27Sep 2021

7 Best Tools to Leverage for Progressive Web App Development

The popularity of progressive websites has been growing rapidly as a new approach to building apps using JavaScript, HTML, and CSS but push their usability and performance close to the level of native apps.

The following are capabilities that make progressive websites different from traditional websites.

Unlike traditional websites progressive web apps must:

  • Have a responsive design that fits all screen sizes
  • Work with nearly all devices and browsers, both desktop and mobile, powered by a progressive codebase
  • Offer app-like experiences leveraging re-engagement tools like push notifications
  • Use HTTPS in leveraging service workers to make offline connectivity possible
  • Use web app manifests in describing used resources

If you’re just getting started with building progressive web apps, you could consider checking out Google’s guide.

It’ll help you through the process of making your very first progressive web application.

In this article, we will cover the best tools you can use to make the process of making progressive web apps run as smoothly as possible.

But first, let’s define progressive web apps and find out their benefits.

What Are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)?

For years, web developers had struggled to combine the power of mobile app development with that of web development.

The two areas had remained relatively separate. Things began to change in 2015 when the development community came up with several frameworks and tools that could blend mobile and web development in a way that improved reachability and performance.

Soon, the term progressive web apps began making rounds coined by Alex Russell, who was then a Google Chrome engineer.

He came up with PWAs because native apps were not delivering as deep an immersive experience as he sought.

Unlike native apps, PWAs have a high potential for adaptation: they are adaptable to various devices, platforms, and hardware.

The idea behind PWAs is to enhance web applications making them deliver experiences that are as close to those of native apps as possible.

Progressive web apps provide offer features like push notifications; offline accessibility; and access to device storage, camera, and microphone. They also provide room for fast loading.

Benefits of Progressive Web Apps

benefits-of-progressive-web-apps

The following are some of the benefits of leveraging progressive web applications:

Improved engagement and conversions

In comparison with regular websites, progressive web apps offer significantly higher engagement rates. Their conversion rates are also often higher because their appearance, user experience, and behavior are very app-like.

Technical advantages

PWAs have certain technical advantages that make web developers prefer them. This includes their lightweight nature and ease of installation. Compared to desktop or native apps, they’re easy to install and load.

They’re extremely responsive and adaptive, characteristics that give them notable technical advantages over native applications.

Short time to market

Unlike traditional websites, PWAs have a shorter development time as their codebase is shared across various platforms.

What’s more, there are certain tools and frameworks (e.g. JavaScript) that can speed up development even more.

Endorsement by major platforms

Google and Microsoft’s decision to use progressive web apps for Android and Windows respectively has boosted their popularity.

The two companies also accept them in their app stores and provide developers with the necessary tools, evaluations, and enhancements to encourage their use.

Big corporations’ buy-in

Today, many famous brands have embraced progressive web apps, further increasing their popularity. Some of these corporations include:

  • Uber
  • Spotify
  • The New York Times
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • BMW
  • Starbucks
  • Forbes
  • Alibaba
  • Pinterest
  • Wikipedia

The Best Tools for Progressive Web App Development

The following are seven of the most robust technological tools for developing progressive web apps:

Polymer

polymer-development-tool

Web developers love using Polymer as a template to simplify the set-up process when building PWAs.

Polymer is a built-by-Google open-source JavaScript framework. It has an array of PWA tools and templates and has one of the most comprehensive documentation. It is quite helpful when syncing data with various devices.

It is a good option when creating reusable components. A polymer is an excellent option when you want a simplified and optimized development process with readily available APIs and PRPL patterns.

It is the quickest way to build prototypes because it allows you to bypass custom setup and go straight to working on your project’s code.

Webpack

webpack-development

Developers that want to get started immediately with their project’s code would fancy Polymer, but there are times when they may need or want to create custom apps.

In such situations, Webpack is the way to go. Webpack streamlines the process of making dependency graphs that eliminate the need to manage dependencies.

As a result, developers need not link JS files at the bottom of HTML web pages.

The move to ES6 or CommonJS significantly reduces calls from and to a server, and ultimately results in a faster app.

Using Webpack, none-code assets like fonts, CSS, and images have notable speed benefits because they are called as objects via JavaScript.

Webpack is especially helpful when creating complex, front-end focused progressive websites.

Knockout

Some developers find Knockout an excellent solution for building progressive, lightweight websites without the need to use versatile frameworks like React.

Knockout is often combined with JavaScript to manage Model-View-ViewModel (MVVM) bindings. Its library, only 13KB,  needs no extensive rewrites before being added to existing websites.

