The Strategist

Your Mobile App will be obsolete, very very soon!

04/22/2019 - 22:13

The current trend of website technology is getting complicated for individuals who are not tech-savvy to follow, but as it stands at this moment, one of the significant innovations of the internet is the Progressive Web Applications, PWA.
Progressive Web Apps are web apps that use modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like experience to users without the need for a mobile applications to be developed, installed and maintained. This does not just happen all at once though; it takes a little time for these websites to fit in and become app-like. According to the description of Alex Russell, a Google engineer, “these web apps are not packaged and deployed through application stores; instead, they are websites that took all the right vitamins”. What he meant there was that these web apps are typical websites that have been improved to provide a more convenient interface for users; convenient in terms of speed and accessibility.

Our world is eventually turning into a mobile-comfortable world where people want to do everything on their mobile devices and smartphones; Currently, there are more mobile visits to websites than there are visits from desktops and PCs. Moreover, websites are basically designed for desktop access. Until the recently (Relative to technology) the mass adoption of responsive design alleviated some of this overhead. Prior to the responsive web, accessing websites from the mobile devices was somewhat more cumbersome than using the site's native applications deployed through the stores (App Store or Google Play Store, as the case may be.) The Progressive Web App was designed to tackle this challenge by making the websites load faster on mobile devices, seemingly and even accessible in cases of low or zero connectivity.
How is this possible? Well, we can see it every time on our phones even though we may not have known what it is. So, I will try to break it down a little further. 

When we visit websites for the first time, the pages tend to load over a while, let's say Facebook. After surfing through this platform for some time, we keep our smartphone and then by the time we come back to this website, irrespective of connectivity strength, the page opens tenfold faster than it did the first time but; this time with familiar content at first and then, if connected to the internet, other content fills interface immediately. Subsequently, this website starts requesting permission to offer other features like push notification and being added to the home screen for easy access. When these permissions are granted, it becomes synonymous to a native app just that this one was not installed from a store. It does everything a native app would do: send push notifications and easy to access right from the home screen or app drawer; and even still, when opened shows up not with a desktop interface but a user-friendly, mobile app like interface.
How Does This Happen?
The Progressive Web Application was made possible because of two functions: the Service Worker and the Application Shell Architecture.
The Service Worker is the basis of the PWA, and it is responsible for increasing the performance of websites by caching (storing data) and delivering contents and background functionalities like push notifications. This Service Worker makes it possible for these features and the website to work while offline or speeds up the contents delivery by intercepting network requests and delivering programmed or previously stored (cache) responses. In the previous instant given (the Facebook instance), after the first loading of the page, the data delivered was cached by the Service Worker making it possible for it to be delivered instantly as you went back to the webpage after some time. So, with this you don't have to wait for the pages to load; it keeps you occupied while more recent updates are made.
The Application Shell Architecture on the other end is a product of the Service Worker, but this one is designed to save the framework of the website giving it an app-like interface. Let me break it down. When you load a familiar website, it first opens as empty frames like compartments which are meant to contain the contents and then the compartments are filled up with contents immediately after; contents that are delivered by the Service Worker. These frames (shells, in this case) are designed to give the website a user interface that is friendly and looks exactly like a native app for easy navigation. So, this Shell is also cached since it doesn't need internet connectivity to be delivered after the first time.
The Application Shell Architecture and the Service Worker performs their functions synchronously to bring these contents to the users in a split second whether highly connected, poorly connected or connected at all to the internet.

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Relevance of PWA
Many businesses today need to have a PWA to make their websites accessible to their customer at breakneck speed even when their network connectivity is brittle. With this, you build the confidence your customers have in your brand knowing fully well that they can get in touch even when the internet is cut out.
Not a new evolution.
This is not a new concept in the evolution of computing technology, lets take a quick tour back down memory lane. If you are old enough you may remember going to Office depot or Office max to buy the latest version of Microsoft office or what ever program you needed at the time. It came in a box or package that was full of cd-roms, each of which was part of a large install that took time along with numerous reboots. Then Web 2.0 happened. These installs were packaged into web applications available online from any device with a web browser agnostic of the device. The world celebrated not more hunting for where this program was available or making sure your system had the proper resources to run it efficiently.
PWA’s are the mobile applications next iteration, why do I need to download and install anything, I don’t have to on my laptop so why should I have to on my mobile device is the mindset behind this shift.

All businesses or providers of content should be very aware of this next evolution and start to make the adjustments today. Stop wasting your time on the mobile application development with the costs and disjointed user experiences. Build your standard website into a PWA and your offer seamless user experiences with single site management efforts.
***Disclaimer, this may not be applicable to all sites or applications at the current time, but it is on the horizon and definitely should be accounted for.

By Michael Stattelman

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