The norm for any company in the world looking to make its mark is first to make a website and then set out to build a native app in Android as well as iOS that can be linked to the website. But this isn't the end product in technology as we've come to expect. What if I told you that there was a way to make the website you logged on to work as an app itself? With no other downloads or visits to the app stores. This is what a web app is like, and they have existed for some time now without getting much recognition. Many believe web apps to be the path of the future as we keep using technology to make life easier and using web apps instead of traditional ones would be easier. So let's learn what makes a web app progressive and how you can start to develop one as a beginner.
What makes a Web App progressive?
A progressive web app is like a collective term that refers to certain technologies that go along to provide efficient app-like expertise on the web.
An ideal web app could be an online page that has the simplest aspects of both the online websites as well as native apps. It ought to be quick and fast to use, fit the device's viewport, stay usable offline, and be ready to have an icon on the home screen of your device.
At the same time, it should not sacrifice the items that build the internet great, like the power to link deep into the app and to use URLs to allow for sharing of content. Just like the net, it should be able to work well across platforms and not focus only on a mobile. It ought to behave just as well on a PC as in different devices and not become unresponsive if you try to access it from a different device. But, Progressive web apps aren't new. Mobile browsers have had the power to bookmark internet sites to your phone’s home screen since 2011. It is the evolution it has seen in these years that has made these web apps can truly follow the motto of “build once, deploy anywhere.” Something that every developer aims to achieve.
A good PWA should have certain App- Like properties such as:
Perfectly filling the screen, these websites are primarily aimed toward phones and tablets and should answer the superfluidity of screen sizes. Conversely, they should also be able to work simply as desktop websites. Responsiveness has been a significant property to keep in mind when thinking of web site building for several years, and web apps follow the routine.
They should have Offline-first functionality
The app should be capable of beginning offline and still show helpful information, just like a normal app would. It shouldn’t have to be loaded on the website every time for it to be accessible offline.
Be touch capable
The interface should be designed for touch, along with gesture interaction. User interaction should feel responsive and snappy, with no delay between the touch and response.
Should be able to push notifications
The app should be in a position to receive and display notifications, even if it isn’t currently running regarding changes in the website or other valuable information that requires the user’s attention.
But also not lose its web-like properties:
They should be Progressive
The ability of the app to be installed offline should be a progressive one and not hinder its working as a traditional website. This should especially hold for platforms that don't yet allow for it to be installed and can only browse it as a regular site.
HTTPS on the open web
The app should not be locked out of the internet as a package offline and should be deep linked to the URL while still providing ways for sharing it.
Disadvantages of a PWA
Progressive web apps aren't new, and even with all the improvements they have seen, a few disadvantages are pulling it down from the limelight. The most obvious one is that each browser on the web isn't even friendly to them, and even today, they can only run properly on selected ones.
There are some practical reasons why supplementing a native app with a web site continues not to be the norm, followed by many major firms. Another huge reason is the undeniable fact that most users are acclimated to using native apps and getting a mass of people to switch from something they’ve found comfort in is a task harder than you can imagine. Also, since web apps aren’t available on App stores, the app can’t get the exposure a native app would. But this is only a disadvantage to major companies and not ones that are just starting as being in an app store is only a major advantage if you're in the most popular 0.1 % of the apps. For smaller apps the store provides little to no extra exposure and having a web app is more advantageous as any user looking for your app can find it directly on your website without taking the extra step to the app store.
Now that you know what a PWA is and how they work, let's start on how you can make a rudimentary one with little to no experience. However, you will need to know the basics of first building a website before you can learn to make it into a web app and should be versed in HTML and CSS in the least.
Testing your website as a PWA
The first step you need to take is to check how good your website is as a PWA. You can find various tools online that will scan your website and tell how functional it is as a PWA. The easiest to use among these is a chrome extension called Lighthouse. Once installed, you can open your website and click on the Lighthouse icon to Generate a Report. The report might be too much to understand, but you can make do with the main numbers and ignore the rest. Now, since you haven't done anything yet to make your website into a PWA, the numbers should be pretty low, so you don't have to start worrying yet.
Make an icon for your app
Your website is going to be on the home screen of users, so you need to make an icon to represent it. Make an icon using whatever software you want to. Make sure it is in the shape of a square. You can then save it in various sizes (to account for the different types of devices) and connect them to your website with a bit of code.
Create your Web App Manifest
Next thing you need to take care of is to produce a manifest. A manifest is a file that contains information about the web site, like its name, its favorite color, and what icons it uses. The easiest way to create one is to use an online app manifest generator and fill the information regarding your web site within the fields. If you’re unsure of a field, you can leave it as its default. On the right side of the page, there's some JSON information that you’re going to need. Create a file named manifest.json and copy and paste the JSON information at the top, ensuring the data formatting is correct by adding or deleting a bracket. After adding the manifest, you can check your site again using the Lighthouse extension to see a little progress in the numbers.
Taking your website offline
The website you’ve made needs to be able to come offline for it to be a PWA. You can do this in two ways:
The old ways of using AppCache. This approach has a lot of flaws, which is why it was discontinued for most browsers but for platforms like iOS, where new support services haven't been developed, this is the only way to go.
The new method of using service workers which are now supported on Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
The method of using service workers isn't an easy one, and you can find guides and tricks online to add one onto your web app.
With these basic steps, you can convert any website you've built into a web app of the future that can outperform even native apps.