What are Progressive Web Apps (and how to build one)

Progressive web apps can turn a website into an app. See why they are more relevant
than ever before and how to build one for your business.

Progressive Web Apps can turn a website into an app. The lovechild of a web application and a native application, they have never been more relevant than right now. Sounds intriguing? Here is what it means exactly and how to build them. Topics we will cover:

Progressive Web Apps: turning websites into apps

Web applications are incredibly accessible. They reach everyone, everywhere and in every device, as long as there is an internet connection. They are, however, hardly adapted for a mobile experience. Mobile native apps, on the other hand, work seamlessly in every device, making for a great user experience. But they do require users to search, download, and install them, an effort that many are only willing to take if this is an app they will use repeatedly. 

Source: Gomage

Progressive Web Apps combine the best of both worlds. They are fast, responsive, interactive, and secure. They are installable, discoverable, cross-platform, network independent, capable and reliable. You probably already use them. Some known progressive web apps that are making success are Starbucks, Spotify, Uber (for web), Pinterest. Even Tinder hopped along the progressive web app band wagon with Tinder Online.

How to build great Progressive Web Apps

For a progressive web app to succeed, you need to ensure you’ve ticked off a couple of things:

Create a Manifest

The manifest is the heart of a progressive web app. The manifest is a JSON file that pretty much makes the app installable. Better yet than just creating a manifest, expand it with shortcuts! This equips the progressive web app with the same functionalities of native apps, such as when you press the icon for a few seconds, and you get a drop-down menu with a selection of predefined actions.

Use a service worker

And if a manifest is the heart, then a service worker is the respiratory system of a progressive web app. Service workers (not the human ones) enable the user of your progressive app to use it while offline, by relying on technology to load it in the background. A service worker also gives you access to all the fun bits like push notifications, caching, install prompts, and so on. Just like the manifest, add the service worker script to the base HTML.

Stick to the KISS principle

KISS means “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. But we say it with love. Keeping your progressive web app simple is essential to avoid distracting your users with all the cool tools they now have at the distance of a tap. Get rid or minimise the distracting elements and focus on the desired actions.

Centre it on the UX

A progressive web app in an improvement on the user experience, but it does not work miracles. Things like filling forms and ticking captchas, load times, and many other frustrating things are the main culprits of a poor experience. So, provide your users with autofill, one-tap sign-up, “remember me” options, and ​keep forms simple to fill-out.

Use a HTTPS connection

Making sure the website and thus the progressive web app is run entirely on HTTPS is crucial to guarantee its security.

Make it app-like

The whole point of a progressive web app is to have all the advantages of a native app, but not the downsides, namely the size or the complex building process. Making your progressive web app “app-like”, means using simple and decluttered layouts, keeping the refreshes minimal, and transitions fast.

Make it as “offline” as you can

Not all progressive web apps can be made totally offline, and that’s ok. If this is the case, then make it available in low connectivity as much as you can. Provide all the key features in offline mode and enable caching to make it possible.

SEO is your friend

Since progressive web apps are based on websites, they have URLs and can be indexed by Google and other search engines. Follow the best SEO practices for better results on traffic and conversions.

Publish your progressive web app to app stores

Although the progressive web app does not require installation like a mobile-native app, it is smart from a marketing point of view to publish it to the app stores. This needs to be carefully done as each app store has specific requirements.

Get your Progressive Web App running seamlessly

A progressive web app brings together the best of a web application and of a native app, for the benefit of the user and the business. It is, after all, a much lower investment than a native app due to the difference of effort in development. A website with progressive web app capabilities can even replace native apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone, which are often a great struggle for smaller or newer business.

If you are unsure on how to make a progressive web app happen without hiccups, you have a partner right here. At Near Partner, our skilled developers strive to create and deliver flexible and customised solutions to all our clients. We focus on customer centric solutions that help businesses achieve their success goals, independently of the size. Come talk to us!

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Miguel Maximiano

Curious and passionate about technology and futurology. I'm always looking to get more acquainted with the latest AI trends so when the (inevitable) uprising of machines comes maybe they'll consider me a friend. 🤖