By following best practices to create a state-of-the-art website you may only be a few steps away from providing your HTML content as a progressive web app (PWA). PWA’s come with many advantages and features we all love from using mobile applications. This blog post takes a look back on the PWA we’ve built at eyeson and how our users appreciate this lite version for mobiles and desktop. We are happy to share our experience and feedback we’ve received as well as some insights on further improvements.
eyeson Team Lite
In 2016 we introduced a new web platform for our eyeson video conferencing API service which allowed people to organize their contact groups, video call preferences, meeting history, and register for API access. Our web based application at accounts.eyeson.team, was built with accessibility, performance and semantic valence in mind. At eyeson we love the web and to use latest technologies, and we are following progressive enhancement principles. Early adaptions introduced service workers for offline caching, as well as web push notifications to update our users on events like participants that join a meeting. We thought it would be nice to use the full potential of a PWA and also offer mobile web visitors the possibility to add our web application to their home screen. So we configured our applications manifest to use the name “eyeson Team Lite”. This turned out to be a future ready decision. Since then PWAs have been integrated with desktops and recent updates can even be published to the Google Play or Apple store.
The feedback we’ve received from our users has been very positive. They welcome the separated entrypoint to our services and the easy to identify app-like notifications. On desktop platforms we are excited how well progressive web apps integrate into the operating system.
Very ❤, Nice Features and Lessons Learned
Besides having a splash screen when starting the software and working in a full screen mode, a PWA delivers the look and feel of a common standalone software on mobile devices and any desktop computer. It encourages, or better enforces, you to ensure every upcoming release of your website keeps a stable performance, accessible interaction, search engine optimizations and does follow common best practices for the web.
In the past couple of years many Web APIs were created, updated, extended and improved. Those wipe out the need for native applications and push towards progressive web apps for many use cases. You can access mobile device gyroscopes, handle usb devices and game controllers, use client storages and handle graphic manipulation using canvas elements. One example we encourage to use is the web share API. We integrated this feature to improve the way how our customers invite each other. It provides a native share dialog on mobile devices and as a fallback we simply provide a commonly used copy to clipboard technique.
However not all things are easy to handle when building your own PWA. Whenever dealing with caching caution is advised. In order to keep your application updated you have to ensure the latest media content is delivered to your clients. After carefully picking assets and introducing different caching strategies we finally switched to Google’s workbox as we found it to reduce the complexity of our code a lot.
Build Your Own PWA
If you have any user input on your website HTTPS is a must have and there is no way around. It is a basic requirement to provide a PWA so have a look at letsencrypt, cert-manager if you run Kubernetes or contact your hosting provider to enable secure HTTP connections.
There are many things to consider when dealing with performance, it’s probably a good starting point using an audit tool and to go through potential warnings.
To tell a user-agent you provide a progressive web application configure your manifest JSON properly and provide favicon and application icons accordingly. There are many generators that shorten the time to scale your logo into proper sizes. The configuration additionally requires name and short-name to be used for the software installed and a theme color. Choose the color wisely as it will be present on certain places like the splash screen, top bar of mobile device screens or background on some platforms.