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A Guide to Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)
21 Jun 2024

The way we access the internet has completely transformed in recent years. Mobile browsing has skyrocketed, with smartphones becoming our go-to devices for everything from checking news to shopping online. But this shift has exposed a major problem: traditional websites often struggle to keep up. Imagine waiting ages for a webpage to load, dealing with clunky navigation on a small screen, or missing out on features because you haven't downloaded an app. That's the frustration users face with traditional websites on their smartphones.

Thankfully, there's a new kind of web experience that bridges the gap between websites and native apps - Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs. Think of them as websites on steroids!  PWAs offer the discoverability and accessibility of a website, combined with the speed, functionality, and immersive feel of a native app.

What are PWAs?

Progressive Web Apps are essentially websites that deliver an app-like experience. They offer the best of both worlds - installable on your device just like an app, yet accessible through a simple URL like a website. It means that no app downloads needed, just find them with a web search. PWAs can work offline, send push notifications, and even have a home screen icon for easy access providing an app-like user experience without the hassle.

Why use PWAs?

Let’s look at the progressive web application from the user’s and business’ perspective:

Why users love Progressive Web Apps:

  • Lightning speed: PWAs load blazingly fast, even on unreliable connections. No more waiting for clunky websites to buffer – PWAs deliver a smooth and responsive experience.
  • Enhanced user experience: PWAs offer an app-like feel, with features like offline functionality and push notifications. This translates to a more engaging and interactive experience compared to traditional websites.
  • No app store hassle: Forget app store downloads and limited storage space. PWAs are accessed directly through a URL, eliminating the need for downloads and saving valuable space on your device.

Why businesses love Progressive Web Apps:

  • Boosted engagement: They keep users coming back for more. Features like push notifications and easy access through the home screen encourage repeat visits and deeper engagement.
  • Wider audience reach: They are discoverable through search engines, unlike native apps restricted to app stores. This opens your business up to a wider audience that might not have found you otherwise.
  • Cost-effective development: Compared to developing separate native apps for different platforms, they offer a more cost-effective solution with a single codebase that works across devices.

How do PWAs work?

Progressive Web Applications leverage a combination of familiar web technologies and some clever new features. The core functionality is built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This ensures that PWAs are accessible across a wide range of devices and browsers. However, PWAs take things a step further with innovative features powered by:

  • Service workers: These act as background scripts, intercepting requests for data or resources and handling them intelligently. For instance, they can cache static assets (like images and Javascript files built with HTML and CSS) to enable offline functionality and optimize network requests for faster loading times.
  • Web app manifest: This configuration file acts like a blueprint for your PWA, telling the browser and device how to treat the app. It includes details like the app name, icons, and even the start-up URL, allowing users to install the PWA on their home screen for easy access.

While these are just a couple of the technical aspects, they give you a glimpse into how PWAs combine familiar web technologies with innovative features to deliver an app-like experience.

Few real-world examples of PWAs

PWAs are making waves beyond the biggest names.

  • Forbes offers a fast, mobile-friendly PWA for on-the-go financial news.
  • The Washington Post's PWA keeps you informed with quick-loading news articles.
  • And for music lovers with limited storage, Spotify's PWA lets you manage your library without a bulky app download.

The future of Progressive Web Apps

PWAs are gaining serious traction, with businesses across industries recognizing their potential. They offer a powerful alternative to native apps, with wider discoverability and no app store hurdles for users, and a cost-effective development path for businesses.  The future looks even brighter with advancements like WebAssembly unlocking more complex features.
Want to build a PWA and get ahead of the curve? Opcito's PWA experts can help. Contact us at to bring your PWA vision to life.

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