Convert Your Traditional Web App Into a Progressive Web App

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Around six years ago, Google casually presented the tech world with the new type of apps and named it progressive. The purpose of PWA development is to make websites closely resemble a smartphone application with all the visual and functional perks. 

Since then, such hybrids acquired a substantial level of popularity and made guides like this one particularly requested. The main reason is that you don’t have to develop separate apps for different devices alongside your website or web app. 

It’s enough to maintain just the latter, but make it a special one - a PWA. The simplified guide on how to convert app to PWA is what we’re going to present in this article.

Table of content

Main Differences Between Web Apps and Websites

Why Use PWA Technologies If You Want To Create a Mobile App?

How To Convert a Web App Into PWA?

Conclusion

To a layman, there are, perhaps, no apparent differences between web applications and websites, besides an app having more interactive nature. It is true, in general, since the interactional feature is arguably the main ingredient that separates the two. Let’s take a closer look.

Website

A website is a set of both correlative and/or independent web pages consisting of various types of digital data, such as text, images, videos, audio files, etc. This one or multiple pages are not frequently and dynamically updated and are a typical static source of helpful information. 

Websites are great if you want to display something and you don’t necessarily need any user engagement. Easy navigation and user-friendliness are the two key elements that help you show others who you are and what you can offer.

Web App

A web app is a web program that looks like a website but with much broader functionality and available interaction with its various elements. Remember any sites where you can actually do something, from placing an order to communicating with other people? 

Applications are much more complex because they don’t serve only as a fancy portfolio, especially if you need to build mobile web apps. They need to provide customization options, connect to a database, and appropriately react to any user input. 

Additional Differences

There are a few other lesser-known differences:

  • Web apps usually need user authentication to fully access all functional perks, while websites don’t, since there’s nothing to access beyond what you already see;
  • Apps are cloud-based and require compilation prior to their implementation;
  • Websites are updated via small code changes. Apps, however, besides automatic content updates, need to be fully rebuilt regardless of how small or trivial the implemented change is.

PWA‌ ‌vs‌ ‌Native‌ ‌App:‌ ‌How ‌to‌ ‌Choose‌ ‌the‌ ‌Right‌ ‌Mobile‌ ‌Applications

Let us first state perhaps the most obvious reason for using PWA to create a mobile app - the opportunity to not make different apps for iOS or Android smartphones. The native icon of a progressive app will be accessible through any browser on any mobile device regardless of its operating system.

If someone wants to make mobile web apps, they need to consider the app’s accessibility, ease of use, and functional appeal. It all can be perfectly managed with PWA. Moreover, if your potential or existing app will or is cloud-based and relies heavily on customer interaction with the app and themselves - progressive apps are the smartest choice.

PWA Benefits

There are a few more benefits that are less pronounced but still an essential part of the development and utilization processes:

  • Offline support and better performance on a bit slower connection;
  • Background synchronization and quicker loading time;
  • Lower maintenance and lesser installation hassle than with native apps;
  • Faster and usually cheaper development process;
  • Push notifications that don’t require actual in-app presence;
  • Wide-ranging access to smartphone resources.
pwa development

As usual, with any type of technology, you can either do something yourself or delegate (outsource). With the latter, you might want to contact a reliable web development company or follow a semi-outsourcing path and try a special builder. By choosing a professional company, you can choose from a wide variety of services - they can, for example, turn WordPress to PWA or make a custom angular js web app convert into a PWA.

If you do want to try converting it yourself, make sure your existing application is relatively new - which means it’s responsive, has HTTPS, and can manage intermittent connections. If the app meets all these requirements, you can safely acquire the following two essential elements - a service worker and an app manifest file.

The service worker is a JavaScript file acting as an intermediary that enables the background communication between a client and a server for smooth offline work, updates, and caching. The app manifest is a JSON file that announces the PWA’s existence and role to the browser and supplies valuable app metadata and startup parameters. 

You can now start to convert web app to progressive web app. For a basic website or web app, the simplest course of action is the following:

  1. Create the previously mentioned manifest file and place it in your own directory.
  2. Make the app visible to the user trying to install it later by connecting the manifest file to the HTML template - try to find as base of a template as you can, for example - index.html.
  3. Create and register your service worker next, then set it up by creating a separate worker file in the directory, ideally at the corresponding level as the scope in the manifest file.
  4. Install, activate, and fetch your service worker.
  5. Deploy!

Here you can learn more about the framework support of PWA if you have an Angular app, React, or Vue.js. Also, check out this link to find comprehensive code snippets and more thorough explanations of the previous steps from developers. 

You can contact our team if you’re also keen on converting a native iOS app to a progressive web app and want more advice.

Do You Really Need a PWA?

Based on recent statistics and our team’s experience, progressive web apps have become a great addition and a cost-efficient alternative to mobile or web apps. It’s still not the first solution that pops into people’s minds when they consider developing an application for their business, but the process has already started. Besides, the need for articles and guides on how to convert web app to mobile app is the sign we’re moving in the right direction.

PWAJuly 5, 2021
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