Technology Progresses... To Progressive Web Applications

by Chad Donnick March 14, 2018

pwa-blog-imageTechnology: we all know how fast it changes. It can be hard to keep up with the latest and greatest tech. Remember when anyone who was anyone had a Blackberry? How about other "cutting-edge" technology like the original iMac G3 or iPod? It’s even tough to keep up with the near-yearly releases of the iPhone these days.  

The ever-changing world of technology extends far beyond hardware. If you look deeper, you’ll find that the software that is driving the basic actions we complete on a daily basis – and often take for granted – is changing too. It’s this constant state of change and the way we interact with technology that is driving the development of new solutions to accomplish things we previously never even dreamed of.  

MOVING TOWARDS MOBILITY

As mobile devices become the predominant way people consume information, we developers of websites and mobile applications must start thinking differently. Aside from project-specific considerations, we also need to decide which technology or methodology is best to accomplish a project's objectives. The advancement and wide array of options available to essentially accomplish the same task is rather astounding. We’re not building cheesy websites exclusively for an IE6 desktop browser anymore. Responsive websites, which are specifically designed to be compatible across desktop, tablets, and mobile devices are standard for today's websites.  

Mobile app development has evolved as well. Gone are the days of needing to develop a mobile app to simply feed content to a mobile device. Gone are the days of needing to develop two completely different apps to accommodate native application requirements for iOS and Android (requiring double the budget). Technology progressed to create hybrid applications that allow us to develop mobile apps as a single code base and deploy them to the app stores as pseudo-native apps (requiring half the budget!).  

Development methodologies have progressed from websites to responsive websites to mobile apps to hybrid apps – what’s next? Let’s peek into the world of Progressive Web Apps (PWA), which were introduced to the world by Google in 2016. In a nutshell, PWAs are best summed up by Smashing Magazine as an application that combines the best of web and mobile apps and can be thought of as a website that's built using web technologies, but acts and feels like an app. PWAs allow you to create a project that has a lot of the same benefits as a mobile app, but without the hassle of native (or even hybrid) app development and deployment. Even better? A PWA is still just a website, so not only are you getting your website out of the project, but you also get mobile app features. 

Some examples of Progressive Web Apps include: 

WHAT DOES A PWA OFFER?

There are quite a few benefits to developing a Progressive Web Application. 

  • Easier implementation. Specialty native application developers are not needed, and a PWA just requires some JavaScript to make the magic happen.  
  • Cost savings. Because a PWA is built like a website instead of a mobile app, it saves time and money. 
  • Improved speed. It responds to the user quickly. 
  • Device compatibility. Because responsive design principles are applied to it just like any other website, your PWA is viewable across devices. 
  • Reliability. It will work offline or with a poor-quality connection.  
  • Feature enhancements. PWAs use app-like features like push notifications. 
  • Search engine-ready. Since a PWA is a website, search engines will be able to find it more easily. A searchable site means more visitors... and more business for you. 
  • Installable to home screen. While PWAs aren't installed through an app store, the website URL can be saved to a device home screen for quick online (and offline) access. 

As with any technology solution, there are some drawbacks. Since PWAs were originally developed by Google, the functionality is somewhat Android-centric. It has full app-like feature functionalities on Android devices, but iOS functionality is rather limited right now. From a desktop browser standpoint, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera have nearly full support, with Safari and Edge currently working to adopt support. As time goes on, Progressive Web Applications will only continue to grow in support across operating systems and browsers.  

PWAs are not the be-all-end-all solution for all situations. They do have less access to native system features than a native or hybrid application, and so the decision of whether to adopt a PWA should be based on the requirements of your project. Lucky for you, we Ascedians are experts at working with our clients to determine the best solution for each project based on their requirements. We make sure that the projects dictate the technology used to ensure a best-in-class solution every time. Contact us to discuss whether a Progressive Web Application is right for your project! 

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