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7 Tools for Developing Your First Progressive Web App

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UX has been the focal point of modern web development for quite some time now. This is influenced by several factors, including page loading speed, readability, usability, and design. But now that more users prefer mobile web browsing over using desktops, any website—be it a niche blog or an e-commerce store—should start prioritizing mobile friendliness.

Nowadays, it’s easy to apply a mobile-responsive theme and use tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to receive additional recommendations on how to optimize your site. But if you want to take things to the next level, you can develop a Progressive Web App (PWA) to deliver fresh and memorable new experiences to your mobile users.

What’s a Progressive Web App?

A PWA leverages modern web technologies to enable app-like features. Unlike traditional mobile websites, a PWA doesn’t have to refresh the entire page when loading new content—nor does it need internet connectivity to be accessible. They’re also installable, meaning users can easily reuse them by adding a home screen shortcut.

Progressive web applications have the potential to be the next big thing for the mobile web. This was originally proposed by Google just a couple of years back in 2015. But, within such a short time, it has already attracted a lot of attention because it’s relatively easy to develop and for the application’s user experience delivery.

—Rahul Varshneya, cofounder of app development company Arkenea.

A PWA is a big project that might lead the direction of your mobile web presence in the future. But if you’re completely new to PWAs, here are 7 tools and resources that will put you on the right track:

1. PWA.rocks

When it comes to developing a PWA, you need to have a deeper understanding on what they are capable of.   

To see PWAs in action, you can refer to PWA.rocks for examples under several categories, including business, games, shopping, and social. This will help you visualize what your future PWA could look like. You can also borrow inspiration from the available examples when conceptualizing what your PWA will offer mobile users. 

2. Knockout

Knockout is a free, open source tool that can help you with Model-View-View Model or MVVM bindings. This allows you to simplify the process of coding JavaScript UIs by letting you define views and declarative bindings that are controlled by viewmodel properties.

The platform runs purely on JavaScript, which works with all major browsers and any web framework. The Knockout library can also easily be integrated with existing websites without extensive rewrites.

3. PWABuilder

The fastest way to create a PWA is to use PWABuilder and quickly build a service worker for offline functionality, which works by pulling and serving the “offline.html” from your web server whenever users lose internet connectivity. You can also submit your PWA to the app store for Android and iOS devices.

To use PWABuilder, all you need to do is insert your website’s URL and then fill in the additional details like your name, site description, and preferred icon. You can also easily modify certain properties such as your PWA’s screen orientation, language, and background color. The platform will then automatically generate a manifest based on the information you provide. 

4. AngularJS

JavaScript is usually the introductory language learned by students who wish to learn web development. If you’re an experienced Java or .NET developer, then AngularJS is one of the best JavaScript frameworks you can use for web applications. Even so, their website offers a ton of guides, tutorials, and resources that will help you learn your way around the platform.

The latest version, Angular v4.0, provides the same environment whether you’re developing for mobile or desktop. In case you think Angular is too complex for your needs, you may opt instead for React—a JavaScript library tailored to UI development. Another alternative is Polymer, which can provide you with templates and other reusable components that can speed up the process of PWA development. 

5. Google Developers

A PWA is not exactly a DIY project for self-made bloggers or affiliate marketers, but it can still be done with the right resources. If you already have experience with content management systems but are clueless about developing web applications, then you can get the basics down through Google Developersa library of resources that can help you learn how to code.

Google Developers have a comprehensive tutorial on how PWAs work, how to build one, and how to make it run correctly. It also covers other basics such as enabling the “add to home screen banner” and using HTTPS.

6. Webpack

Webpack is an extremely useful tool for bundling your JavaScript app resources, including non-code assets like fonts and images. These will be treated as JavaScript objects, which in turn allows them to be loaded faster. The platform also makes it significantly easier to manage dependencies.

Just remember that Webpack has a steep learning curve, meaning you could be looking at hours of browsing for tutorials and guides. However, the learning resources and documentation available on their website aren’t beginner-friendly. The good news is, Webpack is widely covered in other sites, including Angular 4.0’s documentation section.

7. GitHub

Finally, GitHub is a community-driven website that maintains repositories of projects. It covers a broad range of programming-related topics, including JavaScript and PWA service workers. In fact, you can find the PWA.rocks and Webpack repositories within the platform. This will help you deepen your understanding or even contribute to further development.

Today, there’s a handful of repositories involving PWAs on GitHub. You can learn from these projects or start your own repository as you experiment with your first PWA. GitHub now also has project management features, allowing you to seamlessly collaborate with other developers remotely.   

Conclusion

Progressive Web Apps are the future of mobile web experiences, but not a lot of brands currently use them. With the tools above, you’re now fully capable of creating a standout PWA and establishing an authoritative presence. Just take note that PWA tools, resources, and practices evolve with the constantly evolving technologies of major online browsers.

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