Software Imagineer's blog

PWAs - an umbrella term for apps with higher standards for Reliability, Performance and Engagement

Sun Feb 03 2019

Over the years Web has went through several waves of advancement: Web 2.0, Single Page Applications, HTML5, mobile Web, responsive Web and many shorter phases which did not get their name cemented in the history of the web. All of these periods of technical and UX evolution added more capabilities and at the same time more expectations of how modern websites should look and behave. And number of Web capabilities is not going to stop increasing any time soon. With recent additions of Web Assembly and native APIs like bluetooth and USB, Web is becoming fully fledged desktop and mobile application platform.

New capabilities brings a lot of potential for new application types being built on the Web platform, but at the same time higher complexity creates higher risk of sub-par end user experience. Developers misusing native APIs or needlessly asking for permissions without explaining why, can negatively impact the image of the Web as a platform. Personally, I am still confused why local news website wants to know my precise location and I would like to get more information how it will improve my user experience before getting the prompt. A bit of a side note, but in light of GDPR in Europe websites should seriously reconsider which user data is being collected and how it will be managed/used.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) is Google’s attempt to specify key principles and best practices to which modern Web Applications should abide to in order to create consistent and delightful user experiences. Here is how Google describes Progressive Web Application principles:

  • Reliable - Load instantly and never show the downasaur, even in uncertain network conditions
  • Fast - Respond quickly to user interactions with silky smooth animations and no janky scrolling
  • Engaging - Feel like a natural app on the device, with an immersive user experience

I think Google captured key principles of modern Web Apps quite well and gets bonus points for not mentioning any proprietary technologies like AMP. And even though PWA principles are often discussed in context of mobile apps, it is equally applicable to desktop apps too. Google also has the power to enforce some of these principles by integrating them to PageRank and rewarding high quality Web Apps with higher standing in Google search.

Anyone planning to build an application in 2019 should seriously consider Web as a platform and PWAs as a guiding principle. Moreover, while everyone is still trying to understand what PWAs are and how to use their capabilities, being early in the game can work as a strategic advantage and bring extra attention to your product.