A Beginner’s Guide to Progressive Web Applications


Traditional mobile applications are expensive to build and sometimes offer a poor experience even after investing a considerable amount of money. That is when Progressive Web Applications come into play. Progressive Web Application (PWA) is another buzzword in the web development industry that we have heard about lately. This technology is relatively new but has made a lot of conversations recently.

It has somewhat revolutionized how developers used to offer web design and development services by combining features of mobile apps into a website. But if you are a beginner web developer or someone looking to build a business website and doing some research, the concept of PWA might be confusing or alien to you. Whatever your situation is, here you will find a complete beginner’s guide to progressive web applications to better understand them.

What is Progressive Web Applications?

Put in simple terms, Progressive Web Application is a website that resembles an app on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. This is a set of optimal software development practices that helps create applications that function as mobile applications. PWAs have many features similar to mobile applications. For example, they can send push notifications and have an icon on the screen.

PWAs help businesses to fill the gap between web and native experiences. Companies building PWAs employ the most recent technologies to deliver an incredible user experience. Such apps are fast, engaging, and reliable and boost the accessibility of your website.

Characteristics of Progressive Web Apps

Progressive web applications have the following characteristics to enable businesses to leverage the mobile app-like experience through their website.

  • Progressive

A progressive web app should be able to work on any device and enhance progressively while leveraging whatever features are available on the user’s browser and device.

  • Discoverable

Since PWA is nothing but a website, it should be discoverable on the search engine. Discoverability is one of the significant advantages of PWA over native applications.

  • Linkable

A well-designed website should use the URI to indicate the app’s current state. This will enable the app to retain and reload the state when the user reloads or bookmarks the page. 

  • Responsive

Since this is meant to behave as a mobile app, it should fit the device’s form factor and screen size.

  • App-like

The PWA should look exactly like a mobile application and should be built upon the app’s shell model with menial refreshes.

  • Connectivity-independent

Connectivity independence means that your app should not be affected by connectivity fluctuations and should be able to work in low- connectivity areas or even offline.

  • Re-engageable

Since mobile apps are meant to be reused and to ensure that developers employ push notifications, PWAs also should be able to leverage the push notification feature similar to native apps.

  • Installable

A progressive web app should be installable on the device’s home screen, making it readily available.

  • Safe

As PWAs have more intimate UX and workers can interpret network requests, the app must be hosted over HTTPS to eliminate any middle-man security attacks.

  • Fresh

PWAs should update content in real-time scenarios. If a user is connected to the Internet while content updates, they should immediately experience that.

Advantages of Progressive Web Apps

PWA is a good alternative to native apps in some ways. For small businesses, it is a cost-effective option for native apps with the same speed and performance. It also offers app-like UX and multi-platform usage facilities. However, these are just a few examples of the numerous advantages of progressive web applications. Let’s look at all of them in detail.

  • Short time to market

Progressive web apps are built using most standard web technologies and could be set up within a few months. Moreover, they don’t require separate development processes for iOS and Android. All these things aid in the rapid development of apps compared to native mobile applications.

  • Expansive capabilities

With PWA, you can leverage web and native app capabilities simultaneously. Your app can work as a website and mobile application providing extensive capabilities to your business.

  • Cost-effectiveness

Building a progressive web application is more cost-friendly than native or hybrid mobile apps. Furthermore, PWAs do not require an app store presence, which saves the annual fees you have to pay to these platforms to publish your app.

  • Leveraging the power of headless architecture

PWS leverages headless architecture, which strengthens your business with incredible agility. In a headless approach, the front end becomes separate from the back end. This offers great freedom to your marketing team as they make changes easily in the front.

  • Better SEO results

Search engine crawlers like smooth and fast apps with limited retention. As PWAs have all these characteristics, it helps such apps get indexed faster and rank higher in result pages.

  • Decrease bounce rate

Poor performance and speed are major reasons for people bouncing off of websites. PWAs are specially optimized for higher performance and hence ensure decreased bounce rate.

Disadvantages of Progressive Web Apps

Like everything else, progressive web apps also have cons that might affect some businesses. You must take these disadvantages into account to decide whether PWA will be able to solve your business problem or not.

  • Lack of compatibility with iOS devices

PWAs are supported by iOS 11.3, but you still can’t run such apps on previous versions. Moreover, progressive web applications have so many limitations in the latest versions. For example, they can’t access and use touch ID, face ID, ARKit, Bluetooth, Serial, Altimeter sensor, Beacons, and battery information. 

  • Problems with legacy devices and browsers

As PWAs have been around for a few years, it is obvious that they may not support legacy devices, systems, and older browser versions. Though this problem will eventually get solved in the future, this could be a major issue the customers may have in current times.

  • Lack of capabilities as native apps

PWAs are revered as mobile apps but can’t achieve native-like capabilities. For example, since they are built in JavaScript, they are not as battery efficient as apps built using Kotlin or Swift. Moreover, PWAs may not have access to many physical device features such as Bluetooth, proximity sensors, ambient light, advanced camera controls, etc.

Ending Thoughts

Despite being around for a short time, progressive web apps have proven their usability in tackling business issues and bridging the gap between native apps and websites. PWAs won’t replace native apps for sure, and businesses shouldn’t look at them as complete alternatives to mobile apps. But still, they can greatly benefit businesses if employed for the right use.

However, many more factors play an important role in making an app successful, one having access to the right talent. Partnering with experienced and dedicated software developers makes things really easier for you. And if you want to hire a dedicated developer online, HKInfoway Technologies is your place. Contact us today and get access to our pool of seasoned developers who will help you build your dream web application.