And even with its small size, the library still has an enviable number of functionalities.

Knockout is especially an excellent choice for smaller development projects that need speedy execution. You could consider it during your design sprints when developing proofs of concept.

So, why Knockout and not React? Firstly, because Knockout can be used to extend HTML, making it easier to learn and eliminating the need for JSX.

Secondly, because using Knockout means you can leverage its templating that minimizes DOM elements’ duplication and, as a result, simplifies the process of building complex applications.

This means that even not-so-experienced developers can learn its workings fast enough. Knockout also comes with an array of attributes that in other tools would have to be coded in competing frameworks like Backbone.js.

AngularJS

angular-js

AngularJS is one of the most mature PWA development technologies, perhaps because it is also one of the oldest.

Its AndroidJS 5 version is particularly designed to help developers build PWAs.

AngularJS is equipped with the technologies that developers need to add functionalities, and as a result, simplified the building of PWAs.

What’s more, AngularJS boasts of a large, active community that keeps up with Google’s regular updates.

React

react-web-development

Before you embark on building progressive web apps, you must choose the right core framework.

Reach is often a preferred core framework for many developers mainly because it is on this framework that Reach Native is based.

This means that you can easily port the apps you build with React to most native apps.

What’s more, given that Facebook manages and supports React, it is a clear demonstration of the framework’s resilience, having been tested rigorously with the social media giant’s over one billion active daily users.

ReactJS has a component-centric approach to web development and is perhaps its greatest appeal. The components, built using JavaScript, can easily be reused.

In addition, the JS libraries allow developers to generate client-side and server-side rendered pages, API integrations and routing.

Furthermore, ReactJS has excellent documentation, a vast development community, ecosystem backing, and extensive libraries.

Ionic

ionic-web-development

Ionic is a framework designed for building web apps created using JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. It is also quite popular for creating hybrid mobile applications.

For years (from its inception in 2013 to 2019), it relied on Angular components to function, meaning its use was limited to the building of very basic apps.

However, from 2019 when Ionic 4 made its debut, this has changed. Today, Ionic has an extremely flexible tech stack that allows developers to use competing frameworks like Vue, Angular, and React to build their applications.

What’s more, the Ionic framework has a library of more than 250 pre-built plugins that developers can use to add native-device functionalities.

Ionic’s rich toolkit includes functionalities like pre-built routing, unit tests, and UI elements. It is especially preferable for developers moving from PhoneGap/Cordova to responsive web apps and cross-platform development for mobile applications.

That said, the performance of apps built with this tool have a glaring weakness: because it uses the browser to render graphic elements, it often defers the time full images show on screen in media-heavy apps.

Lighthouse

lighthouse-web-development

Lighthouse is a performance monitoring tool that Google created for progressive web apps. It is designed to ensure PWAs’ quality and check for any issues before they’re launched.

Lighthouse analyzes a website through various criteria then lists for you the factors to review towards making the site a PWA. You can use Lighthouse to check your code as the final part of your PWA development process.

Lighthouse installs as a Chrome plugin allowing developers to run tests from their browsers by clicking the Lighthouse icon in the toolbar and adding the URL of the site you wish to analyze in the analysis bar.

Conclusion

More than at any other time in the past, progressive web technologies have become the go-to way of building websites and applications.

While their value is indisputable, developers must still choose the right PWA tools if they’re to make the most of the possibilities fronted by PWA technologies.

Analyzing the various tools available will help you decide on the frameworks to use at different stages of your development process.

When choosing the frameworks to use, keep in mind the complexity, size, and expected scalability of your PWA as well as the interactive and media elements those web apps will have.

The type and size of PWA you want to build will inform the tools you can use.

In addition, consider the expertise and experience of your developers; ask yourself whether they have what it takes to maintain and, when the time comes, upgrade your web app.

PWAs are still maturing and browser vendors like Google, Microsoft, and Apple provide updates at least quarterly.

So, keep an eye on the updates to learn about new solutions and how you can leverage them to improve your PWA projects.

Acodez is a renowned web development company and web application development company in India. We offer all kinds of web design and Mobile app development services to our clients using the latest technologies. We are also a leading digital marketing company providing SEO, SMM, SEM, Inbound marketing services, etc at affordable prices. For further information, please contact us.

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Jamsheer K

Jamsheer K

Jamsheer K, is the Tech Lead at Acodez. With his rich and hands-on experience in various technologies, his writing normally comes from his research and experience in mobile & web application development niche.

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