Progressive Web Apps in B2B

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At Evident, innovation is at the core of what we do. We aim to stay on top of our game by continuously learning about the latest tools and technologies.

Recently, I hosted a Tech Along knowledge sharing session on Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), a very hot and relevant topic in the tech industry. I would like to share my experience working with PWA’s and specifically, leveraging them in a B2B context.

PWAs offer a range of benefits, especially when it comes to client engagement and shareability. At Evident, we are currently working on the Intershop PWA for an ecommerce environment for a large company in the food & agricultural sector. I personally believe that PWA’S are the future of web apps and here is why.

Web on FIRE!

We live in an ever-changing digital world with more diverse and demanding users, who expect results independently of their browser, device, operating system, internet connection or location. As a business, if you want to succeed, you have to outperform your competitors, delivering a Fast, Integrated, Reliable and Engaging solution. A Progressive Web App is essentially a responsive web app that acts and feels like a native app but that runs in a browser, independently of the operating system.

PWA is OS agnostic and offers the best of both worlds

While web apps have an extensive reach, native apps excel at capabilities due to the fact that they run in the OS, so they can easily access the device hardware. However, one of the biggest downsides of native apps is that they are platform specific. Every native app can only run in the operating system it was designed for. If you want to reach the majority of smartphone users, you will need at least an Android app and an IOS app. This means a bigger investment, both for development and maintenance. In addition, native apps require installation and periodic updates. Progressive Web Apps do not need to be downloaded and are updated automatically without using big amounts of data. They bring the best of both worlds in a standalone solution with a single codebase. Depending on your requirements, this is something that you should take into consideration when deciding between native vs PWA.

Great SEO results

Progressive Web Apps are linkable or sharable and are indexed by search engines, leading to great SEO results. Especially while using Server-Side Rendering, that is now available in JavaScript frameworks like Angular, Vue or React. Excellent search is of course a huge benefit for any digital portal, but especially in a B2B ecommerce context.

Useful features

PWAs offer offline access, access to the device camera, geolocation, battery or even hardware like sensors. They allow access to 20%-50% of the device hard drive storage. Furthermore, they also provide background synchronisation, that automatically stores HTTP requests. Request are processed when you are offline and dispatched as soon as you return online. This is very useful in typical B2B situations where users might be working in remote locations, without connectivity.

Another feature that Progressive Web Apps provide, is push notifications. It is a feature that we are commonly seeing in native chat applications. The purpose of this feature is that you can receive notifications even when you are not using the app, which is possible due to Service Workers, a script that runs in the background separate from the web page, that will be kept alive by a browser thread.

Progressive

Last but not least, one of the pillars of PWAs is the fact that they are progressive. This means that they adapt to the device, browser or even bandwidth, allowing enhancements and scaling without affecting the reach of the app.

PWA adoption

But what about adoption in the market? Key players in the World Wide Web, like Mozilla, Microsoft and Google, fully support PWAs (service workers and web manifests) with only Apple not supporting the web app icon in the smartphone home screen.

Microsoft already allows PWAs in its store and with Microsoft Edge going opensource with Chromium, it’s expected to see this engine evolving and bringing new features to the table in a near feature. In addition, Google recently launched Trusted Web Activies for Chrome, which allows adding your PWA to the Google Play Store, whose absence was one of the biggest downsides of PWAs.

Twitter, Instagram, Uber, Telegram and Tinder, mostly known for their smartphone apps, are some examples of companies that recently adopted PWAs.

Leveraging the power of PWA in the B2B sector

The B2B sector is a strong candidate to benefit from PWAs. Therefore, Evident is working close with ecommerce software platform Intershop to offer cutting edge solutions to our clients. Bringing not only a great ecommerce experience, but also all the capabilities of native apps, including using the devices hardware.

The easiest way to see the true value of a PWAs in the B2B world is looking at potential use cases, to name a few:

  • Shipment tracking (using push notifications)

  • Offline shop with clients wishlist products (using push notifications, background synchronisation and offline fallback)

  • Store favourite courses for offline access (using indexedDB and offline fallback)

  • Offline shop with quick order with SKU’s or QR codes (using push notifications, background synchronization and offline fallback)

  • IoT: predictive maintenance or malfunction for machinery (using push notifications)

What will happen tomorrow?

Like any other technology, its true value is measured by the acceptance of its peers, otherwise it will be replaced with the next hot technology. Companies need to create their own PWAs and analyse its benefits. Eventually, these apps will be available in major native app stores and users won’t notice if they are using a native or a web app. This might lead PWAs to be the Web Standard for the foreseeable future.

Where to start?

In case this is a topic of your interest and for reason you want to turn your website into a PWA, there are three main things that your app requires, it’s not a standard yet, but it’s considered a design pattern.

PWAs need to run on HTTPS, need a service worker (only runs with HTTPS except on localhost) and a webmanifest. Web pages auditors like Google Lighthouse will take this design pattern into consideration when evaluating your PWA. PWA Builder, developed by Microsoft, is an interesting tool that helps you to generate your first Service Worker and Web Manifest, consider trying it out if you are taking your first steps. In case you want to go deeper into Service Workers capabilities, Mozilla has some interesting demos and documentation.

If you want to build some solid foundations, consider taking Maximilian Schwarzmüller course, Progressive Web Apps (PWA) – The Complete Guide.

At last, I am interested in your experience as well. So, my question for all techies among us: Have you already worked with PWA’s and what is your experience so far? Please let me know in the comments! 😊 If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.

BIO

chico

Born and raised in the cherry land, Fundão, technology was always my passion, and since my plan to become an astronaut failed, I was ‘forced’ to study Computer Engineering in the beautiful Aveiro University. I am glad I decided to have my feet in the ground.

During my career I worked both with backend and frontend, but eventually the light side of the force pushed me into frontend development and I’m now in love with web development and JavaScript frameworks, even though I’m having an hard time to keep track of what’s coming next, but that’s the beauty of it.

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