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Progressive Web App – A Comprehensive Guide
What are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are web apps using modern web technologies such as push notifications, offline web pages, and fast load timings and are designed for the home screens of smartphones. With PWA, users no longer need to go to an app store to download an app or consume data to use it. These are regular web pages appearing in normal native application format or mobile application format, combined with modern browsers’ features. The concept of PWAs emerged when innovative features were used by app developers to design web apps. Today, any top Digital Marketing agency would add this facility to the list of its services. It can truly be said, that Progressive Web App has not gained but has earned a place in the new digital marketing era!
Progressive Web App is a collection of technologies and design concepts in the app format to give the feel of an original website. To understand the Progressive Web App framework, you need to study some of the major technologies involved in PWAs. Those are:
Application Shell or App Shell
When a Progressive Web App loads, a basic shell of an app UI comes first and then comes the content. This is a design approach that helps pages to load faster and get easily cached. This activity is performed by App Shell technology. App Shell helps PWAs to keep both app UI and the content separate, so that they cache separately and load separately. Once, a visitor opens the app and he/she revisits it after a certain time period, App Shell helps to load the pages faster. This results in better user interface and usability of the app.
Web App Manifest
Progressive Web Apps icons are available on the Homescreen of the mobiles to operate the apps directly. This was initially not true with native mobile web apps. Earlier these were not installed as apps to the Homescreen and you could only ‘pin’ a website to your Homescreen both on iOS and Android. This is still true on iOS, but Chrome on Android has started installing web apps to the Homescreen via a web app install banner with the support of ‘manifest.json’ file. Now, on Android, you can run a Progressive Web App in a full-screen mode right from your Homescreen.
There are many factors pushing this modern technology PWA to becoming popular and enhance users’ experiences:
- Engagement factor
The most qualitative assistance of PWA is its reliability factor. Today, users can rely on it irrespective of the fact that they are flying, travelling or in an underground area without network connectivity. As pre-caching is the concept behind the workings of the application, the offline web pages or page loading without the Internet is an in-built feature of Progressive Web App. Like search engines, PWAs index individual web pages and cache them. This allows for previously cached pages to load instantly on mobile phones even in the absence of an Internet network.
That is the main reason, constant interruption of network supply never hampers the workflow undertaken with a PWA. Users can easily complete assignments, presentations or documentations even on way to office or conference, in a flight or a metro.
One major benefit of Progressive Web App is its fast response. User experience is the most important factor that needs to be considered while designing or developing a website or an app. It is the key responsibility of an app developer to create a smooth experience for the users. This is only possible if it does not include any unnecessary elements that take time to download the app or upload the page thereby reducing web page load time.
A specialized pattern that PWAs have come up with is PRPL (push, render, pre-cache and lazy-load) to emphasize performance of app delivery and launch. Speed is increased by optimizing the content of the website, rendering the path, rendering the codes and adopting PRPL pattern.
The ideal load time of any HTML page should be less than 1.5 seconds. A 53% bounce rate has been noticed if the web page takes more than 3 seconds to load. In mobile, this load time should further decrease. Even a 1 second delay in page response can result in 7% reduction in conversions. That’s why, speed with which a page uploads should be maximum. In PWAs, app developers focus on and maintain the response speed of a page. For this purpose, they refrain from including any undesired scrolling and interfaces.
There are several features that enhance the engagement that an app will have with users. A special feature, ‘web push notifications’ is used extensively in PWAs to make apps more appealing while the feature of ‘full screen’ experience enhances the engagement factor. The full screen feature is supported by Web App Manifest, which has complete control on the app appearance, starting from home screen icons to screen orientation.
Generally, users need an app store to install an app to a mobile or tablet. The increased number of apps in today’s world has enhanced the importance and popularity of app store optimization. But, in case of Progressive Web Apps, there is no need of any app store, as they can be installed or used live on a user’s home screen. That’s the most interesting part of PWA quality factors.
However, there are many other characteristics of PWAs, such as, progressive, responsive, safe, fresh, discoverable, re-engaging, installable, and linkable that are making these apps popular.
