This is a really nice write-up by Sydney of the chat we had on her podcast.
I really enjoyed talking to Sydney Lai about progressive web apps, resilient web design, and all my other hobby horses.
Alas, there’s no transcript and I can’t find a direct link to the RSS feed or the individual audio file on the podcast website so it’s not huffduffable.
Paul goes into detail describing how he built a progressive web app that’s actually progressive (in the sense of “enhancement”). Most of the stuff about sharing code between server and client goes over my head, but I understood enough to get these points:
- the “app shell” model is not the only—or even the best—way of building a progressive web app, and
- always, always, always render from the server first.
The slides from Calum’s presentation about progressive web apps. There are links throughout to some handy resources.
This primer on progressive web apps starts by dispelling some myths:
- Your thing does not have to be an “Application” to be a PWA.
- PWAs are not specifically made for Google or Android.
- PWAs are ready and safe to use today.
Then it describes the three-step programme for turning your thing into a progressive web app:
- The Manifest.
- Go HTTPS.
- The Service Worker.
Of all the sites to pick to demo progressive web apps, we get the cesspit that is Hacker News …I guess it is possible to polish a turd.
Anyway, here are some examples of using frameworks to create alternative Hacker News readers. So the challenge here is to display some text to read..
That’s right: React appears in both. See, it’s not about the tools; it’s about how you use ‘em.
A step-by-step guide to building progressive web apps. It covers promises, service workers, fetch, and cache, but seeing as it’s from Google, it also pushes the app-shell model.
This is a handy resource but I strongly disagree with some of the advice in the section on architectures (the same bit that gets all swoonsome for app shells):
Start by forgetting everything you know about conventional web design, and instead imagine designing a native app.
Avoid overly “web-like” design.
What a horribly limiting vision for the web! After all that talk about being progressive and responsive, we’re told to pretend we’re imitating native apps on one device type.
What’s really disgusting is the way that the Chrome team are withholding the “add to home screen” prompt from anyone who dares to make progressive web apps that are actually, y’know …webby.
Andrew picks out his favourite bits from this year’s Google I/O, covering web payments, CSS containment, and—of course—Service Workers and progressive web apps, although he does note (and I concur):
I wish Google would focus as much attention on ‘normal’ sites that perform navigations as they do on so called ‘app-shell’ (which is just a new name for single-page apps, as far as I can tell), but then many people will be building SPAs and these recipes will make those apps fly. In news publishing we seem to flip flop between traditional page navigations and SPAs, but I’ve never found a SPA news site (or a native app) that I really like more than a normal website. Maybe a really good progressive web app will change that. But I’m not convinced.
Still, as he says:
All this really just underscores how flexible ServiceWorker is and that with it we can disagree on what the right solution is, but we can all get what we want anyway.
Jason looks at the business reasons for and against building progressive web apps. In short, there’s everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Seriously, why would you not add a Service Worker and a manifest file to your site? (assuming you’re already on HTTPS)
Cameron looks back on his 2007 Mobile Web Design book:
I don’t anticipate native apps will die off anytime soon. But I’m warming to the idea that they may be less relevant to the future of the web, and I reaffirm that “a browser will be — or should be — sufficient for interacting with web content.”
Progressive web apps are poised to be remarkably relevant to the future of the web. Let’s not screw it up.
If you’re going to make a manifest file for an existing site, start with this very handy tool. You give it the URL of your site and it then parses the content for existing metadata to create a best first stab at a manifest JSON file.
A good impartial overview of progressive web apps, as described at the most recent Google I/O. This is very telling:
The term also begs the question; what is the difference between websites and apps? It seems many of the new capabilities fit well for any dynamic website, not just apps.
Anyhow. It’s good to have an umbrella term to talk about these things.
Google have asked me to moderate a panel on the second day of this event in Amsterdam dedicated to progressive web apps. Very brave of them, considering some of my recent posts.
Progressive web apps – let’s not repeat the errors from the beginning of responsive web design | justmarkup
Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it:
When people learned about responsive design, there were many wrong assumptions. The iPhone and early Android phones all had the same screen size (320x480px) and people thought it is a good idea to change the design based on these device-specific sizes.
We wouldn’t do that now, right? We wouldn’t attempt to create something that’s supposed to be a progressive web app, only to make it device-specific, right?
We are still at the beginning of learning about the best ways to build Progressive Web Apps. I hope it will make many more people aware of progressive enhancement. I hope that nobody makes the error again and concentrates on the device part.
Smart thinking from Alex on how browsers could better indicate that a website is a progressive web app (and would therefore benefit from being added to the home screen). Ambient badging, he calls it.
Wouldn’t it be great if there were a button in the URL bar that appeared whenever you landed on a PWA that you could always tap to save it to your homescreen? A button that showed up in the top-level UI only when on a PWA? Something that didn’t require digging through menus and guessing about “is this thing going to work well when launched from the homescreen?”
I agree with everything Andrew says here. Progressive web apps are great, but as long as Google heap praise on mobile-only solutions (like the Washington Post doorslam) and also encourage separate AMP sites, they’re doing a great disservice to the web.
More features arrive regularly to make this “one web” even better and easier to maintain. Service worker, streams, app manifests, payment request, to name a few. But adding these features one at a time to large, mature applications like WaPo or FT or Nikkei is a slow and painstaking process. That’s why it’s taking us a long time for us to tick off all these new features, and why it seems like madness to try and build the entire app several times over.
However, by creating the concept of PWAs and marketing them as they do, Google is encouraging publishers to ‘start again’. And they’re doing exactly the same thing with AMP.
Dave turned Day Trip into a progressive web app.
Starting this week, Android users (~13% of our active user base) who use DayTrip more than once will eventually be asked if they want to install our web app to their Home Screen. That’s important real estate for a small startup like ourselves.
In the web developer community’s collective drive to be more App Like and compete with native apps we may lose or weaken some of the web’s strongest features and we need to consider carefully before we throw away urls or the entire browser chrome in an effort to look like and behave like the cool kids of native.