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September 28th, 2020
How to Build a Progressive Web App (PWA) Using React Native?
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There aren’t many tech slangs known to the world, but some are loved across the globe. One such example is – app, which is short for application. And today, the world and mobile industry is thriving on this techie-word.

But in this rapidly advancing environment, the focus has now moved in a direction where apps simplify the usage of a mobile phone and several tasks even when not connected to the world wide web.

In the wake of the popularity and renowned levels of app development, the world’s developers and the tech-savvy population is making a shift towards a whole new level – the PWA (Progressive Web Application).

Understanding a Progressive Web Application

Though, the name PWA itself talks about its features, yet here’s an attempt to simplify it. It offers the user the ease of accessing features of a website without accessing the website in the web browser even when the network lacks the internet.

That’s fantastic right? This advancement has been achieved and put to good use by the developers of the world. It allows the user to download the app through the website, without actually visiting the app store. Henceforth, saving the trouble to search for the correct and reliable app in the heap of apps.

But that’s not it. You can even access the contents of it and obtain relevant information in the offline mode. This category of apps combines the best features of a website accessed through a browser and the seamless experience of a mobile app.

Developing a PWA using React Native

React is one of the most favorable frameworks put in use by web developers across the globe to create interactive and lucrative website content.

This framework is an enhanced JS and yet it is nothing that popped up out of the blue. It is a JavaScript library that uses the best features of all web development languages. It has been seen helpful in creating applications in a shorter time frame as compared to traditional JS frameworks.

With all these built-in packages, React allows the developer to create an app with most time invested in the logic building instead of assembling the building blocks. With a few simple commands, an essential app structure is prepared in real-time.

Enhanced capabilities to React with inbuilt packages

This is the most lucrative feature of React JS. They take care of the primary assembly of a project set up, management of servers, quick deployment of changes, and an easy installation process. All these together make sure that the developer is focused on the logic building rather than brainstorming on resolving basic set up errors.

Setting up the first React app

All of the previously mentioned benefits are managed by the very first React command – ‘npm install –g create react app.’ Once the command is run in the command prompt, all the necessary and ready to use React packages are now available on your machine. The second command is – “npx create react app’ application name here'” and an entire project structure is prepared within a few minutes.

Begin with PWA implementation

Managing the look and feel

While using the Visual Studio Code as IDE, begin with the ‘manifest.json’ file. This is the content file that helps in designing the UI of the app. It will contain links to the images you are planning to use in the app and necessary declarations like their type, size, and properties like the background color.

Managing the logic building

The next file that holds importance in the development of PWA is the ‘index.js’ file. As the extension suggests, this is the JavaScript file and hence will be using the elements of it. Here’s what makes it significant:

  • Import of ‘react’ and ‘react-dom’ packages:-These two packages are the primary libraries of any React application. The inbuilt packages that make React so easy to use are deriving their power from these 2.
  • Using the ‘render’ method:- As the name advises, this method tells the React app how it is supposed to render. The component and element provided to this particular method form the core of the app. All other files and components can only be used if placed under the tree developing from the render method’s App component.
  • Making the app useful offline:- The most beneficial feature of a React-based PWA is its ability to work offline. And the beauty is that it all happens by the presence of one single method in the ‘index.js’ file – the register method. This particular method, when implemented by the service-worker of React, does the actual trick and makes the app useful even without an internet connection.
  • Getting it production-ready:- Now that the app is ready to be used offline and can even load faster, it’s time to get it working on the production – meaning to wrap the entire set of files in a single package and put it in the in-app store for customer’s use. Yet, for that to happen, the developer has to be careful with the node environment variable. The PWA features are accessible to the users only when ‘process.env. NODE_ENV’ is set to production.
  • Building the finalized app:- With all the functionalities put in place, it’s time to collect all of it in a single bundle. That means managing all the folders and files of the app, together to make ready for use. Now to make sure there are no errors, the React library has managed that aspect as well. Just use ‘npm serve –g’ and ‘serve –s build,’ and your app is ready for everyone anywhere.

Conclusion

The end user’s demands and expectations are indeed changing almost every day, which has fuelled the developers with the necessity to find new and better ways to meet them. And in the scope of managing that, the end-user is rather impressed. With this cycle going on, the PWA implementation with a simple and easy framework as React has made a success.

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