How to Build a Progressive Web App (PWAs) with React

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Apps were just a mere idea when it was first introduced decades ago. People didn’t have any idea about how these apps were going to change their lives completely.

If you asked a person about apps 15 years ago, the answer would have been different than that of today. But, as of now, all of our daily lives revolve around these applications.

From these apps emerged another concept of apps, known as Progressive Web Applications or in short, PWAs. Now you might be wondering how they differ from traditional apps.

I’ll ask you to hold on because that’s what we are going to talk about in this blog.

Once you finish reading this thoroughly, you’ll get an idea of what is PWA, its features, components, and how one can build them using React. Now, let’s get started with the basics.

What are PWAs?

How would you feel if you could access some parts of your application without an internet connection? You’d love it right?! Well, to be precise that’s what a progressive web application does. It allows you to access some parts of an app without having a proper internet connection.

Wondering how it happens? Basically, PWAs use cache memory to load pre-loaded data and showcase it to its users. Spotify is the best example of a PWA since you can have access to your downloaded music without having an internet connection.

I hope it has started making sense to you. Furthermore, these applications are faster, more reliable, and smaller in size than traditional applications. Basically, it joints the features of a native app and a web app and gives you the advantage of both in one.

The best thing about progressive web applications is that they are less expensive than traditional apps and are used by tech giants like Uber, Twitter, Pinterest, Spotify, Tinder, and many others.

Features of Progressive Web Apps

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1. Fully Responsive & Browser Compatible

Progressive web applications are built to adapt to different screen sizes and provide full responsiveness while operating them. Moreover, these apps are compatible with all the commonly used browsers, making them a great choice.

2. Discoverability & Easy Installation

PWAs are easily discoverable because of search engine optimization and their URLs, making them easy to be found on the web. Installation of PWAs is similar to the Native apps and can be easily added to the home screen of the user.

3. Automatic Updates

This is a nice feature of PWAs that they don’t need to be manually updated as they can are built to update automatically without any effort. This ensures that the user is running an app with automatic bug and error fixes.

4. Safety & Security

PWAs are safe to use and protect the sensitive data of their users like traditional applications. They function via HTTPS, which means that no unauthorized user can have access to their data.

5. Offline Functionality

This is the most advanced feature of a PWA and it can work with minimum or no internet connection. PWAs usually store the data in cache memory and reload the data when there’s a network shortage.

6. App Like Feeling

PWAs have Native apps like interface that works seamlessly on different devices, like smartphones, desktop, and tablets. These apps are smaller in size which is why they have a faster loading time than traditional apps, making them a preferred choice for users nowadays.

Components of Progressive Web Apps

1. Responsive App Design

Progressive web applications are designed to be responsive and adapt to different screen sizes and orientations to provide a consistent user experience to different devices like tabs, smartphones, and desktop screens.

2. Service Workers

Service workers are one of the most important components of PWAs because they act as the backbone of these apps. These are javascript files that are separate from the web page and run in the background, allowing features like push notification, background sync, and caching. Service Workers are the reason behind using PWAs with minimum or no internet connection.

3. App Shell

The app shell is the minimum required HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, that allows the flow of data in a seamless manner. The app shell is what loads the basic UI faster than other apps. Overall, the app shell acts as a blueprint of the application’s interface.

4. Manifest File

The manifest file is another important component of PWAs. This file is nothing but a JSON file that entails the necessary app information like the name of the app, display preferences, icons, background color, shortcuts, categories, and others.

5. Secure Connection (HTTPS)

Progressive Web Apps use HTTPs as their secure connection. HTTPS ensures the transfer of data from the PWA to the user’s device is secure and encrypted, thereby enabling maximum security.

Steps to Build Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) with React

1. Setup a new React Project

Open your terminal or command prompt and run the following commands:

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2. Configure a Service Worker

Create a new file called service-worker.js in the src folder and add the following code:

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Open the src/index.js file and add the following code at the top to register the service worker:

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3. Add a Manifest File

Create a new file called manifest.json in the public folder and add the following code:

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Make sure to place the corresponding logo images (logo192.png and logo512.png) in the public folder.

4. Test & Optimize

Run the following command to start the development server:

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Open your browser and visit http://localhost:3000 to see your PWA in action.

5. Deploy the PWA

Once you are satisfied with your PWA, you can deploy it to a hosting platform of your choice. Here's an example using GitHub Pages:

1. In your project directory, run the following command to install the gh-pages package:

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2. Open the package.json file and add the following lines:

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3. Build and deploy your app:

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Frequently Asked Questions

The need for building a progressive web app is to provide users with a native app-like experience on the web, including features like offline access, push notifications, and the ability to be installed on users' devices without going through an app store.

A manifest file in PWAs is a JSON file that contains metadata about the web application, such as its name, icons, theme colors, categories, and other properties.

To build a PWA with React, you can use tools like Create React App and add PWA functionality by implementing a service worker for caching and offline access, configuring a manifest file for installation, and ensuring a responsive layout for different devices.

The major benefits of progressive web apps include improved user experience, increased engagement, faster loading times, offline access, as well as push notifications.

PWAs can work offline by utilizing service workers, which are JavaScript files that run in the background and can intercept network requests. Service workers can cache essential app assets, allowing the PWA to load and function even when the user is offline.

Conclusion

We have given what we promised in the beginning. This was all about progressive web applications, their features, components, and steps to build one using React technology. So if you think that it’s high time of using the same old technologies and methods, this was your sign to switch to progressive web applications. Moreover, if you feel like having some guidance with the same, you can always reach out to Protonshub Technologies, a firm that provides the best-in-class mobile application development services to its clients at the most affordable cost. Also, check out our website to know more about our other services and offerings that is already making the lives of our clients easier than ever.

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