Progressive Web Apps is a term that is most discussed these days amongst the developers. So, you may have also come across this term, unless you stay in a cave and are cut off from the world. Let’s know more about it.
What are Progressive Web Apps (PWA’s)?
Progressive Web Apps(PWA) uses modern web capabilities. It delivers an app like experience to the end-user providing better user experience. In order to be eligible to be PWA, an app should meet the following requirements:
- Progressive: It should work for every user no matter what browser the user uses. The core principle used to build it is the progressive enhancement.
- Installable: Allow users to place useful applications on their home screen without bothering about an application store.
- App-Like: Utilizes app-shell which provides an app like navigations and interactions.
- Connectivity Independent: It should be able to work offline or with a slow internet connection.
- Responsive: It should be properly visible and interactable regardless of the screen size of any device.
- Safe: TLS should be used to serve it. It prevents snooping attack and guarantees the integrity of the content of the website.
- Linkable: It should easily be shareable using a link. It should not require complex installations.
Benefits of Progressive Web Apps
PWA’s have a lot of potentials. Some of the benefits hold an important place over native apps and provide a solution to some of the issues that native apps face.
- Any user can use it, regardless of platform or mobile device as it is built using Progressive enhancement as the core principle.
- As they are responsive, they work on devices regardless of their screen sizes.
- It makes the use of Service Workers to provide the user with the content even with slow or no internet connection at all (Note: The user needs to access the pages once for those pages to be available offline later on).
- Since service workers regularly update in the background, there is no need for the user to update them manually unlike Native apps.
- PWA ensures that the connection for data transfer is made over https thus making it difficult to penetrate ensuring that data is not tempered.
- Search engines can register PWA as an application. This is possible because of the W3C manifest and registration scope of Service Workers.
- Built-In features like Push Notifications help the user to reach target customers.
- PWA is installable thus it gives the best of both the worlds without the need for an App Store.
- PWA’s are easily shareable using URLs.
Why are Businesses moving to Progressive Web Apps?
Let us consider this scenario where a client wants to launch his/her E-Commerce platform to sell products online.
What are things the client will need to reach out to the customers so that the customers can order online?
- Website (Responsive)
- Android App
- IOS App
The cost to develop the app for each separate platform adds to the expenditure. Also, adding to it are the fees for publishing the apps to the platforms like Android Play store (25$ one time fees) and IOS App Store (99$/year). Thus, this increases the cost to develop as well as the time before the application is open to customers.
There is a better option available with the client to move to the Progressive Web Apps. They can act as a website and also as native apps. This method reduces the overall cost and time of development.
To read further on how PWA’s can lower the development cost continue here.
Why are Developers moving to Progressive Web Apps?
Suppose a developer has a project in which the requirement is to make a website and the mobile apps for the same. Now to complete the project the developer needs to know a minimum of the below-mentioned languages:
- Java or Kotlin (for Android)
- Swift or Object C (for IOS)
While developing the website the developer needs to check if it is responsive for all screen sizes. Once done, the developer needs to develop an Android app and check if it works in all the devices properly including tablets. And finally, the IOS app which requires Mac OS to develop the app (additional cost to the developer if he/she doesn’t pre-own it).
Once done, the developer needs to publish the app in their respective app stores. Thus they should follow all the guidelines and restrictions set by the app stores and wait for an approval from them before the app is live.
Now, if there are any changes in the functionalities, the developer needs to update the Website, Android app as well as IOS app, which is just a wearisome process.
PWA vs Native Apps
Both have their own merits as well as demerits. The decision mainly depends on what kind of features you require in your application. For example, PWA may be easier and simpler to install but installing from app store guarantees that the app is free of malware and any insecure code. Let’s discuss benefits of the each over other further in details.
Benefits of PWA over Native Apps
PWA’s are beneficial for a developer, the business and they do not change much of user experience for the user. The benefits of PWA’s are:
- From visiting the site, installation prompt to installation takes approximately less than 10 seconds.
- Developers need to develop only one code base. Thus it decreases the cost improves the quality of the end product.
- No problems with app store integration. There are various guidelines to be followed while publishing your app on the App Store or the PlayStore. But with PWA you don’t need to worry about it and make your app live by just hosting on the server.
- Download Size is very less compared to the Native App.
- Service workers update the content as soon as the app owner deploys it to the server silently without even user knowing that it has updated. In Native apps, you need to update manually whenever there are any changes in the app.
- It can run on any device which has a browser.
- If we consider SEO, Search Engines index PWA’s in more details compared to native apps.
Benefits of Native apps over PWA’s
Native apps work along with Operating System(OS) to create a user experience which is entirely different. The performance you obtain from native apps can be achieved by none other. Let’s have a look at its key benefits:
- Native apps go through the verification process of app stores thus are more secure.
- They are fast and have smooth animations.
- They load almost instantly.
- Native apps are optimized to use less battery and thus perform optimally better.
- Native apps can interact with other Native apps. This comes handy when a user has already signed-in to the social apps like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail or LinkedIn. The native app switches to the social app and uses the token to sign in the user in the current app. Thus it makes user Sign In process seamlessly smooth and easy.
- Native apps can use Hardware like proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor and NFC and use it to manipulate and improve the user experience.
- Wake lock is a feature that detects whether the user is using the device (when reading or watching a video) for a long time and won’t turn off the screen. This feature is not yet available in the PWA’s.
So, Is the market for Native apps soon going to depreciate? Are PWA’s better to replace with the Native Apps? Should I go with the Native Apps or the PWA’s?
My answer for you will be “It all depends”. PWA and Native apps both have their potential which cannot defy the other. It requires you to take into the consideration the features you will provide, the budget, the time duration available to you for the development and much more scenarios. In many cases, the PWA likely offers all that you require achieving your project goals, but exceptions always exist. If budget is your primary concern, PWA’s are the thing to go for.
Let’s Sum it all
No person can predict the future, and it is uncertain what it may bring for us. We may be discussing a new kind of app experience by the end of the year who knows.
Looking at the tech giants like Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and many others moving towards the Progressive Web Apps approach, the future of PWA seems promising. The stage is all set and is ready to see many and many more PWA’s rolling out this year.
Where to move ahead from here?