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What are PWA apps? Explore their capabilities.

What is a PWA?

A PWA (Progressive Web Application) is a type of web application that gives users the experience of using a mobile application. It combines the best of both types of software. As a result, users can enjoy native-like functionality without having to download anything from Google Play or the App Store.

Numerous examples show higher user engagement and conversion rates compared to mobile apps, while at the same time, the cost of developing and maintaining a PWA is significantly lower.

Considering the scale of web traffic coming from mobile devices and the growing reluctance of users to download more apps, PWA technology is a worthwhile alternative. This is the main reason for its increasing popularity. It is not a coincidence that this solution is used by the largest global companies – e.g. Twitter, Pinterest, Aliexpress, YouTube or Uber.

Although PWA is currently mainly associated with mobile devices, it has a much wider area of use. Microsoft has also recognised the potential of the technology introduced by Google, which has joined its development. As a result, it is now possible to use PWAs on Windows-based devices as well.

Learn the secrets of how PWA works

The main task of the PWA application is to increase the comfort and speed of using the programme. After the first loading of data, the content is stored in the device’s cache, significantly reducing the next loading time.

The smoothness of the user interface is comparable to native applications. This impression is enhanced by running the installed application in ‘standalone’ mode, with the address bar hidden. Launching the PWA application is as easy as launching any other program – just click the dedicated icon on the device’s home screen.

A significant advantage of PWA applications is that they can work offline – they do not need to be connected to the Internet to run. This gives you a lot more options compared to standard web applications.

A significant feature distinguishing PWA-based solutions from “standard” web applications is the ability to run in the background, which allows you, for example, to synchronise data or handle push notifications.

The PWA can be installed directly from the web browser using the options available in the menu. Some devices, such as Android, can display a message prompting the user to download the application, making it even easier to install.

PWA – an ocean of possibilities?

The technology discussed here extends the potential of web applications by providing features previously reserved for native applications.

The catalogue of PWA possibilities is constantly expanding. In addition, the functionality available on a given device depends mainly on the operating system and web browser. Google and Microsoft products offer the most functionality, while Apple provides the least.

The development of PWAs is part of a progressive enhancement strategy, i.e. making those features supported by a particular device available to users. This is done by designing solutions that use 100% of the capabilities of a given technology while not restricting users from using devices that do not support all available options.

Apart from the already mentioned background operation, some of the key PWA options include offline access, push notifications, easy installation directly from the browser and a very high level of security.

However, many more options are available, and new features are constantly being released.

Limitations you need to be aware of

PWA applications do have limitations. As they are web-based and not native applications, they cannot access certain device functions (such as sending SMS/MMS). However, it is worth noting that the number of features available is constantly growing. Apple devices currently have the most significant limitations. PWA is available for iOS from version 11.3 but has fewer features than Android-based devices. The main difference is the lack of support for push notifications and the inability to display a message informing you of the option to add a shortcut to the home screen. These differences have a significant impact on the ease and speed of installation. However, it is worth looking at the subject in a broader sense. Apple defines the minimum requirements a native app must meet to be published in the App Store ( If an app offers functionality that can be implemented via a website, it may be rejected by the App Store. In this case, PWA is an interesting alternative.

Pros and cons

PWA technology offers essential advantages from the point of view of both the user of a given application and the team involved in the project. Of course, it also has its disadvantages. Below is a summary of its main features.

No need to search and download from Google Play or the App Store – installation is simple, directly from a web browser.
Ability to work offline and with a weaker internet connection.
Data saving – PWA apps are typically much smaller than their native counterparts.
Faster loading time due to extensive use of device cache.
No user updates required – all updates take place only on the server.
Lower implementation costs – PWA applications are much cheaper and faster to develop and maintain than native applications because there is no need to employ separate development teams to create programs for different operating systems (Android and iOS) – there is a common base code.
No design differences between the different systems
Increased user conversions due to faster content loading and lower rejection rates.
Lack of access to some features compared to native apps.
Higher battery consumption.
Lower computing performance.
Incomplete implementation of the technology on iOS devices (no push notifications and no system message to encourage installation).

What features does a PWA application need?

In order to function as a PWA, a web application must fulfil certain conditions and implement several technical solutions.

It is necessary to implement a Service Worker, which is the essential element of a PWA application. This JavaScript code runs in a separate thread, independent of the page’s main window. It provides an intermediate layer between the browser and the internet.

Service Worker works fully asynchronously and provides solutions for working offline, receiving notifications, controlling network queries, handling cache and much more. The correct implementation provides users with high-quality products that, in most cases, do not differ in functionality from native applications.

PWA technology places great emphasis on security, so using an encrypted connection (https protocol) is a requirement.

PWA applications must also be responsive, i.e. work properly on all devices, with particular emphasis on adapting the layout to the resolution of a given screen. Network independence is also important, ensuring both online and offline operations. Indexability, which determines content availability in search engines, is also very important.

A prerequisite is also the preparation of a manifest.json file, which defines metadata useful, among other things, when installing the application on a device (e.g. name, icon, operating mode, etc.).

PWA apps – are they worth it?

Although PWA apps have some limitations, the list of advantages is staggering. Technology is constantly evolving, and the range of features is expanding every day. If you need support creating a PWA application at EvoLabs we will be happy to help you with this project.

Are you considering implementing a PWA in your project? Take advantage of a free consultation to thoroughly discuss any aspect of your planned solution with an experienced business analyst.

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