Future/ PWA Is Now. Is Your Business In The Past?

PWA
 
04 September 2019 191

We have discussed the pros and cons of PWA development for business in the previous article. But let us go back in time and refresh in our minds how and when the notion of progressive web application emerged. Knowing the problems businesses faced and solutions PWA suggested, you will be able to better understand if you need PWA to be developed for your online store.

In 2013 web world began to change fundamentally, that year was named as the "Year of Responsive Web Design". Afterwards in 2015 Google started to boost  the rankings of mobile-friendly sites. Nowadays it is almost impossible to imagine web development process without responsive design, moreover  mobile-first approach is a must. In addition to it in 2015 Frances Berriman and Google Chrome engineer Alex Russell introduced a definition of Progressive Web Application (PWA) in order to describe the applications which take advantage of modern browsers.

In a very short span of time Google developers put together a list of specifications and PWA was different from simple web applications.

 

Despite a long list of characteristics, PWA is not something very new or difficult. However it does not have a clear interpretation of how it should be implemented (what technologies or approaches, etc.). On the other hand Google has already started to boost rankings for Progressive Web Applications and furthermore - it has tools for ranking of PWA based on a certain list of criterias.

Well, it is high time to finally define PWA. Progressive Web Application, simply put, is just any kind of web app or website, which combines the best of web and native apps. It means, it has mobile app behavior, user experience and it is recognized by web browsers as PWA and allows users to install the app without App store. 
From developer perspective, it is a web app written with JavaScript technologies, it can be any kind of frameworks or just Vanilla JavaScript and they have to match the list of requirements which can be reached by using modern browsers' API. In 2018 every up to date mobile browser supports PWA, actually now, in 2019 nothing stops the business from using the benefits of PWA. 

Why a business should start to use PWA? Not long ago, it was popular to invest into the native mobile apps. It was revolutionary process for any kind of eCommerce, promotion, advertisement purpose. More mobile devices on the market - more possibilities to reach a potential client. But in 2016 marketingland.com made a research and found that "85% of smartphone app time is concentrated in top 5 apps". It means that the only chance when developed app was opened is when there is a push notification from it.

 

Another problem is that an app should be found by user from app store and only then installed. After all, the price of mobile app development is not low. Comparing to PWA, the business will receive two products for one price - the website and mobile app with an ability to engage users with news, sales or other important information with push notification. And as it is designed to be app-like website, UI/UX, speed and smoothness of such product will be very optimised even on desktop. 

There are a lot of examples from world famous brands which have already implemented the PWA standard, such as Starbucks, Uber, Housing.com and more. There are even cases when the native apps were “closed” in order to continue the business using PWA.

We’ve spoken about some pros of PWA for business already. But is it really a good time for Ecommerce to invest into new technologies? If the business is well structured, it has a profitable product, which is stable, fast enough, of course there is no need to play risky and jump into the new trends just now. But on the other hand as it was said earlier Progressive Web Application is based on technologies which are in production use for years, what is different then? The requirements. Stable ecommerce projects can consider PWA to be just a new feature, it can serve as a side project, catalog for the real shop. The main shop and PWA catalog can work together, and if the business sees a profit in PWA, it can move the whole shop to it. But on the contrary, new business has a great opportunity to enter into the market fully prepared.

Despite all the benefits of PWA, the only main reason which should attract eCommerce and persuade to use PWA is its speed and optimisation. It is a known fact that a lot of popular eCommerce solutions have poor optimisation for mobile and work slowly with a big amount of products and their attributes.

Service Worker, HTTPS, Application shell, Web App manifest and Push Notifications help developers to reach the 3 goals which differentiate the native apps from simple websites - Reliable, Fast, Engaging.

 

Service Worker is a proxy layer in browser between the backend and frontend. It is heart of PWA. It has a lot of possibilities for optimization of PWA behavior, but it's caching ability is more than enough for most applications.
HTTPS - it is important to make sure that outgoing/incoming data is secured.
Application Shell - it is a user interface skeleton or template. It is shown instantly even if no data is prepared to be displayed.
Web App Manifest - a file which sets basic parameters for the app, such as icon and others.
Push Notification - text engagement tool, which looks like a native mobile notification.

PWA is a good web application standard which is the future of the web, based on history there is no doubt that Google will force the mobile adaptation once again in the near future. It is ready for production and gives ability for developers to produce high quality products that work fast and are reliable on any devices.

 

This article was written by Dmitriy Ivanenko, Magento 2 developer & team lead at OpsWay, clean code evangelist, who likes to read an elegant code as much as to write it by himself.

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