I’m prepared to go out on what I consider to be a fairly sturdy limb and say that I think Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) will be the next big thing in app development. They’ve been around for a few years. And it may take a little while longer yet. But I believe PWAs will become the default “app” technology in the future. If you’re not using one already, you will be soon.
So, what is a Progressive Web App anyway?
If you’ve never heard of a Progressive Web App you’re not alone. PWAs are new enough that they’re still under the radar, even among some technical audiences. But the idea has been around for a good few years. Essentially PWAs are websites with some added bells and whistles. Those additional elements are critical as they enable the PWA to behave like a conventional app. That is to say, the app will work offline and it can access your device’s hardware (your camera, GPS, accelerometer) just like a conventional app would.
What are the advantages?
Quicker, less expensive – Because Progressive Web Apps essentially leverage the power of the web they are a more accessible technology. This makes them relatively cheap and quick to develop. Anyone who’s developed a traditional app before will know that it’s not quick. For example, true native apps are platform specific so that you’ll need a separate app for Android and another for iOS. That’s expensive.
Instant updates – Traditional apps all suffer with the same problem. Once you publish your app it starts to get out-of-date immediately. Technology marches on relentlessly and leaves your app stranded in time. Updating them is time consuming and, therefore, expensive. Progressive Web Apps offer you the ability to update your app just like you’d update a website. As soon as your changes are saved, all your users see your updates.
No stores – This could be seen as a pro or a con, depending on your view point. Because Progressive Web Apps are essentially websites, they are accessed by a URL. They will be indexed by search engines just like a website. The second you publish your PWA, users can access it and install to their device. There’s no having to set up a developer account for the App Store or Google Play, no laborious submission and review process.
How we’re harnessing the power of PWAs to enable anyone to build apps
Since we began building apps for clients in 2011 we have largely developed traditional apps. We’ve done a few true native apps but in the main, we build hybrid apps (apps that use web technologies and a native wrapper to make them compatible with the target operating systems). However, due to the expense of developing bespoke apps, we decided way back in 2013 that we would work towards producing a platform that would enable our clients to build their own apps.
It was a decision that presented many interesting challenges along the way. One of the most significant being what type of apps the system would build. If we’d aimed to produce the client facing element in the early phases of the project that decision would have been relatively straight forward, since our only realistic option would have been hybrid apps. But by the time it came to the crunch, PWAs had arrived and provided us with a second.
Initially, however, support for PWAs was limited. Too many features we relied upon either didn’t work at all or were supported by one browser and not another. But, having researched the technology and throwing caution to the wind we nailed our colours to the mast and built Coreo as a PWA generating platform.
Where are we now?
Thankfully, our belief in Progressive Web Apps as a technology of the future appears to have been well founded. Both of the main players Google (enthusiastically) and Apple (somewhat more reluctantly) have supported PWAs within their browsers. Having spent a lot of our early energies on implementing work arounds, browsers now support most of the critical functionality so that PWAs can deliver on their promised potential. And that potential is increasing all the time.
Coreo is Natural Apptitude’s main implementation of PWA technology. Coreo is a data collection platform. A major facet of the platform is the ability to self-build Progressive Web Apps. Coreo also provides all the functionality you need to manage your data and users. If you would like more information on Coreo, or would like to request a demo then just visit https://coreo.io/ and get in touch.