Building and optimizing progressive web applications using WordPress (PWA)
21 mins read

Building and optimizing progressive web applications using WordPress (PWA)

Progressive web applications are changing the way users use websites. Technically speaking, they combine the advantages of mobile applications and traditional websites. Starting from scratch with PWA technology in WordPress not only takes your game to the next level, but also allows you to create a more attractive, accessible, and faster loading website version.

This means that businesses, bloggers, and digital creators can better connect with their user groups and provide more content than ever before.

If you’re planning to convert your WordPress website to PWA, then you’re in the right place. We will accurately explain how to build and optimize these network applications to ensure the success of your next project.

What is PWA?

Progressive web applications are a technology that combines traditional responsive website features with rich mobile application features.

According to Mozilla, PWA uses modern networking features to provide an application like network interface that can be accessed through a web browser.

The three key technical components behind PWA include:

  1. Service workers. PWA uses scripts that run independently of the website to perform similar operations that can only be run on web pages. For example, service workers allow notification push, backend synchronization, and offline availability. The latter can be achieved because service workers act as proxy networks. PWA can cache content and provide it without a connection, providing excellent reliability even under uncertain network conditions.
  2. List of network applications. A manifest is a JSON file that describes an application and allows it to be displayed on a smartphone in the form of an icon added to the home page. This file aims to create interaction with the user system, including startup URL, display settings, descriptive names, and icons.
  3. HTTPS。 The last component is one of the most critical components. Although it does not directly affect the user experience, HTTPS can improve security by protecting the privacy of visitors through data encryption and information anonymity.

The combination of these three technologies brings a fast, installation free experience and fully integrates PWA into the homepage.

Through the Cafe Javas website and application, you can see all these elements perfectly combined.

Cafe Javas provides an application like experience on both desktop and mobile devices.

This PWA was developed by TechAhead and provides a seamless experience between website and mobile application versions. In this way, customers can easily place orders in web browsers without being as frustrating in terms of user experience as traditional websites.

Why is it a good idea to transform WordPress website into PWA

Transforming WordPress websites into progressive web applications can significantly enhance your digital image and user experience. The following are the reasons for the conversion:

1. Higher user engagement

One of the many advantages of PWA is its ability to send push notifications. This allows you to inform your audience of the latest news and announcements, ensuring that website visitors do not forget you. This feature encourages regular visits and more interaction.

2. Improve website speed

The speed of PWA is also very fast. Most assets are cached, and service personnel can help quickly load these assets. Even if your website visitors don’t have the fastest and most reliable network provider, they can load immediately using WordPress’s PWA. This speed increase not only improves the user experience, but also has a positive effect on search engine ranking, as website speed is a ranking factor for Google.

3. Offline function

One of the most notable advantages of PWA may be its ability to run offline or on low-quality networks. This is achieved by caching key resources of service workers, allowing users to access previously visited pages without Internet connection.

4. Traditional limitations do not apply

Traditional websites and mobile applications each have their own limitations. For example, websites heavily rely on network quality and cannot provide local application features such as push notifications or offline access. On the other hand, mobile applications require users to regularly download and install updates.

PWA, on the other hand, does not have these drawbacks.

Converting your WordPress website to PWA is not just about improving your website. It has changed the way audiences interact with websites through a faster and more attractive platform, which can run normally on any device and any network and looks great.

The prerequisites for developing PWA in WordPress

Anyone who wants to build PWA for WordPress needs to understand the following:

  • User experience design. Starting from the principle of user experience design, make your PWA user-friendly and make people willing to use and participate.
  • HTML and CSS skills. You must arrange the page to make it visually appealing and responsive. This requires mastering the basic knowledge of web design – HTML and CSS.
  • PHP knowledge. WordPress is built on PHP, so you must master this server-side scripting language in order to adjust themes and plugins, and add other dynamic content features to your PWA.
  • Proficient in JavaScript. JavaScript is needed to handle the interactivity of PWA, collaborate with service workers to achieve offline functionality, and add more complex features such as push notifications.
  • Familiar with WordPress. If you understand the working principles, APIs, theme and plugin customization, content management, and WordPress specific PHP functions that you can use, the development process will become easier.

