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Native, Web, Hybrid, & Progressive Web Apps: Development and Testing

Native, Web, Hybrid, & Progressive Web Apps: Development and Testing

June 3, 2022
 by 
Kazuaki MatsuoKazuaki Matsuo
Kazuaki Matsuo

The digital realm has embraced the smartphone revolution, making it easier to complete multiple tasks. By using numerous apps on our smartphones, tablets, and computers, we can accomplish a great deal on the go. With constant technological advancements, the objective of the app industry has shifted to the development of smarter applications. The app market keeps introducing new types of apps very frequently. Thus, businesses need to keep updating with the changing technologies to leverage app technologies and create better customer experiences.

While there are different types of apps available, we will only discuss the development and testing aspects of Native, Hybrid, Web, and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) in this article.

What is a Web Application?

A web application is a website. It has a responsive design pattern so that it can be accessed by various devices such as mobile devices and desktops.

Considering the popularity of smartphone usage, most visitors evaluate a web application based on its mobile-friendliness. 

Web applications are scripted in HTTP/CSS and JavaScript and are more affordable than mobile apps. They are also simpler to develop and deliver as well as maintain. Due to low development costs and easier to deliver it to users than mobile, businesses on a strict budget typically rely on web-based apps. Developers build web apps differently; therefore, web app testing and mobile app testing differ considerably.

Frameworks for the development of web applications:

The following frameworks are used to develop web apps:

  • Ruby on Rails: Ruby on Rails is one of the most preferred web application development frameworks. It is faster than the Java framework. It employs the Model-View-Controller architecture to develop a web application with a database on the back end.
  • Django: Django is a well-known framework for its ability to build and support quick, flexible, adaptive, and secure web apps. The architecture is based on Model-View-Template.

Frameworks used for web apps testing

Selenium is a commonly used tool for testing web applications. It automates the testing of web applications across all available browsers. Selenium is commonly used to ensure the high-quality and high-performing of web apps.

Selenium testing tools

  • Selenium IDE: Selenium IDE is used by testers to record and replay automated browser testing tests. SIDE (abbreviation for Selenium IDE) Runner offers cross-browser testing and quick feedback capabilities.
  • Selenium WebDriver: Selenium WebDriver enables developers and testers to deploy multiple web browsers. Numerous prominent frameworks, such as CodeceptJS and Protractor, have derived extensively from Selenium WebDriver and augmented their interfaces with additional capabilities.
  • Selenium Grid: Selenium Grid is a proxy server that uses innovative technology to perform parallel tests on multiple devices. In this scenario, a server performs the function of a Hub, and commands are sent to remote web browsers. Thus, users can prefer creating Selenium scripts rather than maintaining infrastructure.

What is a Native app?

Native apps are smartphone applications created exclusively for a specific operating system, such as iOS or Android. The language used to build them varies depending upon the operating system. 

For Android, Java or Kotlin is used, whereas Swift is used for iOS. Cross-platform frameworks such as React Native can also be used to develop native apps. Developers use SDKs of an operating system, and the apps have access to various device resources, such as the device storage, camera, and GPS.

Frameworks used for development of native applications

Native app development for Android 

You may develop native Android applications using Java, Kotlin, and C++. Google offers advanced Android developer tools, including:

  • Android SDK bundled with Android Studio, the official IDE (integrated development environment) for Android
  • Command-line tools for Windows, Mac, and Linux 
  • Firebase, a comprehensive mobile development platform, 
  • Android Jetpack, a collection of pre-built Android components

In addition to Google's in-house developer tools, numerous third-party solutions are available for Android development. Developers can build android applications on both PCs and Mac. When your native Android application is complete, you must submit it to the Google Play app store so that consumers can download (or purchase) it.

Native app development for iOS

Developers can use Objective-C or Swift to build native iOS apps. Unlike Android, the iOS operating system was developed exclusively for Apple's devices with closed source code. Therefore, developers need a Mac device to create native iOS mobile applications.

