Mobile Development

How to build Progressive Web Apps in React?

Marlena Walburg

Progressive Web Applications is a concept that has long remained in the sphere of Steve Jobs’ dreams. Initially, they were supposed to be the flagship app type of iPhone app, but the community was not yet ready for the idea. That is why, after many years, it was Google and Microsoft that initiated a new era of web applications, which are now a standard and technology willingly used by giants. It’s a great solution to increase your online visibility and boost your brand awareness. By using the potential and possibilities of React, it seems that the recipe for success is sure. Here is a dose of knowledge on how to build PWAs in React. 

What are Progressive Web Apps?

Progressive Internet applications, as the name suggests, are web-based. They run like regular websites in the browser but look like native applications. PWA was created as a response to the needs of users who wanted a more attractive, faster and richer experience than that offered by Internet applications at the time. PWAs are typically created using web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. They work on any platform that has a standards-compliant web browser installed. They offer a user interface that almost does not differ from the interface of native applications, which makes them a direct competition to ordinary web applications and often win in their duel. PWAs should have such features, support for push notifications, such as working offline, access to specific built-in device functions, background processing of service employees in a separate thread, and an icon on the phone’s home screen. PWA does not need to be downloaded and installed from application stores such as the Apple App Store or Google Play because it works in the browser. Nevertheless, the largest app stores have started using PWA to varying degrees, to the benefit of developers of such applications.

Why go for a PWA?

Progressive Web Apps are cost-effective, business-friendly tools. They have many advantages and are worth considering, if only because of the speed of their development. What other benefits do they bring?

Fast, relatively cheap development

The cost of PWA development is much lower compared to other application types, as you do not need to create separate versions of it for each platform. This development process does not require separate teams, only one for one PWA. PWA simply works in a browser on every operating system. It has a positive effect on the project budget. This approach is much faster than creating a native app that needs to be developed separately for Android and iOS and does not need to be approved in app stores.     

Offline mode

Unlike most websites, PWAs work even when users are offline or have a poor internet connection. This offline mode in PWA allows users to view the offer and available products or to edit orders. Ordinary online stores, without the internet, will not allow such activities.

Speed and accessibility

Speed of action is one of the most important features of PWA. This is an extremely important factor when it comes to a good user experience. In conjunction with the ability to work offline, PWAs allow access to the application virtually at any time. PWA, using Service Workers to store detailed information and functions, can load them immediately after accessing the application. This makes PWAs much faster than other applications. They are accessed like a regular website, but the PWA can be pinned to the home screen of the device. It is a much more convenient one-click solution. 

Push notifications

This is another significant feature of PWA. Thanks to the push notifications, you have much more possibilities to reach mobile users. They do not have to provide any personal data or applications, and this can visibly increase their involvement. This, in turn, can translate into boosted sales, brand awareness and the achievement of goals. Push notifications come from native apps. PWA also offers them, which affects their native-like look and feel. PWA notifications can be used for such tasks as notifying the user about promotions, product launch, etc. This feature is based on the Service Workers that it uses to listen for “push events” provided by the push notification service. When an event is triggered, a notification is sent to the user’s device, even if the browser is not active. Push notifications are sent directly from the server to the web push service and contain the information needed by the push service to send them to the right recipient.

Higher conversion rate

PWA provides a better user experience, smoother navigation through the application, and thanks to Service Workers, such applications run much faster. PWA also offers a lot of native functions, so, for example, when switching from a native application to PWA, we do not have to lose them. The convenience of using PWA, in turn, translates into a higher conversion rate.

PWA development basics

Now that you know the concept of Progressive Web Apps, it is time to move on to issues related more to its development. PWA has several technologies at its base. They are the factors that influence the excellent performance of PWA, as well as other exquisite features of such an app.

Service Workers

The Service Worker is a type of JavaScript file made from a background HTML page that implements a programmable web proxy that can respond to web requests from the main document. It can check the availability of a remote server and cache the content when that server is available and make it available later to a document. Service workers work independently of the main context of the document. They can handle push notifications and synchronize data in the background, cache or retrieve resource requests, intercept network requests, etc. In short – it is responsible for handling network requests and managing response caching.

Web App Manifest

The web application manifest is a JSON-based file that specifies the main metadata associated with the web application. There is information such as the name of the app, the preferred URL for launching or opening the web application, configuration data, the ability to set the display mode, default orientation, etc.

Application shell

PWAs also use an architectural approach known as the application shell. This element allows PWA to preserve the native feel and can significantly reduce loading times. The application shell is not loaded each time the PWA is started but is cached once and then displayed with or without internet connectivity.

Why is React perfect for PWA Development?

