Push Notifications for Progressive Web Apps (PWA) Explained

The power of web push notifications combined with PWA 

What are push notifications?

Push notifications are small, simplified messages that alert the recipient to perform a certain action or deliver a certain value. With web-based push notifications, you can reach visitors who are, or have been on your website, directly on their mobile phone or device without the need for personal information or an app. Being able to reach your visitors without any kind of effort results in increased engagement. This can be translated into increased sales, brand awareness, achieving goals and improvements in your marketing funnel.


What are push notifications explained in an illustration
The push notification protocol visualised


Over the years, technology has progressed significantly resulting in different types of digital communication tools, available to all types of organizations. Therefore, the demand is enormous and push notifications, among other things, take different forms. Although push notifications originated from native apps, we see that the trends are moving towards progressive web apps (PWA). In this blog we will explain how push notifications are applied within a PWA, its advantages and the difference with native apps.

Capabilities of push notifications

Although push notifications themselves don't sound very exceptional, they can seriously add value to your business. For example, you can use push notifications in such a way that it can influence the thinking and feeling of the receiver in a positive way. Progressive Web Apps allow users to enjoy ‘app-like’ features, such as improved performance and user experience, on your website. This, combined with the ability to add fully automated and segmented push notifications will have benefits across the board, from improved engagement and marketing to higher conversion and brand trust.

Push notifications for progressive web apps

Progressive web apps explained

The best practical examples of PWA's can be found at Google, they created the concept. YouTube, Twitter and the Chinese retail giant Alibaba serve all mobile traffic via PWAs.

The growth of progressive web apps versus native apps
Google's vision on Progressive Web Apps versus Web -and Native Apps


You can start a PWA from the browser and just like with a native app you can install an icon on the home screen. The PWA is extremely fast and offers the ability to work offline or on slow networks. You don't have to download the PWA unlike a native app and therefore the PWA is always up to date. Having a PWA also helps a lot with SEO best practices, resulting in a higher Google ranking. Google provides tools to test if your PWA is good enough, load times and security (an HTTPS connection is required) are particularly important.

In terms of maintenance, a PWA means less work. you would normally maintain the website plus two apps (Android and iOS), with a PWA the content is now delivered from a single platform. On top of that, you don't have to deal with the requirements and possible geographical restrictions of app stores.

Progressive web app (PWA) example
Example of a website added to the home screen as Progressive Web App (PWA)

How push notifications work in progressive web apps

Push notifications let your progressive web app go far beyond the browser, and are an incredibly useful way to (re)engage with your website visitors. Web push notifications are used for simple tasks like alerting a user about upcoming sales or events, they display an icon and a few lines of text that the user can then click to open and go to a specific destination on your site. You can also integrate action buttons into automated notifications, so the user can interact with your site or web app without having to go back to your web page.

Web push notifications use a ‘service worker’ to listen for ‘push events’ provided by your push notification service (such as PushPro). Once an event is triggered the notification is sent to the users device even if the browser isn’t active. Push notifications are sent directly from a server to the web push service and contain the information required for the push service to send them to the right recipient.

Web push notification browser service worker
The service worker in a browser visualised


When visitors of your site or web app allow notification messages within the browser; the service worker wakes up briefly to register you as a "subscriber" of the website in question so you can receive push notifications. This sign up journey can differ from site to site,  we’ve explained this in more detail in an earlier article about Chrome 80 working with quieter permission UI.

The value of push notifications for browser experience and engagement

You no doubt, already monitor and optimize the customer journey of your site visitors. This in combination with progressive web app technology that makes your site accessible offline and fast; is a really strong foundation. To extend this experience, push notifications which are timely, relevant and precise, contribute to a perfect storm for increased conversion and engagement.

You're in control of exactly when you want to show your visitors something that's intended for them, such as a confirmation, update or discount at your chosen time. This makes visitors personally feel more engaged with your company and the information you would like to share with them. The chance of returning visitors is enormous and as a result, your brand awareness will increase enormously, therefore we see web push notifications as a great value extension for higher user engagement.

5 real examples of timely, relevant and precise web push notifications.

Progressive Web Apps vs Native apps

We are all familiar with the Android Playstore and the Apple App store where you can download apps. A mobile native app can also be downloaded from these stores and has been developed with a specific programming language for a specific operating system. The app is installed on the OS of the user such as Android or iOS allowing the app device to call specific functionalities. The technology of the app has similarities with that of a PWA but in the end they are very different technologies.

Push notifications in native apps also differ from a PWA, within the app they are often notifications of updates, news, marketing or transactional notifications. You will only receive these notifications when you have installed the app and turned the notifications on or give permission for it. The operation for push notifications of a PWA, on the other hand, is different. Depending on the use, these notifications in a general sense do not focus so much on continuous updates but mainly add value to the marketing funnel by involving visitors and customers with the brand or company. The main difference remains the operation of web push notifications on iOS, where native so far is the forerunner.

Where to start?

If you want to learn more about progressive web apps and how to build them with the right tools and in detail the possibilities, I recommend you to read this article. The possibilities of PWA's are huge, using DEITY Falcon Platform you can easily integrate web push notifications directly into your PWA frontend. If you have no plans to convert your website to a web application in the near future, you can also use PushPro as a web push service for your site or ecommerce webshop.


Developing a progressive web app with push notifications



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