One of our clients often has displays at events and conferences, and approached us to more efficiently capture leads'/prospects' data. However, an internet connection is not always guaranteed at these events, and therefore the digital solution had to work offline.
An app was ruled out quickly - apps take longer to build than websites and our client needed a quick turnaround. Our attention turned to a new technology, ‘Progressive Web Apps’, which seemed to tick all the boxes.
What is a Progressive Web App (PWA)?
By using modern web capabilities and features in browsers, we can deliver an app-like user experience. Think of it as a website built using website technologies, but it acts and feels like an app. Recent advancements have allowed features that have traditionally not been accessible to the browser, such as receiving push notifications, installing web apps to the home screen and even working offline.
Who is using Progressive Web Apps?
Have a look at the following statistics, they speak for themselves:
Source: Google Developers Web Case Studies
How do Progressive Web Apps work?
Service Workers are the key technology to PWAs. At a high level, a Service Worker is a script that works behind the scenes, independent of your app, and runs in response to events like network requests.
The spec is very new, and allows (among other things) the ability for a website to work offline.
- Firefox 44+ (January 26, 2016)
- Chrome 45+ and Chrome for Android 45+ (September 1, 2015)
- Opera 32+
- Safari and iOS Safari - In Development
- Microsoft Edge - In Development
For our client, our solution consisted of two pages, one form and one admin dashboard. Staff are able to install the app using the ‘Add to Home’ screen feature, and then access the app (either with or without internet).
Prospective leads are then able to use that device, fill in their details and the information is saved. Staff could then use the admin dashboard to sync data later - when they have regained access to the internet.
Our application we built only utilised a fraction of what Progressive Web Apps can do. We can do a whole lot more, and the future is looking bright with more and more browsers supporting the technologies.
Once we got our heads around Service Workers (they can be a bit fiddly to set up the first time round), we enjoyed working with the new features that Progressive Web Apps brought to our application. The biggest downside right now is browser support – Apple does not support Service Workers - so to gain offline support we had to utilise some deprecated methods (i.e. the Application Cache) which still works in Safari (Chrome, Firefox etc. are slowly removing these features in favour of Service Workers).
However, on October 31st 2017 Apple confirmed that they’ve started development of Service Workers, which is great news for everybody.
If you have a project that might benefit from Progressive Web Apps or would like to know more about what we can do, get in touch.