favorable to app publishers and consumers as well, not so much for mobile app developers though as they feel their relevance and position are being threatened. Some of those advantages are
PWAs are light; they don’t require large storage space and are refreshed seamlessly.
To weekly or monthly updates as most native apps require.
Low development cost
The cost of developing a progressive web app is relatively low when compared to the cost of developing a fully fledged standalone mobile native application.
Universal in nature
One for all, they don’t require different versions for different platforms.
Short development time
We may as well be seeing more improvement for Progressive Web Apps as support and engagement grows but do not be so quick to write off native applications as both technologies are intertwined and may serve different purposes in the future.