The Progressive Web App Philosophy

Matthew Wilber
7 min readMay 24, 2020

Adapted from the presentation “The Progressive Web App Philosophy”, delivered to the Fredericksburg Developer group on February 12, 2019

A Progressive Web App (PWA) is a normal website that mimics the responsiveness and functionality that you expect from an installed app. It can work offline, has access to your camera, GPS and other hardware, accepts push notifications when it’s off, and can even be “installed” with its own icon and window. So naturally, PWAs are often thought of as a replacement for a native app. But PWAs are much more than that.

Behind every Progressive Web App is a philosophy in how to approach its architecture in. This philosophy is composed on three tenets:

  • Accessibility
  • Performance
  • Native features

The Philosophy at its core is that the app will work effectively in any browser, for any user, with whatever features or resources however minimal. But the app will also progressively enhance its functionality to take maximum advantage of the operating environment. For example, if your app works with photos, you might start with an image upload form. Then, if the app is running on a device with a camera, enhance that experience with the ability to take a picture in real-time.

Accessibility is the most important part of the PWA Philosophy. It’s not just about accommodating disabilities. People consume information in different ways. By providing information with a variety of media, you open up the possibilities for a larger audience. A user doesn’t have to be blind to benefit from auditory feedback; nor deaf to benefit from textual descriptions. Not everyone has the patience to sit through a video tutorial, yet others would avoid reading all together. Providing visual and auditory feedback is important because it allows users to intuit the apps response to their action. In short, accessibility is not an add on. Embracing multiple perspectives can only increase the usefulness of your app.

Performance is the most straight-forward aspect of the PWA Philosophy. It means that every aspect of your app should respond to the user as fast a possible. When someone enters your website address, typically you have about 4 seconds to grab their attention before they give up and move on…

Matthew Wilber

A professional web developer for over 15 years. For more information, visit and get the latest updates @greenzeta on twitter.