Best Existing Tools to Build a Progressive Web App

15 Jan 2020
Ihor, back-end developer
The UX is one of the most effort-intense aspects in global web development.
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Best Existing Tools to Build a Progressive Web App

Page loading speed, user-friendliness, design, comfortable and intuitive interface are the crucial factors that make the UX one of the most effort-intense aspects in global web development.

At the same time, companies striving for continuous development should take into account the popularization of mobile resources that are gradually crowding out desktop sites. And this is where progressive web app development comes in more than handy, combining the strengths of both software engineering realms.

What areProgressive Web Applications (PWA)?

PWA is an innovative type of multipurpose applications introduced in 2015 by Google, initially available only for Android and reaching iOS only by 2018. The main goal was to take the best from both hardware and web capabilities, enhancing the mobility of company websites.

The progressive web app technologies enable websites to act as independent software that only looks as though a regular web page on the surface. Such solutions can perform offline, updating the content every time the Internet connection is granted and can be launched via the desktop icon.

Progressive Web Apps VS Traditional Ones: Common Differences, Benefits

Let’s take a detailed look at the progressive web app pros and cons.

Thus, the major PWA pros include:

  • cross-platform nature – PWAs work on any platform, via any browser without limitations in compatibility
  • access outside of browser – users can launch PWAs in one click or tap;
  • offline performance – PWAs can be launched offline with all the changes and manipulations being synchronized and updated upon the connection to the web;
  • push-notifications – these solutions can efficiently notify users about special offers, discounts, and sales with customizable push-notifications;
  • SEO effects – PWAs are better for your SEO, being faster and smoother in performance than regular websites and, as a result, attracting more users and clicks;
  • better conversion – once again, the speed of loading, smoothness of performance, and other extensive capabilities attract users better and help acquire a truly loyal audience of potential customers. 

Among the downsides, we can highlight:

  • occasional slow initial loading due to the absence of cached data;
  • complex conditions of integration with third-party resources requiring significant content optimization efforts;
  • the total weight of PWAs is limited by the common browser requirements;
  • if the browser data is cleaned, many offline performance capabilities will be disabled;
  • many PWAs do not perform well in the incognito mode. 

Progressive Web Applications Examples

Progressive web apps are quickly gaining in popularity, since the ability to create them using JavaScript, CSS and HTML allows making them look like native solutions while providing greater performance.

Other general distinctive features of PWAs include: 

  • performance in most existing browsers and devices (mobile and desktop) with progressive codebases;
  • PWAs fit all possible screen dimensions due to adaptive design;
  • they can work via an autonomous connection (HTTPS is required);
  • they provide brand awareness and user loyalty boosting features, like push-notifications;

Some of the best progressive web applications with prominent names are:

  • Starbucks – with the help of the PWA technology, they managed to double the number of users. You can view the menu, add products to the basket in offline mode;
  • Twitter – the launch of Twitter Lite in 2017 increased the total page download speed by 30%, bounce rate decreased by 20%, and the number of pages viewed in a session increased by 65%;
  • Forbes – thanks to PWA, the main page of Forbes loads in 0.8 seconds; overall, this helped to grow user engagement by 100%;
  • AliExpress – one of the best PWA examples. Initially intended as a way to stimulate more native app installations, the introduction of the technology allowed to increase total conversion rates by 104%;
  • Tinder – a vivid example of rapid performance: while a website loads in almost 12 seconds, PWA requires less than five;
  • Uber – took up building a progressive web app to eventually reduce the app size to 50 kb and provide three-second download speed, even in a 2G network;
  • Pinterest – page loading speed increased by 40% compared to the regular website and revenue from user-generated advertising increased by 44%.

Major Elements of Developing Progressive Web Applications

Having considered the main advantages of the technology as well as examples of its successful implementation, let’s move on to the major PWS app development tools and elements.

App Shell

An application shell that requires a minimum of code lines and consists of the essential elements (title, navigation bar, etc.). This part of the software product is cached once and displayed to the user regardless of the Internet connection. In essence, this is a container in which updated content is placed leaving the navigation unchanged.

