BoolaBooks. Scan. Sell. Save.

PWA

11 Mar 2018

*This post is for anyone looking to build a site or app themselves, and briefly shares our experience in doing so.

When BoolaBooks first started, we knew we needed something for a mobile application, that’s where people do most of their browsing today and phone messaging is much easier when trying to meet up with someone to actually buy the book.

So in the spring of 2017, we launched BoolaBooks on iOS at the same time as the website. People loved it and definitely preferred it to the website. But it took almost as long to build the mobile app as the website. Even worse, any additional change we made, whether to the UI or the backend had to be updated on the phone as well. All this loomed over us for our next iteration, especially with Android users asking for a version as well.

Now this isn’t a new problem, but for a company as small as ours, we just didn’t have the time or resources to maintain multiple codebases. We also saw emerging data and complaints that people didn’t want to use their valuable storage for another app on their phone, especially one they mostly used once a semester.

Fortunately for us, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) came into vogue just at the right time. All of a sudden we could have one code base and serve native-like experiences on all platforms (iOS, Android, and web). This meant UI changes propagated everywhere at once, and we could leverage our web UI expertise for all 3 platforms, saving us time and cost. Writing this code once not only meant greater velocity but also better quality as bug fixes were shared. The only additional work would be notification logic with each platform’s service worker (still simpler than supporting multiple notification paradigms) and writing responsive UI (which we already were doing for mobile browsers anyways).

Our browser users would remain happy, but we could re-leverage the same great work we did for browser notifications on laptops for phones as well. Better yet, users could have an icon on their home screen without giving up any valuable storage on their device.

PWAs have been a blessing for us and they continue to gain greater support (iOS recently added support) both on platforms and in the community generally. We highly recommend this approach for lots of companies in similar positions as ours.