PWA Technology: The Fundamentals (Explained in 3 Steps)

pwa technology

As the next wave of mobile web is arriving, there is no doubt that Progressive Web Apps are going to play an important part of it. By combining the best of native apps and websites, they not only provide an enhanced experience for users, but also a better and more easily marketable platform for companies. But what is the PWA technology behind them that makes them so great? Today, we will see the tech fundamentals behind progressive web apps, and why they are becoming the new standard for user experience.

PWA technology

1. What are Progressive Web Apps?

Of course, before we go behind the scenes of PWA technology, it is important to clear out the concept of what a progressive web app is.

A progressive web application is a type of app software that is delivered through the web and is intended to work on any standards-compliant browser. PWAs are typically built using common technologies such as CSS, HTML and Javascript, but what is interesting about them is that they do not require separate distribution through an app store like native mobile apps.

The technology they are built with, and the fact that they can be opened from any browser means that they are independent from app stores, and can be distributed directly with a simple link or a QR code. For users, this means that they can access them at any time, anywhere, and without having to install them on their phones. They can even use the PWA in offline mode!

2. What are the main characteristics of PWAs?

The next step of getting a good understanding of the PWA technology is to take a look at the main characteristics of progressive web apps.

One important thing that we need to know is that PWAs aim to provide a cross-platform solution, helping developers build apps more quickly and easily. For example, native mobile apps require a separate development for each particular app store and operating system – for developers, this means having to create one app for the Apple Store, and another one for the Google Play Store.

Some of the main characteristics of PWAs include:

Progressive

Of course, their most essential characteristic lies in the name itself – they are progressive. What does that mean? Well, this simply means that they work for every user on any browser, using progressive enhancement principles.

Progressive enhancement is a web design strategy that puts emphasis on core webpage content first. This allows everyone to access the basic content and functionality of a web page before they see the enhanced version, which is not always available depending on the browser or Internet connection.

Once the browser or connection allows it, this strategy will then progressively add more nuanced and technically rigorous features and layers on top of the basic content.

In other words, progressive web apps improve constantly based on the available resources for a particular user.

Responsive

Another fundamental characteristic of PWA technology is responsiveness. Progressive Web Apps are extremely responsive, which means that the app layout will adapt itself to fit any form factor such as mobile, desktop, tablet, and any other form that is yet to emerge. It will also adapt to any screen size, which can be very different depnding on the brand and model of the electronic device.

The particular level and behaviour of responsiveness will depend on how the app is built. For example, one way is through block architecture, in which blocks are arranged and multiplied according to the screen.

Connectivity independence

One of the biggest benefits of progressive web apps is their ability to function in offline mode and unstable connections. This is possible thanks to an API called Service worker (which we will see in detail in a minute), which caches important assets and files so that users can access them even if their connection is unreliable.

The caching ability of progressive web apps allows apps to be loaded almost instantly, updating the content each time the connection goes back.

Secure

In a similar manner to regular websites, PWA technology uses HTTPS protocols so that the information cannot be exposed or altereted. In HTTPS, the communication protocol is encrypted using TLS (Transport Layer Security) .

This protocol enhances security through website authentification, and protection of the exchanged data while in transit.

Re-engageable

Progressive web apps also offer a variety of engagement features as a part of their PWA technology that consistently make customers turn their back on mobile websites in favour of PWAs. They are faster to load, easier to access, and in many cases, more comfortable to browse through.

One of the most important engagement features of progressive web apps are push notifications. Previously only available on native mobile apps, they are now a powerful tool for companies that have a PWA to engage with their users, and send them notifications and messages in a more personalized way.

Push notifications, or server push, have numerous benefits for improving user engagement as they allow companies to deliver relevant information without being spammy or intrusive. They can also improve conversion rates and be tracked with an Analytics tool for further enhancement of their performance.

With Beezer, for example, you can measure important metrics not only of your push notifications but throughout your whole web app.

3. What are the main building blocks behind PWAs?

As we already mentioned beforehand, PWA technology relies mainly on common programming languages such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript. In this sense, they do not require a new and little known technology, as they are built with the idea of being easier and faster to create compared to native mobile apps.

However, there are three minimum building blocks that are a must for PWAs. Basically, all progressive web apps require a Service worker and the Web App Manifest, two powerful APIs that enable offline browsing and push notifications. However, they also require a secure HTTPs protocol to make sure that all the important information is protected. Let’s take a deeper look at them:

Service Worker

To put it simply, service workers are the base of progressive web apps. A service worker implements a programmable network proxy that is capable of responding to the web and HTTP requests of the main document. Like any other web worker (a Javascript script that runs in the background of the app, independently from other scripts on the main page), they can check the availability of a remote server, and cache the content as soon as the server is available again.