Service worker

The foundation of a PWA – a proxy layer between the frontend and backend. It is, basically, a Javascript file connected to the HTML code that determines whether content is needed to be downloaded from the cache or server. Service worker is the main reason why PWAs can work offline, with further data synchronization.

Manifest file

A JSON file that defines the visual, external assets of an application (icon, description, short name, splash screen, etc.) and allows shortcutting an app launcher on the smartphone home screen.

Push-notifications

A powerful user-attraction tool that is either neglected or abused by 90% of companies. Large amounts of advertising and spam often put potential customers off. Make your notifications balanced and not strictly regular.

Caching strategies

Stable offline PWA performance requires a thorough approach to the method of caching:

  • cache first – a user downloads data without access to the network. Requests are sent only when data is not available;
  • network first – ideal for dynamic content. PWA sends requests to the network and in case of a response returns data back. Otherwise, the information is displayed by the service worker;
  • cache & network – simultaneous sending of requests in both directions;
  • cache only – perfect for static data when all the data is cached initially upon the app installation;
  • network only – requests are sent by the service worker only to network. If there is no response, the request is left unfulfilled. 

15 Best Tools to Develop Progressive Web Apps 

Progressive web apps have tremendous potential for strengthening the company’s position in the global network, expanding its customer base and business revenue. Consider the following PWA app development tools and frameworks that can help you significantly speed up and optimize the implementation of your own PWA.

PWA.rocks

A large selection of PWA examples on gaming, business topics, social networking solutions and many other apps will help draw inspiration for the visualization of your own, unique solution.

Knockout

A freeware JavaScript-based open-source platform that allows working with MVVM (Model-View-View model) bindings, simplifying the coding of user interfaces. This software library can be quickly and easily integrated with an existing web service.

PWABuilder

The fastest way to create a PWA. All you need to do is insert the URL link of the site, enter the name, description of the resource. upload the preferred icon, and then make the necessary configurations (language, background color, etc.). The platform will automatically generate a manifest based on the specified information.

Google Developers

A library of resources to assist PWA coding, provide a universal guide on the proper launch of the progressive web app, and highlight the principles of its operation. It can help you figure out how to use HTTPS, how to add a banner to the home screen, and other similar nuances.

Webpack

One of the best tools to build PWA, which helps to combine JavaScript resources in containers (fonts, images, etc.), allowing faster loading. This software also helps simplify interactions between dependencies.

GitHub

A site with project asset repositories. It covers a wide range of programming issues, including JS and PWA, thereby contributing to a deeper understanding of the processes.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

A package of tools for image compression management for fast product downloads. Google not only actively supports these resources, highlighting them in the search results, but also, in some way, minimizes development costs by providing free items (AMP Cache).

Lighthouse

A performance monitoring solution from Google that allows analyzing the following aspects:

  • loading at an unstable Internet connection;
  • mobile-friendliness of the software design;
  • page-loading speed;
  • network connection security and more.

Polymer

One of the most prominent PWA development frameworks, a lightweight JavaScript environment created by Google, which helps in creating repetitive elements, making it easier to synchronize data with devices. The featured tools help customize responsive design, automatically enabling a service worker. However, we should not forget that the use of such a product increases the size of the application, affecting the loading time.

AngularJS

A reliable framework that provides good scalability of the project, making it possible to manage a large amount of data in an efficient manner. CLI commands help programmers turn regular web projects into PWAs.

ReactJS

Yet another hugely popular progressive web app framework with which developers can reuse the existing code over and over. The Create-React generator, if configured correctly, will create all the necessary data for the PWA user. The most famous application based on React can be considered above-mentioned Twitter Lite.

Ionic

An open-source hybrid tool that allows you to manipulate and adapt the code to the requirements of your own PWA. The combination of JavaScript, HTML, CSS3 infrastructure, as well as the presence of a common code base guarantees the adjusted performance of the product in any operating system.