Importance of Progressive Web Apps
Facts show that an app loses 20% of its users at every step between user’s first interaction with the app and the actual usage of the app. PWA popularity is rising with its ability to enhance user engagement and reduce loss in numbers. It is important to study why more websites and apps are turning to Progressive Web App formats.
Home Screen Facility
Users get the option to add their websites or their native apps to their home screens without leaving the browser.
Work without Network
It doesn’t matter whether user has the constant supply of network on their device or not. No network or interrupted network will no longer hamper work.
More Engaging with Push Notifications
Push notifications keep users updated instantly and continuously. This holds the attention of the users for a longer time period and their engagement factor increases by four times.
Increase Conversion Rate
The facts show that an amazing uninterrupted and fast user experience increases the conversion rate by 82% in iOS and by 104% in rest of the browsers.
Some Brilliant Examples of Progressive Web Apps
Progressive Web App example in “Business”
- Goole I/O
Progressive Web App example in “News”
- Washington Post
- Financial Times
- The Billings Gazette
- Geo News
Progressive Web App example in “Games”
- 2048 Puzzle
- Paper Planes
- Topple Trump
- Web Flap
- Inbox Attack
Progressive Web App example in “Reference”
- Wiki Offline
- Chrome Status
- Firefox Platform Status
- Progressive Beer
Progressive Web App example in “Tool”
- Voice Memos
- Expense Manager
- QR Code Scanner
- Smaller Pictures
Let us discuss some of these Progressive Web App example in details:
News Agency using Social Workers: Washington Post PWA is especially designed to reduce the burden on the site created by third-party content submission. As a news delivery organization, it is mandatory for the pages to be updated as fast as possible, without any lag in load times. Since readers have many other options to get breaking news, the PWA apps spontaneity and connectivity allow users, readers and contributors to surf and work without interruptions.
Social Media using PWA: Navigate to mobile.twitter.com instead of twitter.com to experience Twitter PWA. Social medias are expected to be instant connecting platforms as the shelf life of a tweet is around 18 minutes. So, the load time of Twitter has to be so quick that it reaches the audience is as little a time as possible without any delays.
E-magazine using Precaching: Flipboard is a platform that gathers information from different news sites and social media sites and showcase the information in their magazine. This third-party info collection is a continuous process, so, they took the support of Progressive Web Apps. They are able to pre-cache the info, fonts and third-party’s SDK and minimizes any interruption.
Quiz game using Service Worker toolbox: Topple Trump PWA is a web app that was built in a form of a quiz game where users are asked to guess Donald Trump quotes. The fun game has a high engagement percentage. That’s the reason they took the support of Service Worker toolbox to cache both music and animation to continue supplying non-stop fun.
Online game using push notifications: Paperplanes.world is an online game which allows to fly virtual planes on your mobile. Push notifications keep on sending regular update of the location of the plane, is it captured, etc.
How to Improve Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)?
You can take the support of Lighthouse to improve the functionality and the quality of any web app or a Progressive Web App. Lighthouse is an open source used to audit the performances of a web app. You can run it on any app be it public or a restricted one. So, it can be used to examine the performance of your app as well as of your competitor. With Lighthouse PWA Analysis Tool, this automated tool not only audits a website, but also provides relevant information on how to improve the website or a page.
You can run the Lighthouse in two ways- as a Chrome extension and as a command line tool. In Chrome extension, you will be able to get better insights of the pages where you are logged in. Command line tool helps to integrate Lighthouse into continuous integration systems.
Do’s and Don’ts of Progressive Web App (PWA)
Progressive Web App Do’s:
- Verify whether served over HTTPS or not
- Verify mobile-friendliness of all designs
- Verify that the URL responds with a 200 when offline
- Verify users’ ability to add app to the Home screen
- Verify the time required to load
- Test site in all browsers- Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari
Progressive Web App Don’ts:
- Avoid mixed content on the website or app
- Do not use non-standard tags
In a nutshell, Progressive Web Apps are the latest introduction in the world of digital marketing. The PWAs will widen the prospects of direct app engagement, giving better scope to website owners to reach their targeted audiences. marketing, as it has widened the prospective of internet usage and giving better scope to the websites owner to reach up to their targeted audiences.