Progressive web apps (PWA) are web-based applications that mimic the user experience of native mobile apps using the latest web browser technologies including offline usage, and speed enhancements. PWA’s are also responsive and accessible on any browser without the need for an app store.
In 2007 with the launch of the iPhone, Steve Jobs announced the use of progressive web apps as a standard for iPhone apps. This was later switched to the App Store, however with the latest browser technology, PWA’s have recently surged in popularity partly due to the following factors:
- Reduced Development Time & Cost – Development time and cost is greatly reduced based on developing only for a single web app hosted on the internet, instead of to multiple app stores. (Android and iOS etc.)
- Platform independent – PWA’s work for any user regardless of the browser they use. This is great for lower end devices, where storage of a native app is not possible.
- Responsive – Progressive web applications work across all screen resolutions – desktop, mobile, tablet, and potentially any browser based form or resolution in the future.
- Faster – After the initial load of the PWA, content and page elements do not need to be re-downloaded unless they have been updated. The app uses intelligent service workers, to determine whether content needs to be updated or left as is, greatly speeding up the app compared to a conventional web app or mobile app.
- Offline Capabilities – PWA’s allow offline usage, or usage on low bandwidth networks. This is perfect for the African or South African environment for use in remote or rural environments.
- Fresh and Up to date – They are always fresh and up to date, as they use service workers which are continually checking for the latest versions of the app and it’s content.
- They are app-like – These apps have the usability and navigation aspects of a native or hybrid mobile application. They also have app-like technology such as offline data storage, cached page elements, and access to native app functions such as push notifications, and access to the camera and GPS.
- Search Engine friendly – Progressive web apps are search engine friendly as they have a web friendly URL structure. The content within the app can be indexed on the search engines, unlike a standard mobile app.
- Secure – They are served via HTTPS protocols to prevent snooping and to ensure the content is not compromised. They are also served over TLS with no mixed insecure content. A green padlock also displays to verify a secure app.
- Linkable & Installable – As progressive web apps are web-based they have a web URL where you can easily link to them. This means the content and the apps are easily shareable. PWA’s can also be installed to the home screen of your mobile device via a home screen icon, with no app store listing or user installation required.
Overall we feel that progressive web apps provide an excellent option for certain types of mobile applications developed in Africa. These could be the reasons to choose a progressive web app:
- They can be developed quickly and at a low cost – Suitable for start-ups where time and cost reduction are important.
- They are compatible with lower-end devices– PWA’s are compatible with lower end devices, as they only use a web browser and a separate app does not need to be installed, saving storage space on the device.
- They can be used in remote areas– Progressive web apps can be used in remote areas where there is no internet, or in areas where there is very low bandwidth.
If you would like to discuss how a progressive web app can work for you, please give us a shout – we are always open to discussing new ideas!