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What Makes a Web App Progressive

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) make the world of web dev evolve steadily. What are they? A fast growing trend in web development that is strongly pushed by Google across the world.

PWAs deliver value to users on all devices, bringing a near-native experience through web apps. I’m pretty sure they will be the next big thing after native mobile applications – a new life for web apps on mobile devices.

What It Means to Be Progressive

According to the Oxford Dictionary, progressive means:

  1. in favour of new ideas, modern methods, and change;
  2. happening or developing steadily.

We can say that being progressive means embracing change, implementing new solutions but not starting a revolution at the same time. Instead of causing a revolution, PWAs are bringing about evolution through steady improvements.

Building a Progressive Web App

The promise behind Progressive Web Apps is to provide the core value of web apps to every connected user in the world. Not only in the highly developed European countries or the US.

Every web app is built upon layers of abstraction – let’s call them enhancements. The minimal enhancement that makes a website is HTML. A Progressive Web App delivers the core value of your web app solely through HTML so as to make sure that users with a poor connection and an older smartphone will be able to get a seamless experience.

Each additional layer of enhancement – CSS styles, Javascript, geolocalization, push notifications, and so on – are layers that should provide more value if the user’s hardware supports them.

Thanks to this approach, we deliver core value very fast – using various techniques like server side rendering, content delivery networks, code splitting, etc. – and make our site accessible and useful for every connected user in the world. Because of the focus on speed and progressive enhancements, bounce rates fall, and conversion rates rise for users in developed countries.

If our customer base is focused on developed countries, progressive web apps are a perfect choice. We have 4G mobile internet (with 5G on its way) in Europe. We are surrounded by the web and various networks. But the 4G user is not a 4G user all the time. People have not yet solved the problem of Internet connection breakages in the London underground. That’s one of the best-developed cities in the world! When building your app, you can’t assume your users will always have state-of-the-art technology at their disposal.

Does this Trend Have a Future?

Google has been pushing PWAs for around a year. They believe that they are the future of the web: fast, reliable and engaging web apps that provide a native experience without the need for building multiple native applications for different platforms.

I agree. There are dozens of native features in modern apps that you might not be aware of, but we are slowly dropping the legacy of desktop-focused design that has had enormous influence on mobile apps. The next step will be to move too fast applications native to the web. This means a new approach to design, development, and testing. I want to embrace it as it is happening.

Examples?

Twitter’s mobile web app is a great example. It was rewritten to match every specification of PWA and is significantly faster than the native mobile application and the former web app. Twitter also admitted that it brought them a 75% increase in tweets sent and a 20% decrease in bounce rate – this correlates directly with revenue.

Nicolas Gallagher, the Engineering Lead for Twitter Lite, noted that “Twitter Lite is now the fastest, least expensive, and most reliable way to use Twitter. The web app rivals the performance of our native apps but requires less than 3% of the device storage space compared to Twitter for Android.”

Conclusions

Progressive Web Applications are the future of the web. They are faster, lighter, and cheaper in development and maintenance than native applications. They provide value for everyone around the world. Even those with a 2G connection.

There is a very strong push for Progressive Web Apps in the development community. Hundreds of open source projects based on the major frameworks, including React and Ember, are focusing on improving the speed of development for PWAs.

This trend is going to change the web as we know it. We won’t be so dependent on platform-controlled application providers like the Appstore or Google Play. We’ll let our users experience our applications immediately, instead of them waiting for the apps to download and install. And we’ll reach users in regions of the world that have so far been beyond our reach.

Want to know if your business can get value from the PWA technology? We can help you find out. Drop us a line if you’re interested in a practical report based on your business goals and market reality.

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