Apple provides numerous valuable tools and resources for iOS programming, including:

  • iOS SDK with the SwiftUI and the Cocoa Touch UI framework 
  • Swift Playgrounds, which is a platform for learning Swift development
  • TestFlight which is a beta testing app

iOS also includes a unique third-party ecosystem, including AppCode and CodeRunner. The rules for App Store reviews are relatively stringent. They can reject your iOS application for various reasons, including poor performance, security concerns, or a lack of informative content.

Frameworks used for native app testing

  • Appium (iOS/Android Test Tool): Appium is an automation tool. It supports iOS and Android for mobile. Appium functions as client-server architecture. The server runs in the background like a selenium server.

It supports various programming languages, including Java, C#, Python, Ruby, and others from the WebDriver library. Appium uses the WebDriver protocol for performing tests.

  • Selendroid: Selendroid drives the user interface (UI) of Android native apps and the mobile web. Selenium 2 client API is also used to write tests.
  • Calabash: Calabash is a collection of libraries that enable test code to interact programmatically with native applications.
Also read: Test Native Apps with Real Device Cloud

What is a Hybrid App?

Hybrid apps combine the benefits of native and web applications. 

Developers build these apps with JavaScript, HTML, and CSS web technologies and are compatible with various operating systems devices. Hybrid applications are deployed within a native container using a mobile WebView object. Using web technologies like CSS, JavaScript and HTML, this object displays web content when the application is used. It shows web pages from a desktop website that have been adapted for WebView display. The web content can be displayed either as soon as the app is opened or only for specific app sections. Hybrid apps may also rely on platforms that provide JavaScript APIs if these features are called within a WebView.

Frameworks used for the development of Hybrid Apps

Some of the frameworks used for hybrid app development are:

  • React Native: With React Native, developers can build hybrid applications using only JavaScript. It uses the same architecture as React, enabling the composition of a rich mobile UI using declarative components. React Native leverages the same basic UI components as native iOS and Android applications. One note is that low layer implementation requires iOS and Android knowledge and programming skills.
  • Iconic: The Ionic Framework is a comprehensive open-source SDK for hybrid mobile application development. It offers tools and services for the development of hybrid mobile applications using Web technologies such as CSS, HTML5, and Sass.
  • NativeScript: Originally developed by Progress, NativeScript apps are developed using JavaScript or any language that traspiles to JavaScript like TypeScript. This mobile application framework includes extensive integration with the latest Angular versions, including full-stack features such as Angular CLI integration, code generation, and router support.

Frameworks used for Hybrid App Testing

  • Appium: Appium is a popular open-source mobile application testing framework. It enables automated testing of hybrid iOS and Android apps.
  • Calabash: Calabash is a framework that supports hybrid app performance testing in different languages. It is compatible with Ruby, Java, Flex, and.NET. Calabash framework's libraries allow test scripts to interact programmatically with hybrid applications.
  • Selendroid: Selendroid is also known as Selenium for Android mobile apps. Selendroid enables testers to do hybrid mobile application testing. Similar to Selenium for cross-browser testing, Selendroid can run parallel test cases on several devices.
  • Espresso: Google's Espresso framework for mobile automation facilitates the development and deployment of UI tests for Android applications. It permits both grey-box testing and testing of individual components during the development cycle. This comprehensive framework enables developers to test hybrid web views on Android.

What are Progressive Web Apps?

A progressive web app(PWA) is a web app that appears and functions like a mobile application. PWA is designed to take advantage of native mobile device capabilities without needing the user to visit an app store, purchase software, and download it locally. A PWA can be located w

Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) are web-based applications built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Developers design PWA with features such as push notifications and offline functionality. In addition, they are based on and enhanced with modern APIs, which makes it hassle-free to deliver enhanced capabilities, reliability, and the ability to install them on any device.

PWAs leverage the vast web ecosystem that includes the community, plugins, and seamless deployment and maintenance of a website compared to native applications, which are otherwise difficult to develop. It means that building a PWA is quick and seamless.