The best PWA plugin for WordPress

If you quickly search for the best PWA plugin for WordPress, you will soon discover a range of tools that can enhance your website through application like features, faster loading times, and other impressive features.

For those who want to quickly build PWA, the following are several top-level PWA plugins currently available for WordPress that can speed up your workflow.

1. Super Progressive Web Apps

The Super Progressive Web Apps plugin has rich features.

The Super Progressive Web Apps plugin was developed by SuperPWA and provides WordPress users with a simple way to transform their website into Progressive Web Apps (PWA). It combines the advantages of network and mobile application technology, enabling offline use, almost instant loading time, and can be accessed through shortcuts on the main screen.

advantage

  • Adding features similar to applications and the ability to provide content offline can improve website traffic, engagement, and other key performance indicators.
  • By reducing loading time and reducing device load to improve performance, it can also enhance the search engine optimization value of the website.
  • User friendly settings, easy to set up and configure.

shortcoming

  • It may not be compatible with certain themes or plugins and requires further adjustments to function properly.
  • The existing advanced options require a deeper understanding of network technology to be utilized.

price

SuperPWA adopts a free mode, which means that core features are provided for free, and additional features can be obtained through upgrades. The first upgrade of SuperPWA starts at $99.

2. PWA for WP & AMP

PWA for WP&AMP includes a one click application generator.

The PWA for WP&AMP plugin has an application like interface, full compatibility with AMP PWA, multi site support, UTM tracking, and the possibility of offline work, thereby enriching the user experience. It also supports service personnel development, application banners, network application listings, and custom flashing.

advantage

  • Allow website installation on the main screen to increase engagement.
  • Support AMP
  • Contains caching and analysis functions for offline interaction

shortcoming

Due to the integration of AMP, the setup is relatively complex

3. PWA

PWA is a simplified method for creating PWA.

The PWA plugin focuses on the basic elements of PWA, such as service workers, web application manifests, and HTTPS support. The goal of PWA is to accelerate loading time and provide an application like experience on mobile devices.

advantage

  • As the goal of this plugin is to ultimately become a part of the core of WordPress, you can expect high-quality coding and compatibility.
  • It provides a simple method of using PWA functionality to improve website reliability, speed, and engagement.

shortcoming

Plugins do not include advanced features and require additional plugins or custom development to be implemented.

4. Instantify

Instantify support PWA、AMP and FBIA

Instantify integrates three key features into one platform to differentiate itself: Progressive Web Apps (PWA), Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), and Facebook Instant Articles (FBIA). With this combination, the tool can transform websites to give them an application like feel, accelerate mobile webpage loading time, and open website content to social platforms.

advantage

  • Combining PWA, AMP, and FBIA means you don’t have to worry about dealing with different plugins.
  • AMP web pages will be prioritized in search, thus potentially increasing the visibility of the website in search engines.
  • Attract users through push notifications and optimize advertising and Facebook Instant Articles to more effectively achieve content profitability.

shortcoming

  • There is no free trial version or plan, which may deter users who want to test the plugin before paying.
  • If not set up properly, the abundance of features provided may prevent the plugin from working well with certain themes.

fixed price

The price of Instantly is $29, with a one-time fee and lifetime authorization. This product does not offer a free trial or refund guarantee, so it is best to carefully consider your current needs and compatibility requirements before purchasing.

How to use the WordPress plugin to build PWA:

Building PWA using WordPress is an exciting way to enhance the mobile experience of websites, making them faster, more reliable, and more attractive. As we have already discussed, PWA provides users with an application like experience directly from the browser using modern network features.

Here is a step-by-step mini guide on how to use one of the plugins we discussed to transform a WordPress website into PWA.

