Progressive Web Apps

Why a PWA is right for your project...

Progressive Web Apps - Why a PWA is right for your project...

Published on March 5, 2021 - Originally written March 2020
Author: Will Yoxall

What is a PWA?

Progressive Web Apps (PWA) combine new technologies with established best practices for creating reliable, accessible, and engaging experiences. They give users a native-like experience with a user friendly opt-in installation flow.

A PWA is a web application which is installable on both desktop and mobile environments and behaves exactly like native apps whilst also giving you web applications to visit via URL at the same time.

This would be used for the front-end applications which are used by either the public or your staff.

Surely some users will be put off by the interrupting request to download, perhaps due to the balancing act of maintaining phone storage or even concerns over privacy and security.

Well, in this article we explore a few of the reasons why companies do pursue this tactic and why the simplicity and convenience of providing free downloadable apps is becoming increasingly popular for companies in a variety of industries.
Image showing list explaining what is a PWA

Why build a PWA?

For many companies, especially those building apps for internal use, the cost of developing, testing, and maintaining applications for several platforms is unreasonable. Gartner predicts that by next year, up to 20% of companies will abandon their native mobile applications. Instead, they believe that PWA will become a more viable alternative to them.

Progressive Web Apps allow you to deliver user experiences that rival native apps without having different development teams and needing to deal with distributing binaries and updates. By focusing your efforts into building one app, you can deliver better UX and PWA technologies are championed by the big hitters: Google and Microsoft. All Android devices are PWA compatible and Microsoft is building several of its next generation apps like Outlook and Teams as PWA. Apple is also implementing support, which will ship in Safari 11.1 and iOS 11.3.
The likes of Uber, Twitter and Starbucks are all using PWA technologies in their latest apps.

The great thing about PWA is that even though all browsers do not support the underlying technologies, you can already roll them out without worries. This is because all the used technologies are progressive in nature. This means that those customers that have support for them will get an enhanced experience, but all customers will get a great basic experience.

In fact, several companies, like Alibaba, have shown that by simply focusing their efforts only on a PWA app instead of having separate native apps increased conversions and average purchases.

When should you build a PWA?

When should you build a Progressive Web Application instead of just a normal web application? When is a PWA a good alternative for a native or a hybrid application?

If you are already committed to building a web application, you should definitely design it to take advantage of PWA technologies. The added cost of including it upfront is minimal, but will make a big difference in enhancing the user experience.
Progressive Web Applications are a viable alternative for native or hybrid apps for most business and enterprise applications. These applications are rarely hardware intensive and are often budget conscious. In these cases, focusing efforts on building a single PWA instead of supporting multiple native platforms can help save development time and cost.

In general, it is worth evaluating first if you can build an application as a PWA before deciding to build a native application. The web platform is adding capabilities at a fast pace, allowing you to do anything from 3D acceleration to hardware access.

PWA pros and cons


Progressive enhancement: makes any web app experience faster and more reliable but doesn't break functionality for those that don't have support
Single codebase for all platforms – cheaper to build and maintain
No need to distribute binaries and maintain backwards compatible remote APIs – all clients are automatically on the latest version
Low friction – no up front installation required to use the app
Easy to find and share

Still a new technology – all browsers don't support it fully yet - this is addressed with the progressive nature of PWAs. It will work in older browsers just not with the newer features.
More limited hardware access - less of a concern as everything modernises
Limited performance for computation heavy operations - although WebAssembly is improving this

What does PWA architecture look like?

Image showing pwa architecture

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