Technology-Watch - Progressive Web Applications
by: Simon Hughes
date: Thursday, Jul 25, 2019
category: technology-watch web apps pwa cwa
For a long time web applications provided a sub-standard user experience on a mobile compared to native applications. Historically the device APIs including offline content, push notifications, and location were only available to native applications but recently these APIs have been opened up to web applications. So what do we have?
Progressive Web Applications
In recent years the popularity of client side rendering has grown significantly, and the increasing mobile operating systems support for native features is fueling this further. Modern web applications which embrace these features are called Progressive Web Applications and they have the following charactistics:
- Progressive - They work for all users regardless of browser type
- Responsive - Designed for mobile first, but support all device types
- App Like - Support worker threads to ensure app like behaviour
- Discoverable - Contain a manifest to allow the device to discover its app like behaviour
- Installable - Allows the user to “install” the app just like if it were a native app
- Up to date - Due to the worker process, everything is up to date
- Connectivity Independant - Works whether you are online or offline
Despite all the suggestions above, the miniumum requirement set for a PWA is much smaller. At present this is defined as:
- Secure - All traffic must be served up from a https secure endpoint
- Manifest - Includes a manifest file detailing the application metadata
- Service Worker - Including a service worker thread, although this doesnt actually have to do anything!
PWA apps have a wider range of capabilities, and that can include the following:
- Supports a wider use of the native device apis including location, push notifications, and sandbox capabilities
- Better performance due to use of content caching, etc
- Background thread to support pre-fetching of data
- Removes browser url bar to make app look more native
Much of the PWA technology is just a collection of existing technology packaged together with a shiny new name. However if you need both a mobile application, and a desktop/tablet website then it is now possible to deliver both with a single solution. If you are both time and cost challenged then this can be a really good solution as long as you aware of the limitations. One of the biggest limitation is still that a PWA application does not appear in the native application stores of Google and Apple.
As always there are a huge number of possible solutions to any given problem, and PWA apps are a great set of technology that meets a very specific use case, but its not the answer to all known problems. If you're planning on delviering a digital solution feel free to contact me, pick up the phone or drop me an email and let's discuss all the viable options available to you.
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