Magento's about to step into... the third dimension of e-commerce! 

As you well know, the other 2 are:
 

  1. responsive e-commerce websites
  2. native apps
     

And the e-commerce giant is about to make its glorious entrance by launching its Magento PWA Studio! A suite of tools designed to empower developers to... develop (obviously!) online stores as progressive web apps. 

That Magento has jumped on this trend is really no surprise at all. But the suite of tools that it's now developing is, for sure, a source of ongoing assumptions, skeptic feedback and expectations. 

Here's what we know for sure, right from their post on Magento turning into a progressive web application platform:
 

  • that these tools are aimed to turn into “learning tools” for future Magento PWA developers 
  • that they're designed to enable them to build blazing-fast PWA front-ends for their e-commerce Magento stores
  • that it's a “toolset” which will help them build PWA components and extensions to be reused or even sold on the Magento Marketplace
     

But before we get into this, before we shed some more light onto Magento's new “baby” (that they're developing in collaboration with Google) we should answer the next question:
 

What's a PWA?

“The “eraser” of all clear-cut differences between the mobile web and native apps”. 

Now, in order to give PWAs a less... metaphoric definition, how about “dissecting” the term itself, “progressive web app”, starting from the back:
 

  1. it's an app (not an applet!): since it installs and runs its code on the customer's own device (PCs here included)
     
  2. it's a “web” app: an obvious advantage over native apps, since it's not closely “dependent” on one specific platform and on its specific language; it uses “plain” web languages such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript 
     
  3. it's “progressive”: meaning that it progressively loads assets and data as the user scrolls down a specific page in the store or goes from one page to another; so, there's no need for those “surfed” pages to reload, since changes and transitioning happen... gradually
     

Summing up, progressive web apps:
 

  • look like native apps (delivering the same app-like and lightning-fast digital shopping experiences)
  • behave like responsive mobile websites, since they run in browsers and are written in standard web languages
  • and yet... they're neither native apps nor JavaScript one-page apps
     

They're... progressive web apps (a no-brainer conclusion, no doubt about it).

And it's those type of digital shopping experiences of the future that the Magento PAW Studio's tools will help developers create.
 

Progressive Web Apps vs Native Apps 

It's a fact: native apps “rule” in terms of conversion rates and in terms of provided shopping digital experiences.

The mobile web stands no chance to compete with that! 

Yet, developing native apps does come with its inconveniences for players in the e-commerce arena (especially for small and medium-sized business):
 

  1. they're expensive to develop
  2. potential shoppers only download and install the apps of those specific brands that they interact with most frequently
     

And here's how PWAs “dare” to challenge native apps' long-time supremacy:
 

  1. they're more cost-effective to build since they're developed on open standards (and even so more now, with the Magento PWA Studio soon to be available)
  2. they're equally fast
  3. they run their code right in the mobile web browser, there's no longer a need for a separate installation
     

Progressive Web Apps vs Responsive Mobile Sites

In short: how are any better (for both online store owners and their customers) than traditional responsive websites?

Here's how/why:
 

  1. they leverage open source technology
  2. they rely on the new API's, Service Workers, integrated now into web browsers, which allow JavaScript to run in the background: boosted speed + improved usability
     

And, deriving from this tiny “detail”, there's a plethora of features that make them a huge leap forward into the future of e-commerce. We've pointed out the most significant ones in this post here on PWA's and how they can benefit your business.
 

What Does The Magento PWA Studio Include So Far?

Now that we've defined PWAs and that we've compared them to the other 2 online shopping channels, let's focus more on Magento's plan to turn into a progressive web app platform.

In this respect, here's what this suite of tools includes for now:
 

  • application shell: a basic PHTML file, created in the early phase of the project, standing for the basis for the HTML responses (coming from all routes)
  • API layer: working on a new style of API and on new API methods, that could provide lighter, more customized responses (compared to those of the REST designs)
  • application framework: the resulting PWA will be interacting with the “headless” Magento store via API calls 
     

Yet, from all the information that the Magento team shared on their blog, the one with the greatest impact has been that: it's React apps that developers will get to build using the Magento PAW Studio.

It's React-powered front-ends that these apps will have.

A great news indeed, for all front-end developers out there, since there's no point denying that React's riding huge waves of popularity these days.

No wonder that the Drupal core committer team, too, is considering to use React JS for building their own administrative user interfaces.
 

What's In It for You, The Magento Store Owner?

Ok, so we've pointed out how much more enjoyable Magento developers' work is going to be, that they'll be enabled to get their Magento PWAs up and running in no time, but... what about you, the business owner?

Let us point out some key PWA features that easily translate into benefits for you:
 

  1. PWAs are SEO-friendly: thanks to their JavaScript architecture PWAs are easy to crawl through (by search engines' bots); also, they're lightning-fast, which makes them SEO-optimized right from the start 
     
  2. PWAs run on desktop browsers, as well: that's right, they're not restricted to the mobile web since Service Workers run on desktop browsers, too
     
  3. PWAs will run on Safari, as well: Apple's planning to “do the necessary” so that PWAs can run on Apple devices, as well, in the near future.
     

The END! For now, at least, since the Magento WAP Studio is still under development, tests are being run, developers' feedback is being collected and closely analyzed.

Are you looking forward to it? What's your opinion on progressive web apps shaping the future of e-commerce?

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