Converting Your Website to a Progressive Web App – Why & How?

6 min read
Converting Your Website to a Progressive Web App - Why & How?

The world of technology evolves constantly. It aims at improving the lives of people worldwide. That’s why software development evolved from websites and web portals to mobile apps. Now, it’s surging a step further, to progressive web apps.

Progressive web apps are just application software delivered through the web or in simple words, just a web app. It offers app-like experience making use of modern web capabilities and app advantages. A progressive web app focuses on the core web-page first and then progressively adds layers of presentation and features on it based on the user’s browser and internet connection capabilities. 

Why Do We Need Progressive Web Apps?

Like every new technology, the concept of progressive web apps is again to add convenience to people by combining the benefits of both websites and mobile apps and eliminate some limitations of both.

A research study from Google suggests that brands using PWAs noticed an increase in page views to around 134% and around 42% lower bounce rate compared to a similar mobile website. Brands have benefitted significantly by an increase in the overall engagement by 137% and in conversion rates by 52% (Source). This results from the enormous advantages that PWAs offer over websites.

Progressive web apps are platform-independent, reliable, fast, and engaging. Users can save the progressive web apps on their mobile devices in the same way as mobile applications and can access these offline too. These are responsive and adapt well to multiple devices including computers, tablets, mobiles, etc.

Safety is another major benefit of progressive web apps due to transport layer security (TLS). A mandatory element of these apps is service workers that run only with TLS or on HTTPS.

For users, progressive web apps offer numerous benefits to include ease of setup and automatic updates. These apps get installed instantly on users’ home screens and no app store is needed. Besides, these are connectivity independent and enable the users to work offline and the data is synchronized on network restoration.

With the major files getting locally cached, these apps ensure faster performance to the users. Bonus is the fact that it enables easy sharing through just the URL.

Well, with so many benefits, PWA can be expected to benefit businesses significantly. Researches also indicate that a large number of users are reluctant to visit app stores and download/install apps. Not just this is time and space-consuming, it also exposes their device to security threats. PWAs also eliminate these hassles for the users.

As above, overall progressive web apps offer great user experience and better engagement. These thus ultimately help businesses earn better user-base and profits.

So, the next obvious question is how easily can you convert your website to a progressive web app and surge your business?

Conversion of your Website to Progressive Web App – How?

Before going into the steps for conversion of your website to a progressive web app, it is important to understand what major functionalities we need to add.

The goal is to ensure that basic content and functionality should be accessible to all web browsers. Then, as the name Progressive Web App suggests, enhancement in layout and behavior is added.

The important and mandatory elements and steps required in successful conversion to progressive web apps are discussed here. 

1. Switching to HTTPS

To convert to PWA, you need to switch from HTTP to HTTPS. But, why?

Well, a significant requirement of conversion to PWA is service workers. But service workers work only across secure connections. So, to convert your website to PWA, it is important to add transport layer security (TLS) and switch to HTTPS. So, how to do this?

Transport layer security protocol assures security and helps safeguard against unauthorized access. For switching to HTTPS, you need to avail of the SSL certificate. As a precautionary measure, take a full back-up to secure data. Then, update all the internal links to HTTPS.

2. Adding Service Workers

Another major requirement of a PWA is the ability to work offline. This is achieved through service workers. So, service workers are a significant element in the process of conversion to PWA.

A service worker in technical terms is a JavaScript file, a scriptable network proxy acting between the browser and host, enabling offline and other PWA capabilities to the website. These leverage the cache mechanisms to enable an error-free offline experience.

There are three major steps for adding service workers to include registration, installation, and activation. Registration is the process of telling the location of the service worker to the browser for installation. Installation applies when there is no service worker already installed in the browser or if there is an update to the service worker. Service worker activation is needed when all of the PWAs pages are closed to prevent any conflict between the previous version and the updated one (Source).

Service workers also impart the benefits of low storage, real-time updates, search engine visibility, better speed, and improved performance to the progressive web apps.

3. Create the JSON File – Web App Manifest

A web app manifest is a JSON file that provides developers a centralized place to put the metadata for the application, web application or progressive web application (Source). This necessary metadata includes the name of the application, links to images and icons, preferred launch URL for the app, default orientation, app configuration data, description, scope, theme color, display options, etc.

This JSON file (web app manifest) provides all the information to tell the browser how to display the app. So, you need to add this manifest to your HTML template.

4. Test Your Progressive Web App

No process is complete without testing. So, having switched to HTTPS, added the service workers, and created the web app manifest, you now need to apply some checks or tests to confirm a successful conversion of your website to a progressive web app.

Next, confirm that the service worker is registered in developer tools. If it is successfully installed for the currently open page, it should be listed in the application panel under the service workers tab. Whenever a new page loads, updated service workers should activate immediately.

Besides, check the offline capability. The homepage must load offline from the second visit onwards. And, in the cache, you should be able to see “index.html” and “images/”.

Wrapping Up

Progressive web apps are the future of software development across the globe. And, the best part is that it is so easy to convert your site to a progressive web app!

So, use these simple tips to create or convert to progressive web apps. Our team at Blue Whale Apps leverages its experience to deliver up-to-date development products to our clients. If you need our assistance in building a Progressive Web App or just converting to one, Contact Us!