Frameworks used for the development of PWAs applications

  • Angular: Angular uses JavaScript to create reliable and robust Progressive Web Apps. Google introduced Angular in 2010. Owing to its modular structure, it has become the most used PWA framework.
  • ReactJS: Facebook established the development framework React, which has a larger developer community than Angular. Due to its adaptability, it is the most popular framework among developers.
  • Polymer: Google's Polymer is an open-source framework with its own set of tools and templates that simplifies the development of PWAs.
  • PWA Builder: PWA builder is the framework that helps you convert your existing website into a Progressive Web App. Microsoft's PWA builder aims to increase the adoption of user-friendly, intuitive, and high-speed PWAs.

Frameworks/tools used for testing PWAs

  • CLOUDQA: CloudQA includes codeless test automation tools that allow users to record and execute functional test cases. In addition, it includes the capacity to add assertions, manage test case execution, and generate reports. It is a powerful tool that is used for codeless automation. Thus, a tester without coding experience may quickly automate test cases using it. It provides automation support for PWA apps.
  • Appium: Appium is quite suited for testing PWAs. When executing on a device, there is not much that distinguishes a PWA from other apps; it is simply a web page running in a customized web browser (known as a 'context' in the Appium) that is wrapped by a native application. Appium is merely a bridge between your test scripts and the device running the app. Therefore, the specifics depend on the test script technology you use.
  • Lighthouse: Lighthouse is a testing tool for PWA provided by Google to analyze app under test for accessibility and performance metrics. This is an open-source tool that tests an application against the PWA guidelines, including:.
  1. Testing the app offline or in an unstable network.
  2. Reviewing of the app is served from a secure origin, i.e., HTTPS.
  3. If the PWA is reasonably quick.
  4. Verifies if the PWA uses accessibility best practices.

When to use a Native App, Hybrid App, Web App, or Progressive Web App?

Let's examine the criteria that developers must consider when choosing the type of application for any business.

Business case

PWAs and web apps are the preferred options if you want a quick Time To Market and want to reach out to a larger audience because PWAs are primarily web apps and websites accessible on both mobile devices and desktops. If your goal is to reach a wider audience, native applications need dedicated dev teams, which are significantly more expensive than the alternatives. A hybrid app is the best option if the app's features are not too complex.

Cost

Web applications are the most economical as they require few resources. Native apps and hybrid apps, on the other hand, have a high cost of maintenance because they must have compatibility with multiple platforms and require dedicated teams. PWAs are also less expensive since they are web apps built to function as apps on any mobile device.

Security

Web applications are less secure than hybrid apps, PWAs, and native applications. Multi-Factor Authentication (a proper functionality when an application has login functionality) is easier to use in native apps than PWAs.

End-user experience

Native applications provide the best end-user experience built specifically for each platform. Hybrid apps, web, and PWAs also offer a positive user experience; however, unlike native apps, they cannot take advantage of advanced features and capabilities such as geofencing and cameras.

Local device access

If your app requires device-specific features, then native or hybrid apps are the best options. PWAs and web apps cannot leverage the local device features and functionalities as much.

Conclusion

Native, web, hybrid, and PWA applications have advantages and downsides. You will need to determine the type of application you will develop based on your business requirements. The key to deploying various apps ultimately depends on the features, needs, and goals of the application you are creating. No matter which type of app you shortlist for your business, extensive cross platform testing is necessary for delivering a high-quality user experience and increasing customer engagement.

FAQs

1. Is PWA native or hybrid?

Progressive web apps (PWA) are similar to hybrid apps in many aspects: both connect the native and web development, but in different ways. Though some of these apps are available in the Google Play Store and iOS AppStore, users may frequently download them directly from their respective websites.

2. What is the difference between a standard website and PWA?

Installation is a significant distinction between a PWA and a web app. Users can install PWA on any platform, whether mobile or desktop. Nevertheless, a web application is built to operate within a web browser and cannot be installed on a device. 

3. Do PWAs require a browser?

PWAs can run on the browser and be installed directly on the user's home screen to provide an immersive, full-screen experience.

4. What does manifest file mean in PWA?

It is a JSON file with information such as the app's name and start URL. These variables are known as members and determine how your app appears to end-users. It also includes the elements necessary to make a PWA have an identical style of an application and ensures that it is discoverable.

Native, Web, Hybrid, & Progressive Web Apps: Development and Testing

4 Parts