What are Progressive Web Applications (PWAs)?

Joe Bencar
Progressive web apps

Progressive web apps are defined as “web apps that use service workers, manifests, and other web-platform features in combination with progressive enhancement to give users an experience on par with native apps.” That’s pretty technical, but it basically means that PWAs are applications that enhance user experience with 3 traits. These traits transform the app into something that feels like a platform-specific application. Lets take a look at these 3 pillars of progressive web apps.

Capability

As technology evolves, so does the way we are able to use web applications instead of platform-specific apps. For example, you could take WebRTC, geolocation and push notifications, and create a hyper local video chat app. To take it a step further, if you were to make the app installable, conversations on the app could go virtual using WebGL and WebVR.

Many for capabilities became possible with the introduction of WebAssembly, which allows developers to tap into a variety of different ecosystems. This brings decades of work to the web, including C, C++ and Rust. These types of capabilities were once only possible on platform-specific apps.

Of course, not everything is possible with progressive web apps. The good news is that new innovations are being created each and every day, especially when it comes to using APIs. APIs give developers the power to do amazing things and can even get different systems to “talk” to each other, also known as system integration.

Web applications are more capable than ever before, and we look forward to seeing what the future holds.

Reliability

We all know how frustrating it can be to wait for a website to load or an application to do what it’s supposed to. Speed is extremely important relating to user experience, so applications need to be reliable, regardless of the network connection.

Users today expect quick results, updated and customized content, and much more. PWAs are applications that feel fast, are dependable, and are stable no matter the network.

Installable

Installable progressive web apps actually work outside of a browser like Chrome or Firefox. They operate in their own stand-alone window and can even be launched using a variety of different ways such as from a home screen, a task bar, or via voice actions.

Installable PWAs change the way users interact and feel, which enhances their whole experience.

In the end, Progressive Web Apps are really just web applications. With that being said, by using progressive enhancement, new capabilities can be enabled in modern browsers. Also, by using a web app manifest and service workers, the web app now becomes reliable and installable. Even if some of the new capabilities aren't available, users can still get the core experience.

Many different, well-known companies use progressive web apps, including Twitter and Amazon. These companies understand the impact PWAs have on a fast, customized experience for their users.

This post was last updated on: Aug 16, 2022.