An intro to web accessibility: building a digital world for everyone
Discover accessible web design, its impact on users and its business benefits. From WCAG 2.2 to key accessibility features, here’s an intro to inclusive sites.Read More »
Craig Greenup 03/04/20, 09:42
A Progressive Web App (PWA) is a website or application which takes full advantage of modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like experience to its users. They are built using web technologies and can be indexed in search engines, are hosted on servers much like a website and are accessible via URL. They can leverage mobile OS usability features and act more like a native app.
Confused? You’re not alone. Perhaps the easiest way of making sense of PWA is to think of it as a new standard for website usability, building on the trend for better mobile usability, rather than being an entirely new and separate thing. To be considered a PWA, a website therefore just needs to meet a certain set of requirements.
Google Developers loosely defined PWAs by stating that, in a nutshell, they should meet these minimum requirements:
The actual list of attributes that most people accept as the foundations of the PWA philosophy is a bit more involved. We’ll get into that in a moment.
The term “progesssive web application” was actually coined by a Google software engineer called Alex Russel, back in 2015. Russell is one of the lead engineers for Google’s Chrome browser amongst other things, so he knows a thing or two about web usability standards.
He specified a set of rules to meet the PWA standard for usability as follows [verbatim]:
You may or may not understand all of the jargon, but the important thing is that there is much more talk of usability than there is around specific technologies. And the only technologies specified are to facilitate the usability standards.
There are three technologies underpinning PWA usability. They are ‘Service Worker”, “Manifest JSON” and “HTTPS”. We’ll look at these in turn.
So, while PWA technology might sound a bit overwhelming at first, it’s really not that complex! These are simple technical solutions to create vastly improved user experiences.
How important is mobile usability to your business? If the percentage of traffic and conversions on your site from mobile is very low (and you don’t think it should be any higher) then PWA is probably going a step too far. By all means invest in making your site secure, fast and mobile responsive, because those are all important factors for SEO and for conversion rate optimisation. But you probably don’t need to worry about Service Workers, Manifest files or ‘appy’ usability features.
However, if mobile is important to you then PWA could be a worthwhile investment, especially if you’re considering developing a separate mobile app, which would create additional content management and support requirements as well as your website.
Please don’t misunderstand us – mobile apps do still have their place, especially where the content and features used on your app would be vastly different from your website. To give an example, if you were a travel company then a PWA could be a way of allowing users to browse packages, build itineraries and research future holidays whether they were online or offline, just like they would on your website.
By contrast, a manufacturer may prefer to have their website focussed on B2B sales, but to offer a separate mobile app for consumers with how-to guides and product information.
If you think PWA might be worth exploring for your business, get in touch and speak to us. It’s worth remembering that there is a sliding scale here. While you may not need everything required for your website to be truly considered a PWA, you might still benefit from certain elements of this new way of thinking. We can help you to find the right balance.