Step 1: Plan your PWA

Before delving into technical issues, you should plan the functions and objectives of PWA. Consider which parts of the website can benefit from offline access, what actions users should be able to perform without network connection, and how you would like PWA to look on the home screen. Planning helps ensure that your PWA enhances user experience in a meaningful way.

Step 2: Select the appropriate plugin

As we discussed, there are various plugins available for converting WordPress websites to PWA.

Please evaluate each plugin based on your specific needs. If you are looking for a simple and direct solution, Super Progressive Web Apps can provide simple settings. For users who need to integrate multiple tools, Instantly may be a better choice.

In today’s example, we will use Super Progressive Web Apps.

Step 3: Install the selected plugin

After selecting the plugin, install it on the WordPress website. You can enter the WordPress panel, navigate to Plugins>Add New Plugin, search for the plugin name, and then click Install Now. After installation is complete, click enable.

Install the Super Progressive Web Apps plugin from the WordPress dashboard.

Step 4: Configure Settings

After activation, you can find the settings for the plugin under the “Settings” menu in the WordPress panel.

Super Progressive Web Apps plugin settings.

Here, you can configure various aspects of PWA, such as:

  • App name. The name displayed by PWA on the main screen.
  • Description. A brief description of the application.
  • Start page. The page that PWA will load first.
  • Theme color. The color of the toolbar.
  • Background color. Flash screen background color.
  • Icon. Select an image as the icon for PWA.

After completing the modifications, click Save Settings.

 

Step 5: Test your new PWA

After configuring the settings, it is crucial to test PWA on different devices. Simulate various devices using Chrome DevTools or similar tools, or test directly on mobile devices to add websites to the home screen.

For example, if you are using an iOS device, you need to clear the cache of your mobile browser before accessing the website.

Click the “Share” button, then click “Options“. Click “Add to Homescreen“. Close the browser, and then click on the application icon that was just added to the main screen. Explore several pages on the website, disconnect from the network, and try accessing them again.

If it can be loaded, it means that your PWA has been started and running!

How to create PWA from scratch using WordPress

For those seeking more control and customization, manually converting WordPress websites to PWA may be the preferred approach.

This method is highly technical and requires a thorough understanding of website development principles. Therefore, please be sure to review the prerequisites listed earlier to confirm if you have the ability to complete this step.

Step 1: Ensure HTTPS

Using HTTPS to ensure website security is essential for PWA. HTTPS can encrypt data between websites and visitors to prevent data leakage, etc.

If you do not already have an SSL certificate in your host package, you can obtain a free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt.

The installation process varies depending on the hosting service provider. Many offer simple one click SSL installation options. Please refer to the support documentation of the host provider for specific instructions.

After installing the SSL certificate, ensure that all website traffic uses HTTPS by redirecting from HTTP to HTTPS. This can be achieved through WordPress plugins (such as Really Simple SSL) or by modifying the website’s. htaccess file (if you are willing to manually edit it).

Step 2: Create a list of network applications

The network application manifest is a JSON file used to control how PWA is displayed to users and how it is launched. It includes settings such as the name, icon, and startup URL of the application.

Firstly, create a JSON file called manifest.json. The file should contain key information about the application, such as name, shortname, startup URL, display type, background color, theme color, and icons.

The following is the approximate content of the code provided by MDN Web Docs.

{
"name": "Your App Name",
"short_name": "AppShortName",
"start_url": "/",
"display": "standalone",
"background_color": "#FFFFFF",
"theme_color": "#000000",
"icons": [
{
"src": "path/to/icon.png",
"sizes": "192x192",
"type": "image/png"
}
]
}

Add a link to the manifest.json file in the head of the WordPress website template.

Then, use tools such as Google’s Lighthouse to test and verify the implementation of the network application manifest.

Step 3: Implement service workers

Service workers are the proxies between network applications and the external world. They are crucial for offline functionality, push notifications, and resource caching.

To create a service worker, you need to create a new JavaScript file. The file name is service worker. js and place it in the root directory of the WordPress theme. This file will contain the logic for caching resources, intercepting network requests, and managing offline functionality.

