5 Questions You're Too Afraid to Ask About Progressive Web Apps

Michelle Lawrence Picture

by Michelle Lawrence | Last Updated: Aug 18, 2020

Tell me how many times this has happened to you. You’re at a social gathering, talking to a group of friends. You’re finding it difficult to hear your friend tell a story, so you just kind of smile and nod. Then laughter erupts so you mimic everyone’s reaction. And then the worst part comes - you’re asked a question about the story you didn’t listen to. Do you rattle off an answer that definitely won’t be right? Or do you swallow your pride and ask a question to clarify? From my experience, it’s always better to ask the question. We’ve been talking about Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) for what feels like an eternity to us, but for those that don’t work at a tech company, PWAs can be a difficult subject to digest. If the time has come where you are seriously considering building a PWA, but don’t want to feel silly asking a question about them because you’re late to the party, you’ve come to the right place. We’re answering five questions that you’re too afraid to ask about PWAs.
  1. What Is a PWA? There are no dumb questions here. The concept of PWAs is tricky to understand because they’re not websites but they’re also not native mobile apps. They are the perfect intersection of the two. They are mobile experiences that look and function like a native mobile app just without the app store download.
  2. How Do PWAs Work? Google has a list of the technical requirements of PWAs, but there are four main requirements that make a PWA what it is. First, a PWA is always served over an HTTPS, which means your information is secure. The web app manifest is responsible for the code that populates an app-like icon when a user saves it to their home screen. The application shell is responsible for the design elements that stay put (think navigation bar or drop-down menu). Lastly, the service worker gives a PWA its magic. The service worker is responsible for caching data and enabling app-like features (like push notifications and offline access). And each time you use a PWA, it gets a little bit faster.
  3. What Are Some PWA Examples? I’m willing to bet you’ve used several PWAs without knowing it. Progressive Web App framework is perfect for almost any industry. The Starbucks Progressive Web App is a perfect example of how this technology was made for the restaurant industry. The Starbucks PWA is a lot faster than its native app counterpart, plus it takes up 0.4 percent of the space. The list of Progressive Web App examples doesn’t end with the coffee giant. Pinterest has a PWA too (in fact, we had the former Engineering Manager at Pinterest, Zack Argyle, on our podcast a while back). They saw a 103 percent increase in weekly active users with their PWA.
  4. How Do I Download a PWA? Let’s clear the air before we answer this question. You would get a few weird looks if you told someone that you were going to ‘download’ a website. You simply just access a web page. The same goes for PWAs. Because they are hosted over a URL, the number of ways to access PWAs is endless. You could create a short code that users text in to access the mobile experience. You could place a Near-field Communication (NFC) tag into your packaging. Users can tap their phones to obtain more product information through the PWA. Users can also scan a QR code to access the PWA. Or you could do it old school by simply sending them a link. No matter how you access a PWA, you can always save it to your home screen.
  5. What Makes PWAs Better than Native Mobile Apps? Aside from avoiding an app store download and showcasing phenomenal results, PWAs host a variety of other strengths. If you’ve been a part of a native mobile app project before, you probably aren’t too eager to get your feet wet with another one soon. Native mobile apps take long to build...some can even take up to a year. And then there’s the process of getting the native mobile app approved in the app store. Building a Progressive Web App takes a fraction of development time (especially when you build a PWA using a low code platform). Another added bonus of PWAs? You build them once and they work across all devices and operating systems, so you won’t have to worry about searching for a ‘PWA iOS tutorial’ when you work with a PWA builder.
Looking for another PWA tutorial for beginners? We’ve got a PWA guide written just for marketers here.

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