React is an open-source JavaScript library used to create graphical interfaces for web applications. Facebook created it to build them in a simpler, faster and scalable way. React supports many features that make development work easier, such as Hot Reload. Besides, it is distinguished by a virtual DOM and the use of a JavaScript extension, JSX, which adds the ability to insert HTML code or React components, directly into the code, instead of a string. React has several key features that make it great for PWA development. 

Rich, well-equipped toolkit

React includes many development tools and libraries that make many of the developers’ tasks easier. These means are designed to simplify the design, debugging and testing processes. React gives a lot of freedom. Developers have many options to choose from, and they are not imposed on them. They can choose a solution depending on the needs. React has tools such as Ant Design, React Developer Tools, Semantic UI React.

Powerful

React is a good choice for building robust, efficient, and scalable web applications. React stores the application’s entire DOM in memory, and after a state change, looks for differences between the virtual and real DOMs and updates the changes. Thus, rendering problems are eliminated. React allows you to make changes to the page in virtual memory. It is lighter than many other libraries.

Supports SEO

You can rely on React to keep your page visible in search results. It enables server-side rendering, which helps Google bots to better index your PWA. Thanks to the virtual DOM, PWA performance is much better, page loading much faster, which is also important in the case of SEO. The combination of PWA and React features create a well-optimized whole that is beneficial for your business.

How to create a PWA with React?

When searching the internet for the term: how to create a progressive web application in React.js, the most common tactic is to use Create React App. This is the officially supported way to build React applications. The CRA environment helps to install and load the application with a few commands that must be entered in the terminal.

npx create-react-app my-app
cd my-app
npm start

Here, npx is the command-line utility to run npm packages. create-react-app my-app creates an application named “my-pwa”.
npm start will run the application in development mode.

Then you can open http: // localhost: 3000 / to see your app.

The next step is to register the Service Worker, the template of which is provided by the CRA application. You can add the src/service-worker.js file to your project to take advantage of the built-in support for the InjectManifest Workbox plugin, which will compile your Service Worker and inject a URL list into it for pre-caching. If you assume you will not be using Service Workers, or want to use a different approach to it, do not create src/service-worker.js. Service workers require HTTPS (but to facilitate local testing, this policy does not apply to localhost). If the production web server does not support HTTPS, Service Worker registration will fail, but the rest of the web application will continue to work.

The default configuration includes the web application manifest located at public/manifest.json, which can be customized with web application-specific details.

Once deployed to a secure web server, assuming you have done everything correctly, you should be able to install the application on your home screen or desktop computer. When a PWA is added to the home screen using Chrome or Firefox on Android, the metadata in the manifest.json file determines what icons, brand names, and colours to use when displaying the web application. So added Progressive Web Applications will load faster and will run offline when the service worker is active. Even so, metadata from the web application manifest will continue to be used whether or not you choose to enrol a service worker.

These are just the basics of building a PWA in React. If you want this work to be done by experienced developers, do not hesitate to outsource such a project to them. At BinarApps, we also work with React. Feel free to contact us.

How Progressive Web Apps can drive business success

Considering the advantages of PWA, it is safe to say that this solution can bring greater success to many companies. Let’s take a closer look at how it does this.

Having a platform or application, after some time, a company may notice that it does not attract so much traffic and the number of customers is not satisfactory. When investigating the needs of users, as well as the current capabilities of your platform, you may find that it works too slowly, the loading time is long, or it takes up too much space on the device and is quickly removed from it. PWAs are the solution to all of these problems. Thanks to the speed of operation, push notifications, and a beautiful user interface, it will attract customers and keep them for longer. Hence, PWA can have a positive impact on the flourishing of your business. Users will start spending more time on your platform, your conversion rates will improve, and customers will be more likely to come back to you.

Another aspect that helps your business is the easy accessibility of PWA. PWA installation is hassle-free with one click and is faster than with regular applications. Although users choose to download an application if they are sure they will use it, installing PWA is so easy that they may be more likely to do so. Once your PWA is installed, users can launch it with a single click from the home screen icon. Moreover, PWAs do not take up as much memory space as native applications. It’s a good idea to have a good PWA download promotion strategy to maximize the number of users who will do it. As with mobile applications, the users who install PWA are usually the most engaged. Having your platform at hand, they will come back to it more often and for longer, which is important for your business. 

It is also worth paying attention to the potential of push notifications. They help build engagement and encourage a return to the app. However, remember to implement good practices when sending such notifications so as not to discourage users and even spam them with information. It is best to give them a choice of when they want to receive them, be it their favorite product, promotions, order status, etc. Nevertheless, it is a feature that provides great business value, increasing the number of recurring visits and thereby increasing conversions and sales.

Summary

How do you like the idea of building a PWA in React? It would certainly bring many possibilities and benefits to your business. Maybe it is worth creating just such an application and conquering the market? Many global brands have proved that it is achievable. 

Table of contents

Subscribe for weekly updates


    You may also be interested in...

    Let's bring your project to life

    Request a consultation