Bringing native functionality to the web

Progressive Web Apps

The capabilities available to web pages are constantly evolving. Many of these capabilities allow web pages to behave in ways that have historically required the creation of a native app.

What is a Progressive Web App?

Web pages that make use of these capabilities are known as Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). They open the door to delivering native-app-like experiences without the expense and complexity of developing and distributing native apps for multiple platforms.

Progressive Web App is a term that’s loosely used to describe webpages that make use of powerful web browser capabilities to provide an app-like experience. These capabilities allow PWAs to feel fast, familiar, and robust to users on different operating systems, devices, and under varying network conditions.

The benefits of adopting a PWA
  • One app for all platforms.
  • Avoid app store costs and restrictions.
  • Enforce common styles and UX across products and platforms.
  • Make your website available offline.
  • Access device hardware, sensors, and APIs.
Person using a PWA on their mobile phone

Superpowers for your website

The primary objective of PWAs is to provide a reliable, app-like experience to the largest possible number of people, regardless of their operating system, device, or location. Users can even access PWAs without an internet connection; making them ideal for both emerging markets and mobile users that commonly encounter spotty network coverage.

Limitations in web browsers have previously made it difficult or impossible to replicate the functionality of native apps on the web. As web browsers have advanced, many features you would typically associate with native apps can now be implemented on the web.

Why choose a PWA?

For many uses, a PWA is an excellent choice that can provide an exceptional user experience and help concentrate your development efforts on a singular, cross-platform product.

01

Concentrate development efforts

PWAs require only one version of the app to work on all platforms; a single PWA can function on desktop, mobile, iOS, Android, and a range of other form factors and operating systems.

02

Distributed via the web

PWAs are installed from the web. As such, PWAs are not subject to the costs and restrictions of participating in app stores. Updates can be delivered immediately to users without waiting for a lengthy approval process.

03

Consistent look and feel

PWAs make use of HTML and CSS to deliver a consistent user interface to all platforms. Style guides can more readily be enforced, and components can be reused across multiple products to achieve a consistent user experience.

04

Available offline

PWAs enable a web app to be available offline, providing a much more reliable experience for both users in emerging markets and mobile users that commonly encounter spotty network coverage.

05

Improved experience for all users

Adopting PWA techniques makes your website better for everybody, regardless of whether they have installed your app to their home screen, or are simply accessing it via their web browser.

06

Hardware integration

PWAs are able to more closely integrate with device hardware, bringing features like camera access, geolocation, and wallet payments to the web. Capabilities continue to grow as the web platform advances.

Industry leading Progressive Web Apps

PWAs have widely been adopted by industry leaders to either augment or replace their native apps.

01

Starbucks

The Starbucks PWA makes it easy for customers to place and pay for orders on any device.

Visit the Starbucks PWA

02

Twitter

The Twitter Lite PWA offers the full functionality of the Twitter native app, in a much smaller and faster bundle.

Visit the Twitter PWA

03

Apple Music

The Apple Music PWA allows Apple to provide its music streaming service on all platforms without building a dedicated native app for each.

Visit the Apple Music PWA

How do PWAs differ to native apps?

Where native apps are distributed via a centralised app store, PWAs are installed from the web. As such, PWAs are not subject to the costs and restrictions of participating in app stores. Unlike traditional native apps, PWAs require only one version of the app to work on all platforms; a single PWA can function on desktop, mobile, iOS, Android, and a range of other form factors and operating systems.

The visible user interface of a PWA is created using HTML and CSS, instead of the native operating system components that are available to native apps. Although this means the app will less closely resemble the underlying operating system, it does have the benefit of making it simpler to apply a universal style guide to all experiences.

Adopting PWA techniques makes your website better for everybody, regardless of whether they have installed your app to their home screen, or are simply accessing it via their web browser.

iPhone showing the code behind a PWA
App Store

What can't a PWA do?

PWAs have limited access to device hardware, so they are not a substitute for all native apps; but for a huge category of apps, PWA is a perfect fit. We anticipate the functionality available to PWAs will continue to grow.

For some uses it might be necessary or beneficial to develop a native app.
  • Safari does not support push notifications, so PWAs cannot create push notifications on iOS.
  • PWAs cannot be distributed via app stores without a native app wrapper.
  • PWAs cannot use system user interface components, so seamless integration with the device operating system is not possible.
  • Some device hardware is not available to PWAs.
  • PWAs cannot be used for Apple Watch apps.
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