What is a Progressive Web App – and why it can help you

When you publish digitally, probably first two formats come to mind:

  • Native App
  • HTML

Both have advantages and disadvantages. How to overcome the disadvantages?

Progressive Web Apps (PWA)

Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are promising to combine the positive aspects of both, native apps and HTML.

Technically PWA are HTML5, however with a lot of JavaScript. So by definition they work in any modern browser. And typically the HTML5 behaves in such a way, so that the experience is more like an app: On mobile devices you don’t see the browser interface and you get interactive experiences that you know from native apps, slideshows, animations, swipe pages. Also, the experience “adapts” to the device, so are different for small mobile devices and for Desktop computers. Still, one format serves all, as there is no platform-specific code.

Additionally, PWA use “Service Workers”, which give you services like notifications or the ability to “read/work offline”.

Sounds promising.

Hurdles of PWA?

I currently see three hurdles of PWAs:

  1. Monetization
  2. Browser Support
  3. Ease of creation

Ease of creation?

The third point is slowly vanishing.

For example, if you use WordPress, you can create a PWA using the “Progressive” plug-in:

Progressive WordPress (PWA)

If you want to create a PWA out of Print, you can use QuarkXPress 2018 to create a PWA, static or with interactive effects:
Either by creating the design and layout from scratch; by converting a PDF or AI; or by importing an InDesign via IDML Import.

My recent test showed that a PWA (called HTML5 Publication) out of QuarkXPress scored 100 out of 100 possible points in the Lighthouse PWA Score: http://www.planetquark.com/2018/05/31/progressive-web-app-pwa-out-of-quarkxpress-2018/

Browser support?

As Google invented the format, it is obvious that Chrome supports PWA. A recent, very interesting development is, that Apple has started to implement the technology behind PWA (Service Workers) in Safari: https://dev.to/ben/safari-now-supports-service-workers-and-what-that-means-to-me-at-least-3oi7

So soon this won’t be an issue anymore

Monetization

To sell your app or content within the app probably is the last hurdle for PWAs compared to native apps. However if your content is free or you have an existing paywall, then this should not be an issue.

Chances of PWA

Think of publishing a book digitally?

A website will give your readers a rather unexpected experience.

A PDF is not adaptive to the device, especially on smaller screen sizes.

An ebook (ePub) might play well on iOS and MacOS, for Android and Windows there are no got ePub readers yet.

A native app might be costly to develop and restricts you to a certain platform or forces you to maintain several apps.

So a progressive web app might be the best of all worlds. And it is easily created out of WordPress or out of Print and PDF (using QuarkXPress).

Further reads

Both an engineer and a layout artist, Matthias bridges the gap between technology and people.

Before joining Quark, Matthias pioneered print, Web, and multimedia products for multiple German publishing companies. Since 1997 he has played a central role in shaping Quark’s desktop and enterprise software.
Starting 2003 Matthias has focused on Quark’s interactive and digital publishing solutions. He is an active participant in design and publishing communities and represents Quark in the Ghent PDF Workgroup.

Since February 2014 Matthias heads Quark’s Desktop Publishing business unit and is therefore responsible for QuarkXPress.