Material-UI

Another open-source library that allows you to easily customize the desired interface with a specific color palette corresponding to the brand. The framework is one of the most popular resources for creating PWA, offering not only stylish and attractive design options, but also characterized by simple, quick installation and intuitive controls.

Chrome Dev Tools

The Chrome Dev service panel allows editing service, manifest and cache files rapidly, significantly optimizing the time and labor costs of programmers.

Workbox

The tool includes several modules – Node libraries that can help in creating PWAs as well as in improving their performance.

Best Practices in PWA Development

PWA is an excellent option for promoting a company online, which contributes to the development of a client base and increases business profitability in the long run. Let’s take a look at some world-renowned efforts in terms of boosting one’s business success via PWA capabilities.

  • Lancome. The world-famous perfume manufacturer faced a drop in sales on its web resource, which indicated its inconvenience and difficulties in completing the purchase. Using a high-quality PWA (Google rated it 94 out of 100 points), the organization managed to: attract about 18,000 new users, of which 8% made a purchase; reduce the purchase failure rate by 10%; increase the duration of the average user session by 51%.
  • Settled. This real estate company identified that most customers prefer mobile applications over desktop online shopping means. By implementing its own PWA, the company was able to increase mobile transactions (+8%) and conversion rates (+23%), as well as reduce the number of purchase failures by 13%.
  • Trivago. This hotel reservation services provider stumbled upon an issue of their app performance at an unstable Internet connection, which is a typical situation for travelers. The implementation of autonomous performance capabilities and push-notifications had increased the number of clients by 150% and the frequency of repeated resource visits at the moment is 2 compared with the previous 0.8.

Educational Resources for PWAs

If you want to learn more about the nuances of PWA and master the capabilities of such solutions, take a look through the following available resources:

Google’s PWA Roadshow – a training platform that provides related studying materials, as well as instructions, detailed tutorials, and testing courses;

Google’s official developer section on PWAs – there is an exhaustive video from Google Chrome developers containing reviews, examples, and practical tips;

Mozilla’s PWA guidelines – a collection for programmers exploring all the possibilities of progressive web projects;

Jason Grigsby’s Progressive Web Apps book – this book answers many questions about the need to use PWA products, opening up new ways to use them;

Maximiliano Firtman – an exciting blog dedicated to PWA and programming tendencies as a whole;

PWA Stats – related statistics and statistical news concerning prominent PWA solutions;

Can I Use? – themed search results describe many special features and capabilities of various browsers and PWAs;

What Web Can Do Today? – helps you get in the know about the current capabilities of common browsers;

Yes, that web project should be a PWA – a guide for decision-makers defining the need to implement PWA solutions.

Finding a Solution in Progressive Web Apps Development

A company that chooses to go the PWA way and implement an authentic progressive web solution ultimately gets to:

  • save users’ time – everybody values their time above all. Any pages that take more than three seconds to load can bring about harmful business consequences;
  • provide top performance – let your users employ a business-dedicated solution that works impeccably even at critical traffic-load speeds;
  • employ push-notifications – these provide targeted advertising opportunities for expanding sales opportunities and audience reach;
  • generate code faster – there are tools that generate code manifests autonomously, saving loads of time for programming.

Contact Sapient.pro

Of course, it can be quite difficult for an untrained person to understand all the nuances and subtleties of the PWA technology. Contact our specialists right now to clarify all the specifics of such solutions.

Technologies We Use

We work with:

  • AngularJS;
  • ReactJS;
  • PWABuilder;
  • Webpack;
  • Lighthouse and more

Our experience in implementing projects of various sizes and complexity levels, from Landing Pages (business cards) to information resources and eCommerce sites, will help bring your business to a new level, with increased traffic and profitability in the long run. Take a step towards new horizons today!

Conclusion

In the modern world where, above all, users require maximum comfort and accessibility,  the future of progressive web applications is looking pretty good. The technology has great growth potential bringing about uncompromised loading speed, offline performance capacities, light software weight, ease of installation.

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