These capabilities allow service workers to:

  • Handle push notifications;
  • Syncronize data in the background;
  • Cache or retrieve resource requests;
  • Receive centralized updates;
  • And intercept network requests.

And they are doing all that independently from of the document that registered them, even in the cases when it is not loaded.

This PWA technology is what makes progressive web apps maintain the high performance and rich and engaging user experience of native mobile apps. But without the hassle of slow loading times, having to download the app from the store, the huges storage space required to install the app on your electronic device, and everything else that comes with native apps (which we don’t like).

Manifest

The web app Manifest is a simple JSON file that allows the users of your progressive web app to save the application on their home screen. While PWAs do not have to be downloaded in a traditional way like native mobile apps, they can be saved as an icon on the screen of your device – and most of the times, they will not exceed even 1 MB of space. In fact, the majority of PWAs are 90% smaller and lighter than a native app! And they have a significantly faster loading speed.

Developers use the web app Manifest as a centralized place for all metadata that is associated with the application, for example:

  • The name of the web app;
  • Links to icons and image objects;
  • The screen orientation of the app that will come by default;
  • The preferred URL for the launch of the app;
  • All the required data for web app configuration;
  • And even the option to set the display mode, such as full screen.

This metadata is required if your want users to be able to add your app to their home screen, as it will define its appearance and behaviour on it.

HTTPS protocol

We already touched briefly on the HTTPS protocol for ensuring the security of progressive web apps, but it is also crucial to mention it as one of the main building blocks behind PWA technology.

Any web app must be delivered through a secure protocol in order to be considered a progressive web app. In other words, this means that obtaining an SSL certificate is a prerequisite when it comes to PWA development. But don’t worry; if you create your app with Beezer, you will automatically comply with this requirement without doing any additional work or development on it.

Put simply, the HTTPS protocol ensures the security and privacy of your information by encrypting it as it moves between your browser and the server of your website. In other words, anyone that could be listening to your conversation will not be able to read anything. This could be your Internet Service Provider, a hacking, your government, and practically anyone who manages to position themselves between the web server and you.

PWA Technology: HTTPS protocol and encyrption. Source: tiptopsecurity.com

Thus, the HTTPS protocol provides data encryption, data integrity, and authentification, ensuring that your message is neither changed nor altered, and that you are communicating with the intended person (server).

Do you want to have your own Progressive Web App?

Now that we know the fundamentals of PWA technology and the main characteristics of progressive web apps, it becomes clear why PWAs are slowly starting to “take over the world” of mobile webs.

And although all these details about PWA technology might seem complex to many people who are just discovering the concept of progressive web apps, the truth is that creating a PWA is actually much more easier that it may seem. And no, you don’t need to invest in development, nor pay thousands of dollars to do that.

With Beezer, you could create your own progressive web app without absolutely any coding skills needed, from just £11.99 per month, and enjoy the following features:

  • Push notifications – engage with your users at the right time in the right place by sending them customized messages with rich media content. With our sophisticated Push Notification scheduler, you can even plan out and schedule automated push notifications ahead of time.
  • Live real time updates – publish your changes and see them immediately on your web app without any delay. Compared to native mobile apps, in which you would have to wait for an app store to revise and approve your modifications, it happens instantly with Beezer. And your customers would be delighted to not have to update their app yet again.
  • Member login – with Beezer’s member login feature, you will be able to choose who can access your mobile app and which specific pages they can see. With this additional layer of security, users can register using their email address, and keep their information safe and private.
  • eCommerce integration – if you need a progressive web app for your ecommerce store, we’ve got you. Our integrations with Woocommerce and Shopify, combined with the PWA’s capability of working in offline mode, will have customers shopping all the time, on any device.
  • Live chat – use this engagement tool to allow your app users to chat with each other and discuss your latest products, tools and insights, or just exchange relevant information.
  • Analytics – analyzing the performance of your app is key for improving it, and making sure that your customers are delighted at every step of their customer journey. Use Beezer’s Analytics tool to see who is vieweing and downloading your app, and what pages they are visiting.
  • Appointment scheduling – if you have a beauty salon, a dentist cabinet, or just any business that requires scheduling appointments with customers, this feature will allow you to do just that.
  • Responsiveness & browser compatibility – enjoy an app that automatically adapts to your users’ devices and screen sizes.

Of course, these are just some of the features that Beezer’s PWA technology offers, but you can check the full list here. Our Drag & Drop builder is intuitive and easy to work with, and you will be able to create your progressive web app in just a few minutes, without any coding skills required.

Even if you are not quite convinced, don’t worry – you don’t have to decide yet. Start your 30-day free trial today!

Thank you for reading today’s article on PWA technology, and we hope to see you in the next one!

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