Optelec is a company that produces aid equipment to help people with vision problems. They are an international leader in their field.
The Dutch branch of Optelec reached out to me with a very straightforward question. They wanted to know if I could create an application for them that could be used by health workers to easily browse Optelec's product catalog. To lower the barrier of entry as much as possible, they wanted to be able to install this application on a mobile device like a normal app. And preferably without breaking the bank in the process.
To achieve this I created a progressive web app (commonly known as a PWA) for them. A PWA is an website that contains some extra functionality that allows it to be installed onto the home screen of your phone. Once installed it's practically indistinguishable from a "normal" app to your users.
Why would you choose a PWS over a "normal" app? Well, creating an app for iOS requires you to create your app using a programming language called Swift. Android, however requires you to build your apps using the Java, or Kotlin programming language. If you want your app to run on both Android and iOS, you will need to create two apps. One for Android, and one for iOS. Even if they look and feel identical, behind the scenes you will most likely need two teams of developers, each specializing in their own platform. And that's not even counting your website.
With a PWA you can create your website in a mobile-friendly way, and enhance it with some extra configuration to turn it into a progressive web app. This app can then be installed on your user's home screen, and voila. You've just killed two birds with one stone. Three actually. Your website is now also an iOS app, and an Android app.
So now, right between the Deliveroo and LinkedIn icons on my home screen, sits a small white square that says "Optelec". If you click it, it opens a simple app that you can use to browse a selection of products. A website disguised as an app. It's a very simple example of what progressive web apps can do, and just a glimmer of what they'll be able to do in the future.