progressive web apps for wordpressIn a nutshell, a ‘Progressive Web App’ (PWA) is software that utilizes the most current web technologies available. Therefore, as technology advances, current PWAs will be superseded by other solutions.

A good example of a PWA usually offers push notifications using JavaScript, is always up to date, and doesn’t require any complex installation. In addition, they should work for every user regardless of browser type, and be considered safe (usually due to delivery via secure HTTPS).

In this post, we’ll discuss the web application development process, then look at how to build web apps in WordPress. Finally, we’ll round up some themes and plugins that may help you along the way. Let’s get started!

WordPress Web Application Development

WordPress can be a foundation for developing applications. However, this requires an understanding of User Experience (UX), HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript. Even basic plugin creation can take time to learn.

As for PWAs, there are many benefits, but one key advantage is the time saved reproducing a completed app on multiple production sites. For this, you’ll likely want to turn to ‘Service Workers’.

WordPress Service Workers

A ‘Service Worker’ is essentially a script that enables your PWA to integrate the best aspects of traditional and native web apps. It’s usually written in JavaScript, and much like a client-side proxy, enables you to determine how to respond to resource requests. A precache reduces the need for a persistent internet connection, creating a reliable user experience.

Service Workers are capable of handling push notifications easily, and can also synchronize data in the background. What’s more, they will usually receive centralized updates, so you’ll always be working with the latest version.

How to Build Web Apps with WordPress

Depending on the type of PWA you’re developing, the process can be very involved. For example, you’ll need to identify the specifics of jQuery requests, test snippets and develop segmented database returns, integrate variables for different platform variations (as well as style elements), then wrap it all into a framework of code that looks good and functions well.

You’ll also need to choose both a back end and front end framework. Of course, WordPress is going to be your back end Content Management System (CMS), but you’ll also want to choose a suitable server stack, such as XAMPP.

Your choice on the front end will be more refined when working with WordPress – many choose either Bootstrap or AngularJS, although Facebook’s ReactJS and Backbone.js are also popular:

 

 

 

Bootstrap for web apps with wordpress
Bootstrap also includes a number of stylish themes to help you customize your framework.

 

This is part of what a dedicated WordPress Application Framework is designed to simplify, partly by providing solutions to common coding errors, and by having developer resources that are up to date.

Most people don’t think of WordPress as a developer platform, but with dozens of frameworks, a myriad of design options, and thousands of lines of code added yearly by developers, it’s actually one of the biggest developer platforms in the world.

WordPress Web App Themes

‘Web app themes’ enable WordPress to act as a PWA, without the need to code from scratch. They’re often full-featured, and offer the most power and flexibility for your PWA.

Good free solutions are thin on the ground – understandable given their intended application. With that in mind, you’ll have to open your wallet to find a suitable theme. For starters, Ubold is one of the most popular options, built on top of Bootstrap:

Ubold web app theme for wordpress

It provides a number of menu styles, along with thousands of FontAwesome icons to choose from. In addition, Ubold also includes sample Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and eCommerce applications, to show what the theme’s capable of.

Alternatively, you could opt for OneUI:

OneUI as a web app for wordpress

This theme (based on Bootstrap and AngularJS) enables you to build your front and back end within one framework, and includes four versions to help kickstart your development. In addition, it’s designed to be as lightweight as possible, and is completely modular, meaning it’s as flexible as you need it to be.

WordPress Web App Plugins

There are also WordPress plugins to help you create a PWA, but these operate on a smaller scale. They usually only let you implement one or two features, which can still make a dramatic change to how a WordPress website behaves.

Wordpress plugins for web apps

For example, WordPress Mobile Soft enables you to set up a PWA without it affecting your primary theme, and also makes sure it’s ready for mobile devices. What’s more, you’ll also be able to use an search engine optimized URL, enabling visitors to navigate easily to your PWA.

wordpress mobile pack for web apps

Similarly, WordPress Mobile Pack lets you create a PWA from your existing WordPress website, and also comes with several mobile app themes, making this a potential all-in-one solution. WordPress Mobile Pack is supported on iOS and Android devices, and is also compatible with most popular browsers, including Safari, Google Chrome, and Android’s native browser.

In a nutshell, the tools that make development and deployment easier and more accessible will be the ones that attract the most users. However, the overall performance of your PWA often comes down to the hosting provider you choose.

WP Engine provides best-in-class customer service on top of innovation-driven technology. This is why over 60,000 customers in 120 countries have chosen them for their mission critical WordPress hosting needs. What’s more, WP Engine’s hosting offers versatility for mobile sites and PWAs, due to the wide range of available features.

There is a tier to suit every budget, with a 60-day money back guarantee, and our Enterprise solution is tailor-made to make sure your business’ PWA excels.

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Build faster, protect your brand, and grow your business with a WordPress platform built to power remarkable online experiences.