You need to register Service Worker from the JavaScript of the network application. Usually, this needs to be done in the main JavaScript file running on the webpage.

Here is an example of how to register a Service Worker from Borsch:

if ('serviceWorker' in navigator) {
window.addEventListener('load', function() {
navigator.serviceWorker.register('/service-worker.js').then(function(registration) {
// Registration was successful
console.log('ServiceWorker registration successful with scope: ', registration.scope);
}, function(err) {
// registration failed :(
console.log('ServiceWorker registration failed: ', err);
});
});
}

In your service worker. js file, implement the logic of caching static assets, intercepting retrieval requests, and providing content from the cache when offline.

Here is a basic example of caching some assets:

const CACHE_NAME = 'your-app-cache';
const urlsToCache = [
'/',
'/styles/main.css',
'/script/main.js'
];
self.addEventListener('install', event => {
event.waitUntil(
caches.open(CACHE_NAME)
.then(cache => {
return cache.addAll(urlsToCache);
})
);
});

To ensure that the behavior of service workers meets expectations, testing must be conducted. Use the Application panel in Chrome DevTools to check registered service workers, cache assets, etc.

Optimize WordPress PWA

Optimizing WordPress PWA is the last step in ensuring speed, reliability, and functionality. Let’s delve deeper into some advanced optimization techniques, with a focus on caching strategies, resource priorities, and adaptive loading for different connection speeds.

Caching strategy

According to Smashing Magazine, caching is a key factor in PWA optimization. It makes your application load faster by storing resource copies. Implementing a cache priority strategy ensures that your application retrieves resources from the cache before attempting to use the network. This method is particularly effective for static assets that do not change frequently.

Use service workers to cache important assets during the installation phase. This includes the shell of the application (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) and any static resources.

For dynamic content, strategies such as stage while validate can be considered, providing cached content first and then updating the cache with new content on the server.

Prioritize resources

Not all resources are the same. Some resources are crucial for initial presentation, while others can be presented through lazy loading. To analyze the loading performance of an application and determine which resources are necessary, loading should be done first. You can use preload and prefetch instructions to inform the browser of these priorities:

  • Preload The resources required for the current page. It will tell the browser to retrieve these resources as early as possible during the loading process.
  • Prefetch Used for resources that may be needed in future navigation. It suggests that browsers obtain these resources when idle.

Adaptive loading

Adaptive loading can customize the content and functionality of applications based on the user’s device capabilities and network conditions. This technology ensures that your PWA provides a good experience, even in slow or unstable networks.

Implement functional testing to provide different assets based on the user’s device. For example, you can provide high-resolution images to users with fast connections and smaller compressed images to users with slow connections.

You can use the Network Information API to detect the user’s connection speed and adjust the behavior of the application accordingly. For example, you can choose to load only necessary content when the connection speed is slow, and delay loading non critical resources until the connection speed increases.

Maintain Google standards

Converting WordPress websites to PWA is a wise move to enhance the mobile user experience. However, you need to comply with Google’s PWA standards in order to achieve results.

Google’s PWA standard emphasizes security, user experience, and accessibility:

  • The website must use HTTPS and be responsive on mobile devices
  • Allow offline access to application URLs and include metadata for the “Add to Home Screen” feature.
  • They should be able to load quickly, run normally on different browsers, and ensure smooth page transitions without relying on the network.
  • All pages should maintain a unique URL.

Summary

Progressive network applications have achieved significant leaps in improving user engagement and network accessibility. PWA integrates the features of traditional websites with advanced features of mobile applications, providing a seamless experience similar to that of an application without the need to download from an application store.

In light of this, we have discussed the transformative potential of PWA for WordPress websites today, emphasizing their advantages and providing guidance on how to use WordPress plugins or create your own PWA through manual coding. I hope it will be helpful to you.

If you haven’t done so yet, would you quickly turn your WordPress website into PWA?