In the last few years, a new type of “app” has emerged - the Progressive Web App.

But how do you build one, and should you build one? One of the biggest decisions you can make when building a mobile app is whether it should be Native (i.e. a normal app downloaded from an app store) or a Progressive Web App (PWA). And you’ll need to make the right decision because if you don’t use the right platform, it’s very difficult to turn a PWA into a native app in the future if you change your mind.

Daunted? Don’t be. In this article, we’ll explain the benefits of each publishing method and then run you through our top 3 Progressive Web App (PWA) builders, including options for developers and luddites alike!

What is a PWA and Why Would You Use a PWA Over a Native App?

A Progressive Web App, or PWA, is a piece of software which looks and feels like a proper, native mobile app but is actually a sophisticated website able to work seamlessly across mobile and desktop views. One of the key advantages of a PWA is that it can be downloaded to a phone without going through an app store, meaning you can skip the approval process (and the cost) for having your app listed on Apple’s iOS App Store or Google’s Play Store.

Being a website under the hood, they also have all the benefits you would expect from a website: they can be found on Google if your SEO is up to scratch, you can link to different pages in the PWA and they can be updated on the fly without your users having to download an update - or Tim Cook giving you the go-ahead.

Unlike normal websites, PWAs can also take advantage of several popular features normally only found in native apps. For example, you can send push notifications to your PWA users, they can be saved to a user’s home screen alongside their other apps, and they can even work offline by using “cached” (saved) content just like a normal iPhone or Android app.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of all is that you can automatically turn your website into a PWA. Whether you’ve built it on a platform like Webflow, Wix or Square or painstakingly hand-coded it with HTML, CSS and Javascript, PWA technology usually only takes a few steps to set up. You don’t have to build an app completely from scratch.

What Do You Miss Out On By Not Having a Native App?

Sounds perfect, right? There’s a catch which might make you want to look for a native app builder instead.

First of all, the benefit of not requiring app store approval is a double-edged sword: your users also won’t be able to find your app on the app store. This cuts you off from two distribution platforms with billions of users. It would be like banning yourself from advertising on Facebook and Google.

Secondly, you’ll need a native app if you want to take advantage of mobile phone capabilities like cameras, sensors, geolocation and security (e.g. fingerprint scanning or FaceID).  While PWAs can access some of this functionality in a restricted fashion, only native apps can take full advantage of the power and features found on any Apple or Android device.

Performance is a concern too. Since they’re websites, PWAs will load just like a website - it’s not uncommon for your user to click a button and be met with a blank, white page for 30 seconds. Native apps solve this problem and take full advantage of the full processing power of your users’ devices. 

One last thing - Outside of tech circles, most people don’t know what a PWA is. If you tell them to look for your app, they’ll look in the app store. If you tell them to save your website to the home screen, they’ll need guidance on how to do that. This is perhaps the largest barrier to using a PWA. As much as we techy folk want to push PWAs, they haven’t quite caught on yet. 

What To Look For in a Progressive Web App Builder

  • Do you already have a web app built? You’ll want a PWA builder which integrates with the platform you used to build your website. You’ll want it to work quickly and out of the box.
  • Are you building from scratch?: Then you’re actually looking for a no-code mobile app builder which is capable of building PWAs.
  • Easy Deployment: Some Progressive Web App builders require you to actually code in PWA features. If “service workers” makes you think of retail and “routing” gets you all fired up for the new Napoleon movie, this is probably not what you’re looking for. Instead, seek out 1-click PWA conversion.
  • Push Notifications: One of the most important features of any app - native or PWA - is to send push notifications to the app’s users. Look for a platform which makes this easy and straightforward and provides an easy interface for configuring and scheduling notifications.

 

The Best Progressive Web App Builders

  • Adalo if you want to build once and deploy to a native app and a progressive web app.
  • Progressier if you want to turn an existing website or web app into a  PWA in a few clicks.
  • PWABuilder if you want to code it yourself for free.

アダロ 

What is it?: Adalo is a no-code mobile app and web app builder, which allows you to build one app and publish it as a native app, web app and a progressive web app.

Why does it stand out?: You can build an app from scratch once, then publish it however you like. You can have both a PWA and a native app, so you don’t have to choose.

Who is it best for?: Non-technical people who haven’t built their app yet and want PWA and native publishing capability from the start.

Pricing: You can publish a PWA, mobile and website at the same time on Adalo for $36/month.

If you haven’t built your web app yet, then Adalo is the best choice on this list. You’ll be able to drag-and-drop any idea together from Adalo’s easy and intuitive interface. Complex features like scheduling, payments, maps (with GPS), PDF generation and e-signatures are all available with a few clicks. Adalo is open-ended, meaning you can build more or less anything you can think of. 

The best part is, that you don’t need to spend your time debating the merits of native apps versus progressive web apps.

Instead, the app you design on Adalo will automatically scale to the device size you need without any extra work from you. Users can log into your app on the web, and then use it on their mobile phones on the go. Best of all, Adalo’s apps are automatically created as PWAs but can be published to the Apple iOS App Store and the Google Play Store too. 

Progressier 

What is it?: A platform which can turn any website or web app into a Progressive Web App

Why does it stand out?: Progressive is by far the easiest option to create a PWA on the market and comes packed with an extensive list of simple integrations.

Who is it best for?: People who have a web app already and want to make it progressive.

Pricing: You can publish a PWA on Progressier for $15/month.

Progressier does one thing and does it well: building PWAs. With a handful of easy steps, you can integrate Progressier into almost any website or web app out there. 

Aside from being easy, Progressier also gives you the ability to send push notifications, analytics on how many people have installed and used your PWA and a simple, ready-made install page you can give to your users.

Like Adalo, Progressier keeps things straightforward. But if you want to dive into the mechanics of how your PWA works, Progressier comes with an easy interface for defining your caching strategy, as well as allowing you to configure the web app manifest however you like and generate an appropriate service worker.

PWABuilder 

What is it?: Developer-focused tools for building progressive web apps.

Why does it stand out?: Maximum configurability and no price tag.

Who is it best for?: Developers or mostly technical users who already have a website or web app and want to turn it into a PWA. Especially great if you want to get into configuring the nitty-gritty details of how your PWA works.

Pricing: PWABuilder is free to use, but requires you to pay for a server which can be at least $10-20/month or more for a popular app.

PWABuilder is a free, open-source toolkit which allows developers to turn any website into a PWA. Unlike the other options on this list, PWABuilder doesn’t come with an easy setup or a nice interface, but it makes up for that with configurability.

Perhaps the most impressive advantage is that PWABuilder has a unique method of packaging PWAs into apps which can actually be deployed into the app stores. The catch here is that while this will work for the Google Play store, Apple rarely accept PWAs into the app store and it’s incredibly unlikely that your app will be accepted.

The Best of Both Worlds

We believe that the best apps have no borders. In other words, your users should be able to use your app wherever and however they like - whether that’s on the web, direct from the app store or downloaded as a PWA onto their device.

Adalo is the only no-code app builder on the market which not only lets you build your app from scratch but will let you publish it to the app stores, the web and as a PWA. While other platforms let you build PWAs directly, none give you all the freedom or benefits of publishing natively. 

Try Adalo for free.

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