How to Build a Progressive Web Application (PWA) Using React

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How to Build a Progressive Web Application (PWA) Using React

PWAs are mobile applications that run on a browser. In this article, we will learn how to create or build PWA using React, one of the most popular javascript.

Progressive Web Application (PWA) is a popular software development methodology. PWAs are hybrid of a regular web page or a website and functions like a new application model that combines features offered by most modern browsers with the benefits of the mobile experience. Introduced by Google in 2015 with the intent to provide users with a native app experience - They are designed to work cross-platform and offer features such as push notifications, offline capabilities, performance benefits, and more. Many large tech companies such as Google, Starbucks, Twitter, and Aliexpress utilize progressive web apps to increase their online presence.

There are three main components that make a web app progressive

1. Secure Context or HTTPS

It is crucial for progressive web apps to be served over a secured network because it establishes your web app as a trusted site. Secured context is important if you are looking to integrate transactions into your PWA. Thus having a secured context over HTTPS is important for PWA.

2. Service Workers

Service workers are scripts that allow users to control how the web browser handles network requests and asset caching. It is important for PWAs to have one or more service workers. It is an integral part of fast, reliable web pages and offline experience.

3. Manifest File

A manifest file controls the appearance of your PWA to the end-user. It is a JavaScript Objective Nation (JSON) file that includes details such as the URL of the app, icons, and other design details that make your PWA attractive.

Advantages of choosing React for building progressive web applications

React is a framework that helps in building large and extensible web applications that support hot reloading features that allows you to edit your app at runtime. The hot reloading feature is especially helpful in making changes to UI functionality. There are several benefits of choosing React for building progressive web applications.

1. High powered

React is an efficient framework for creating fast and scalable applications and reduces performance issues. Performance issues related to DOM (Document Object Model) manipulation are often faced by JavaScript applications. It is a structural representation of your web page, allowing programming languages to interact with it. React uses virtual DOM to make changes to the UI without redrawing the whole page and experiencing rendering issues. React allows you to make changes to the page in virtual memory instead of using libraries like JQuery. It provides faster-rendering speed which reduces page load time.

2. Easy to learn

React is easier to learn as compared to Angular or Ember JS framework. React supports JSX extension that allows you to write HTML-like syntax in your JavaScript code using JSX extension. You can use plain JavaScript, HTML & CSS to build a powerful progressive web application with React.

3. Well-equipped

Debugging, testing and designing is easier with React as it offers many developers tools and libraries. It offers a variety of options to chose the most suited option for a particular task. React developer tools, Create React Apps by Facebook, Semantic UI React, and Ant Design are some of the examples of tools offered by React.

4. SEO-friendly

The common SEO-related issue is web rendering services when working with heavy web applications. It means that a part of your website can not be shown in Google search results. With the use of Virtual DOM, your content on React-powered web app will be indexed correctly which eliminates SEO-related issues.

Steps in building PWA with React

1. Prerequisite to build React PWA

Before you start building a React PWA, it is important to make sure that you have a code editor and the latest version of Node installed. Visual Studio Code is a popular choice for a code editor.

The Create React App tool by Facebook is helpful ff you don’t have a React web application that you want to enhance with progressive functionalities. You can even import a ready-made React app from GitHub.

2. Starting from basics

To start, we need to install the Create React App tool in our system. Open the code editor and enter the following code snippet.

web application development using react

The installation process of Create React App too will be executed. Once the process is complete, enter the following code to create an empty project.

After you create a project, go to the package.json file, and notice the dependencies that come with the file. Install the React Router dependency using a code editor and take a test run using the “npm run start” command.

3. PWA checklist

Install Lighthouse, is a free chrome extension by Google which analyzes a web app and shows if the web app is progressive or not. If the web app is not progressive, it delivers a list of criteria that your app needs to fulfill in order for it to qualify as a PWA.

4. Service workers

The Create React App tool comes with default service workers for cache static assets. You can create a custom service worker file in the source directory of your project, and replace the following code snippets with the name of your custom service worker.

web application development using react

You can add a testing functionality to your custom service worker file by using a default console.log(“ ”) command. Create a new production build for the app and check the console. You will find an improved PWA score from Lighthouse because of the added service worker functionality.

Before the app initializes, you can display loading messages or CSS by editing the index.html file so you are able to remove the import references from the app.js and index.js files and improve your app performance.

5. Secure context and manifest file

The Create React App tool has a manifest file in the public directory that contains a basic configuration option. The public/menifest.json file can be modified to add functionalities such as icons, install options, and saving the PWA icon on the home screen for easy access.

Once you configured the manifest.json file, it is time to deploy the app. Firebase is one of the most preferred choices to deploy React-based apps and it is highly recommended for deploying PWSs as well. You can turn on caching by changing the value of doCache to true. Install Firebase and initialize the Firebase module. Once the process is complete you can deploy the app by running the following code on the terminal

web application development using react

You will get an URL from the Firebase CLI tool which you can open in a web browser. The hosting URL will be an HTTPS URL, which is required to provide secured context.

Run the Lighthouse tool again and it will provide you with the maximum PWA score.

Conclusion

Many large companies and startups are embracing the potential of PWAs because they are quite profitable for businesses and developing a PWA is recurve-effective. There are many reports that show the enormous benefits of PWAs.

After launching PWA, Thomas Kent lowered its bounce rate by 57% and increased revenue from organic traffic by 79%.

Butcher of Blue’s PWA increased mobile users by 154%, monthly active users by 154%, conversion by 169%, and page load 85% faster.

Starbucks PWA has almost doubled its daily active users. Orders on desktops are nearly the same rate as mobile.

Offering a web platform is not just enough to meet customer expectations in the modern business environment. It is crucial for modern businesses to offer PWA to their users to get more customer engagement and conversion rates.