App / 6 min read

What is a Progressive Web App? A Beginners Guide

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By Marion / June 02, 2021

In this beginner’s guide to progressive web apps, first, we list what types of mobile app there are and then we discuss the reasons why many businesses are exploring this avenue in 2021.

App is an abbreviation of the word “application”. Applications are a piece of software that can be downloaded on your computer, mobile or tablet to perform a task. Mobile apps are programmes that are specifically designed to work on your mobile phone or tablet.

What types of mobile apps are there?

Before we get started on explaining how a progressive web app works, it’s important to clarify that there are different types of mobile apps. There are three basic types of mobile apps:

Native apps

Native apps are built just for one specific platform or operating system (Android, iOS, Blackberry, etc).  You cannot mix and match (you can’t have an Android app on an iOS phone, for example). The advantage is that native apps are faster, have longer battery power, are more reliable and you have access to the features of your device (camera, contacts, etc).

Web (or progressive) apps (PWA)

Web apps are accessed via a web browser and are responsive versions of websites. More to follow.

Hybrid apps

Hybrid apps are a combination of native and web apps. They might have a home screen app icon, some responsive design and might even work offline. But they are really web apps with a native app shell.

Progressive web apps (sometimes also referred to as web apps)

Web apps are accessed via a web browser and are responsive versions of websites. The objective of a progressive web app is to provide an app-like experience.

In this sense, they are not standalone apps where you have to download and install it on your device. The advantage is that there’s nothing to download, but web apps are entirely dependent on the browser you use on the device (which means limited functionalities). They will need an internet connection to work. You might come across the term progressive web app (PWA) – this is a native app running inside a browser.

What are the characteristics of a progressive web app

A progressive web app consists of a list of technologies and features that bridge the gap between a native app and a progressive web app. Here we list some of the characteristics:

These characteristics should serve as guidelines when you build a progressive web app. The answer to whether your application is progressive, therefore, is more of a scale than a binary choice.

At the end of the day, a progressive web app is a web application only — therefore, it does not appear in any app store.

Does this harm your application? This is always a trade-off. 

Mobile operating systems that have app stores online are Android, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and BlackBerry from where you can download and install apps on your device. These app stores give you discoverability and an audience of new users that are waiting there to be served new and interesting apps. 

Delivering a PWA is overall easier, but you do have to have a pre-existing audience to whom you’re going to market the app.

Pros and cons

Native mobile apps generally take a few steps to install and set up, but the advantage is that native apps are faster, are more reliable and you have access to the features of your device (camera, contacts, etc).

On the other hand, a user is able to use a progressive web app almost immediately and the most significant benefit of PWAs is an efficient use of bandwidth (since they are just text-based code, they are ideally smaller than the installation file of a native application). Thus, a user potentially has to spend less data to get your application running on their device.

So there’s a rough idea of how a progressive web app works. The art is in making one that people will want to use. If you’re interested in creating an app with us then visit our mobile app design page for more information or want to know more? Contact us for a free two-hour session.

 

Photo by Max Chen on Unsplash

 

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