Why Progressive Web Apps are the future of Mobile Development

March 5, 2020

Native apps are doomed and responsive design is dead, yet more than half of all website traffic worldwide is generated through mobile devices. How can Business and Product Owners continue to maximize device reach while reducing development effort? The answer: Progressive Web Apps (PWAs).

The term was first coined by Google in 2015, but the technology has exploded in popularity, with many developers predicting it will completely overtake other mobile development platforms. Here at Raft, we are big proponents of PWAs and believe that the benefits outweigh the limitations. Let’s take a closer look at PWAs and see if you agree.

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What are Progressive Web Apps?

PWAs are essentially websites designed to deliver an app-like user experience, sans a trip to the app store. There are numerous features available to PWAs, but also a few baseline requirements:

  • An HTTPS secured server
  • A Web App Manifest
  • A Service Worker

Benefits

Right now everyone, from Forbes to Google, is betting that PWAs are here to stay but even if you tune out the hype, PWAs look great on paper. They’re leaner, faster, and cheaper to build and maintain than native apps, making them an easy go-to option for mobile development. Here’s 6 reasons to jump on the PWA bandwagon.

  • Better User Experience: Adjusts to any screen size and gives the same look and feel
  • Lighter: Using PWAs almost feels like using a native app but with better functionality
  • Online Visibility: PWAs are discoverable via search engines, unlike native apps
  • Cross-Platform: No native platform/OS coding required
  • Offline: Available offline after a user’s first visit
  • Updates: Easy to release and update

Limitations

Like any rapidly evolving technology PWAs come with their fair share of trade off and limitations, most of which are tied to user hardware. As device manufacturers dedicate more resources to supporting this technology, PWA functionality continues to expand, however there are still numerous unsupported features and less than optimal restrictions to account for.

  • Hardware Integration: Biometrics, Bluetooth, Beacons, and NFC are a few of the hardware driven capabilities available to native apps, but not currently accessible to PWAs on all platforms.
  • Background Sync: A nice feature of native apps is that they can fetch updates in the background, then display a badge to notify the user of new content. This is not currently supported on iOS.
  • Legacy Compatibility: Support for enhanced features in PWAs is understandably lacking on older devices, and even differs between modern mobile operating systems. However, the “Progressive” part of “PWA” encourages developers to make the most of the features available on each device.

Contact Us

Whether you’re looking to transition from a native app or starting from scratch, we can help you decide if a PWA is right for your project. Reach out at [email protected].

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