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What are Progressive Web Apps and what are their features?

What are Progressive Web Apps ?

Currently, the market for mobile applications continues to grow. Progressive Web Apps Perhaps it is because the technology of mobile devices is continually improving, but not only that, technologies that are related to the web and the connectivity of said applications are also being improved.

As a developer, you have options when creating an app. It all depends on the purpose of the application, the languages ​​and technologies you want to use, as well as the budget of the project. However, a couple of years ago a new initiative promoted by Google called Progressive Web Apps emerged. In this article we explore what they are and what their main characteristics are.

What are the possible options in application development?

Within the field of application development, there are three possibilities in its creation: native, hybrid and web applications. Each of these applications has its advantages, disadvantages, as well as a specific technology used for its development.

Native applications are those that have been developed for a specific operating system, therefore they take advantage of all the features and functionalities of the devices that use iOS or Android, as appropriate. The user experience is usually superior in this type of applications, but the costs are increased since it is necessary to create applications for each operating system.

On the other hand, hybrid apps like Progressive Web Apps make use of web development standards to be available on different devices and operating systems. Since a single environment was developed and its adaptation to different operating systems is allowed, these applications imply a lower development cost. One of its main drawbacks is that its performance is slightly lower than that of native applications, as is the user experience.

Lastly, web applications, as their name may indicate, are those that are accessed by a URL in a web browser and formatted on the screen to simulate an application environment. Since it is available through the web, it is not necessary for the user to install anything and they are not found in the respective application market according to the operating system. Despite being one of the cheapest in terms of development, the user experience is not comparable to the two options mentioned above.

What are Progressive Web Apps?

As we have seen previously, web applications seem to be one of the options with much greater disadvantages. Of course, the cost is lower, but if you take into account that its installation is not necessary and therefore you cannot carry out a marketing strategy or have statistics from the application market, then it is not a great option for many. Business. Especially when the competition in the application market is so high.

Luckily, Google established the Progressive Web Apps or PWA initiative . It was in 2015 that Frances Berriman and Alex Russel coined this term to refer to applications that take advantage of new features compatible with modern browsers. It would be a year later, at the Google I/O 2016 conference, that Alex Russel gave a clearer vision of the advantages and characteristics of PWAs.

From the definition given by Russell, the following ideas can be deduced:

  • Superior performance of web applications on mobile devices
  • Interface similar to that of native applications
  • Uso offline
  • Send notifications

All these advantages sound quite attractive and it is certain that if Google continues to promote these types of applications, it will only be a matter of time before other developers choose to create progressive web applications.

What are the new technologies that Progressive Web Apps use?

As already indicated in a previous point, progressive web applications make use of the latest technologies developed for modern browsers. But what are these technologies? How can its use help to achieve the objectives of the PWA?

  • Responsive Web Design that allows you to adapt web pages to various devices that have different screen sizes.
  • Service Workers to run background services in browsers. They are app independent (ie they work even if the app is closed).
  • App Shell which is a development pattern that consists of separating the application between functionality and content in order to load both separately. In this way, the response time can be improved.
  • Application manifest that is a file that is used to change the configuration of the Android application
    These are the 4 main technologies that are used to achieve all the objectives of a progressive web application.
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What are the characteristics of these applications?

The 10 key features of any PWA are listed on the official Google site. We mention them below:

  • They are safe. Use of HTTPS to improve the security offered by standardized web applications.
  • They are progressive. Functional for each user, regardless of the browser, as its principle is progressive improvement.
  • Responsive design. Available for computer, tablet, mobile or any other device.
  • They work regardless of connectivity . Ability to work offline or with little connectivity.
  • They are updated. It is always kept up to date thanks to the Service Workers.
  • They are like apps. Both its appearance, navigation and interactions are comparable to those of an app.
  • They are discoverable: They are identified as applications because they can be found by search engines.
  • They accept installation. Users can keep apps on the home screen, just like a native app.
  • They allow re-engagement actions. Keep users interested and engaged through features like notifications
  • They are linkable. They can be easily shared via their URL.

In conclusion…

Progressive Web Apps are a recent development trend and it will probably take a couple of them to figure out if it holds up. Its concept is interesting and certainly attractive to many developers, however, since modern browser technologies are used, some users may not have access to these applications.

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