Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) aren’t just simple websites. They’re more like web-based applications, offering offline functionality, touch and swipe controls, and more. However, installing a PWA until now has felt more like creating a web shortcut rather than, well, installing something. That’s all about to change though with Chrome’s new PWA install prompt, which will include more information about the experience, including screenshots, giving the entire process a Google Play Store-like vibe.
Google recently unveiled this new UI approach on its Chrome Developers blog, and if you have Chrome mobile 94 or desktop version 108, you should be able to try this out. The provided example is Google’s excellent Squoosh.app tool that helps you quickly shrink image file sizes without compromising much on their quality. It seems the tech giant’s vision is to treat PWAs more like the apps they seek to replace, and this new preview (seen below) will help developers showcase what their experiences are capable of before a user installs them.
PWA install prompts will now kinda look like app listings on Google Play
To achieve this “richer UI preview”, developers need to use the ‘screenshots’ array and the ‘description’ field, presumably in their manifest file. There is documentation for devs detailing the “Richer Install UI pattern” so that implementing it per PWA is easier.
So, will this soon become the standard for all web apps? It’s quite possible, but as previously implied, it relies on each individual developer implementing it themselves, which means there’s less likely to be immediate uniformity for end users. Still, this change could also lend more weight to the aging Chrome Web Store, giving it more purpose and maybe even a future face-lift.
With the adoption of these new screenshots and the previously added descriptions, we may see the lines between websites and apps blur even further. We’re already seeing many of Google’s own PWAs replace their native Android apps on the Play Store, so extending that beyond the store itself and into the open web experience is an interesting play if nothing else.