“Progressive Web App” (PWA) is a term coined around 2015 to describe websites that operate like native apps and meets a set of criteria for the functionality the PWA takes advantage of.
Progressively enhancing the user experience
“Progressive” refers to “progressive enhancement”, which is starting from a simpler core of content and functionality and then adding on to it with additional features the user’s web browser supports. This allows older web browsers and devices to not miss out on a beneficial experience.
Baseline PWA functionality isn’t 100% just yet
Compliance with the minimum “baseline” technology criteria defined by Google for a PWA is already being required on recent web browser releases (including Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge).
For example, iOS only recently added some support for PWAs in March 2018, to which there are several bugs and limitations to keep in mind. Some of them are rather restrictive too, like the user’s session in the app restarts every time the PWA is opened.
Further, while a PWA can be added to the user’s “home” like a native app, PWAs are still severely limited by what functionality it can take advantage of that native apps have access to, such as “In App Payments”.
PWAs are now the best approach for a website
Despite the current limitations, PWAs are now the best approach for a website and PWA incorporates responsive website design that works (adjusts to accommodate size and content placements) across desktop and mobile devices.
On top of being responsive, the requirements of PWA promote more usable websites in less than ideal conditions, such as slow or spotty internet, reducing user frustration. Combined with other newer technologies PWA will continue to improve the user experience.
PWAs allow easier adoption of future enhancements
Designing from the start as a PWA allows a site to take advantage of new future PWA functionality as more web browsers adopt support. Since the PWA is already built to be “progressive”, taking advantage of functionality enhancements released at a later date becomes a simpler matter of adding on to the website rather than needing to go back and do a complete redevelopment.
As platforms like iOS resolve the various issues the PWA will naturally improve as well.