What is a progressive web application?

Progressive Web Applications: The Next Frontier in Website Development

By now, you have probably heard that progressive web apps (PWA) are the future of website development. You might have also heard that they are the best way for developers to make websites load faster and save on data bundles. But what really is a progressive web app?

Well, this morning, one of our coffee-inspired programmers led us through a discussion on Progressive web applications and we think it’s only fair to share what we learned. Here we go;

What is a Progressive Web App?

The coffee-inspired web developer aka Raymond Oluoch

What Is A Progressive Web Application?

Simply put, a progressive web application is normal website that pretends to be an app. While you don’t need to compile it into other languages so that it can run as an app, a PWA allows users to add the website to their smartphone’s homepage, just like an app. So the PWA will look just like an FB or weather app when in fact it’s just a link leading to your website. What’s more, a PWA has the ability to work offline so that when users tap on the ‘app’ when offline they can still access your website.

A progressive web app is just a website with super powers. Just like some websites are mobile responsive while others are not. – Raymond Oluoch; Full Stack Developer

Progressive Web Apps; How Do They Work?

A progressive web app begins life just like any other website, on a tab. However, when you visit the same site for the third of fourth time, the website will ask you whether you’d like to keep the website on your homescreen or apps launcher. With your permission, the progressive web app makes a home in your mobile phone just like any other app so you don’t have to go typing the website’s URL everytime you want to visit. How brilliant and simple? Just think about it, when is the last time you went to Google Facebook.com?

What is a Progressive Web App?

Progressive web apps are already here with us. Website like Jumia.co.ke and Tujiamini.co.ke are already taking advantage of this technology.


It’s Possible to Access a Progressive Web App Without Internet Connection

Let’s say, you visited Facebook yesterday to browse and read some news. If you open it today, you will instantly get yesterday’s newsfeed on your screen while the app is fetching new content in the background, dynamically embedding it inside the feed you are already looking at. If fresh content cannot be fetched, for example because you are offline, then you will stay with yesterday’s feed but at least you won’t get any errors or endless spinners rendering the entire app useless. Progressive Web apps work just the same,  only that you do not need to develop a mobile app.

Read More: What is a Mobile Application?

Other benefits of progressive web applications include;

  • They cost much less than native apps to develop, and can be implemented using your existing web framework with no additional programming languages and technologies,
  • Most key features are there to provide an ‘app-like’ experience: push notifications, pinning to home screen, sync in the background, offline functionality, etc., along with an app-like look and feel,
  • The app will be easy to expand piece-by-piece with new functionality,
  • PWAs are cross-platform, so you can save time on adapting your service to many different environments,
  • They are backed and promoted by Google, ensuring that the approach will only grow in popularity
  • Bypassing the Play Store/App Store allows you to get your app to market faster.

How Can Progressive Web Applications Save Time and Money for Businesses?

  1. You don’t need to pay for two versions of the same website

As earlier mentioned, a progressive website app functions as a normal website as well as a mobile app. This means that if you are hiring a web development company you won’t have to pay for two different products. Keeping in mind that developing mobile apps is a pretty expensive affair, you start to understand why progressive web apps are a game changer.

Read More: Understanding Web Development Costs

  1. Fast discoverability

Imagine the typical process of installing an app on your mobile. You first to Google play store or whatever store you prefer, find the app you are looking for in the midst of a thousand other apps, click download, confirm, agree to terms, enter your passwords, download the app, wait for it to install blablabla….by the time you are done, chances are you would have forgotten why you needed the app in the first place. The beauty of a progressive web app is that it’s extremely discoverable, just like a regular website – you google it, you click the link to open it, add it to your homepage and that’s it, you have the app on your device, ready to roll.

  1. PWAs are Scalable

Progressive Web Apps are easy to expand. Because you’re essentially working on a website and adding some functionality, you can add new bells and whistles step by step. You can also update your Progressive Web App with new features as more browsers become compatible with everything PWAs have to offer.


What Is A Progressive Web Application?

Heated discussion on the possible downsides of a progressive web app


As you can probably tell, we are quite excited about Progressive Web Apps and the possibilities they offer. They may not be a solution for everyone, but we believe a PWA can create a strong mobile presence even for advanced products that have already been released to the market.


  1. I have read through the articles and this seems like a big leap forward for e-commerce businesses. However, the concept seems still needs further discussion, especially to those of us who hardly understand the world of web development.

    Would you be kind enough to give me a look through as to how my site would be different if ti was PWA?

    • Hello Justus 🙂
      Good question. If your ecommerce site was a PWA, it would load quite fast. Mainly because whenever someone visits your site, the information would be cached just like on Facebook. You login and find the information you last saw while the site updates itself. What this also means is that your visitors can still view your website even when they are offline, why? Because the information was already cached. The other beatiful thing about PWA is that it can make a home on your visitor’s phone, so they don’t have to go to Chrome or Opera everytime to search for your site. Last but not least, if your website was a PWA, you would be able to send push notifications. This means that when someone lands on your website, it would ask them for permission to push new product updates to their phone the way Facebook does; so now your web visitors will always get updates straight to their phone when you add a new product. How wonderful!?

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