If you are tuned into the buzz around Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), you might get the feeling that PWAs are the best thing since sliced bread. Or so the high usage and adoption of this technology suggest.

From Twitter to The Financial Times, Flipkart and Wiki offline - the success stories and use cases highlight all that is great about application delivery via the web. Needless to say, PWAs have made a big impact on user engagement with the web.

But first, a quick recap:

PWAs were thus launched by Google in 2015: “A Progressive Web App uses modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like user experience.”

The essence of PWA is delivering a better, faster, seamless user experience irrespective of the device or browser used.

In other words, PWAs are web pages/applications that have the look and feel of a mobile app. They load at blazing speed, (no App Store involved), can function offline, be added to your smartphone home screen, and can also send push notifications – combining the best of both worlds – mobile and web content.

PWAs and Accelerated Mobile Pages are both technologies initiated by Google in their crusade for a slick and speedy mobile UX (quick and reliable loading).

PWAs were made possible by improvements in JavaScript and web browsers which now support more HTML5.

How do PWAs work?

App shell

An application shell (or app shell) architecture is one method of developing Progressive Web App.

The app "shell" is the minimal HTML, CSS, and JavaScript required to drive the UI. When the user loads the app for the first time, the app shell is cached on their phone.

During subsequent visits, this app shell loads very quickly from the device cache, decreasing the volume of data that needs to be downloaded each time.

Service worker

Service worker undertakes the job of caching the app shell. These are basically JavaScript files that can control a website by handling navigation and resource requests. The service worker decides what is cached and when. Service workers are used across applications and technology in addition to PWA.

Web App manifest

The manifest is a JavaScript file that decides how your (PWA) appears to the user (for example on the device home screen) and guides what functionality can be launched and how.

For instance, Chrome on Android allows PWAs to display a banner to the user for their permission to add the app to their home screen (like a native app download prompt).

Also Read: Abandoned Cart Recovery: Expectations vs Reality

PWA Architecture

As mentioned earlier the two main components of PWA are service workers and application shell architecture. Service workers also help in delivering bonus features via web browsers. These include:

Push notifications: Sends push notifications to users like new events/updates, fresh page content and so on.

Synchronization: The synchronization feature updates the data at the backend even when the user is not on the web page or website.

Caching: Stores data for offline use and allows users to have some functionality available even when offline.

Pre-fetching data: Identifies data that has possible future use – like images or content not yet displayed and pre-fetches these bits to expedite the access.
Incorporating additional data feeds: Hardware such as geolocation, GPS, sensors, and so on can be queried by PWAs using AJAX code.

The modern mobile web is mainstream

There is no repurposing or reinventing your website for devices anymore as an afterthought. Mobile-first is now the default and as Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, VP leading Chrome browser work at Google recently mentioned that the modern mobile web has gone mainstream.

One famous example is the new Twitter Lite website that was launched for mobile devices in April last year. People use it 50 percent more than the previous version. Also when they use it, they view 60 percent more pages, as per Google. Twitter Lite loads faster by 30 percent and people abandon it 10 percent less.

In fact, you can visit mobile.twitter.com with your phone and try it for yourself. With its compact 500 KB download size, it is just 2.5% the size of its Android app version. That is a significant factor for users with slow networks or paying for expensive data packs by the byte.

PWA Advantages for Users:

1)No downloads or installation
PWAs are simply web pages that can be consumed directly from device browsers and can be used offline. No pesky downloads or heavy installation.

2)Instant gratification
Speed is the defining point for PWAs as they load instantly and don’t require many prerequisites to work on the user device.

3)Instant updates
PWAs are always updated and fresh just like web pages – the app will always be current with the latest deployed features and code.

4)Portability
PWAs are fully portable and don’t require any type of packaging or deployment models.

5)Secure
Progressive web apps are hosted over HTTPS and as such highly secure, using TLS between the endpoint and the server.

6)Responsive
PWAs use responsive web design (RWD) to become device-agnostic and work on all combinations of devices and browsers.

Why Progressive Web Apps are the Future

PWAs are redefining the way businesses engage with their users. They help businesses to provide their users with a fast-loading, cost-effective, portable and secure app that is light in every sense of the word.
They are definitely an incredible means of generating leads and offer an edge over native apps. If you are in the eCommerce sector, then you can benefit immensely with a PWA.

You can offer your customers an app-like user experience, instant loading, and breezy checkouts. This means better engagement and conversion rates.

Final thought

It is evident PWAs have a star billing in the future of web and app development. The demand for PWA development is only going to increase as seen by the recent surge in its popularity. Bookmyshow, Ola and Flipkart are some big brands that have leveraged the speed and efficacy of this technology to increase mobile conversion rates by as much as 80 percent. PWAs offer next-level web to users by re-inventing existing technologies. The rise in mobility and the digital transformation of businesses are paving the way for the next generation of apps that are user-first.

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