Why we made the clubcloud App a PWA

By Harold “Hal” Leonard, clubcloud, LLC, Chief Mobile Officer

Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) are simply super powered websites. Built on modern web frameworks such as Vue, React, Vite, TypeScript, and more, they leverage a powerful and robust JavaScript ecosystem and pair it with the conveniences of modern mobile devices. This means we can utilize the latest and greatest the web has to offer even when building applications targeted at mobile devices.

At their core, PWAs are websites. They are built in any modern web language (typically JavaScript) and can run on any hardware with a web browser. From a bootstrapping perspective, this means a company can build an application which can be used on iOS, Android, Windows, Apple, or Linux with a single codebase, a single build, and using well the well-established pathways of the internet in general.

They are also very common. Many massive companies provide PWAs instead of or in addition to native offerings. Companies such as Uber, Google, Spotify, Pinterest, Twitter, and Starbucks have all taken advantage of and offer PWA versions of at least some of their apps. Some major companies have a PWA first (or only) approach to mobile development. It’s safe, secure, and robust.

At clubcloud, we decided to build our member app using PWA technology. This was the best way to ensure we were able to provide a consistent experience to any user, regardless of their level of technical prowess or choice of device. At clubcloud, our technological philosophy is not one of exclusion but rather of inclusion. The following are reasons for choosing a PWA over a Native mobile application:

  1. Ease of installation: Initial use of the application requires only that you have a web browser. This makes migration to clubcloud as seamless as possible for your club and its members. PWAs eliminate the long process of finding, installing, and downloading an application. PWAs load as quickly as a web page and are easily saved to a device’ home screen, which results in a faster and simpler experience for your club’s members. 
  2. Minimal Storage Requirements: A PWA only stores part of the application on your device, and typically that footprint is very small, unlike their native app counterparts. For data-rich applications such as the clubcloud member application, the PWA maintains a small footprint on the user’s device. This is particularly advantageous to club members who may have outdated devices or devices with limited storage.
  3. Cost Efficient Development: A PWA works on all devices, allowing for a unified development approach. This means the experience is consistent across devices (simplifying support), bugs are fixed globally across the platform, and overall reduces time and costs of development, maintenance, and support. Beyond this, it also means we can provide new additions and experiences to our PWA more quickly and efficiently than if we were utilizing native applications. These development savings are passed on to our club partners, and also result in a shorter development cycle.  It was important to us to prioritize reducing costs while providing a superior globally available product to our partner clubs without the added expenses of production and maintenance of multiple native products. These savings are passed on to the clubs, which reduces strain on the already thin margins of the fitness industry. Interestingly, some of our competitors charge clubs as much as $199 per month to use their native applications, but there is no charge to use the clubcloud PWA. 
  4. Automatic Updates: PWAs can be configured to require updates automatically to provide users with the best experience. This is the case with the clubcloud PWA, which will alert the user when an update needs to be made. This update is typically very quick (it’s done behind the scenes by a web worker) and painless. The user is not required to sign in again, nor does it require them to visit a separate application to update. This is contrary to native applications, which constantly expose their users to outdated versions, can be tedious to update, and can sometimes be many versions out of date without the user knowing it.
  5. Reliable Off-Line Performance: PWAs can function in areas with poor or no internet connectivity by using cached data from previous on-line visits.  This means that like native application users, your club’s members will have uninterrupted access to our application’s features.  
  6. Security: PWAs are as secure as the websites you use every day to do your banking, check your credit card statements, make online payments, fill out medical forms, and more. At clubcloud, we take privacy and security very seriously. We rely on HTTPS protocols in our communications layers between our app users, our APIs, and our backend. What’s more, we utilize a token-based approach to authentication on our API calls and use a standard CRUD based API surface. Atop that, the modern security features built into web browsers increase the security and safety of the PWA even further.
  7. Privacy: In addition to using secure transportation protocols for your data, we also ensure no PII (personally identifying information) is stored on the device itself. PII is stored on our servers and secure. It is only ever transmitted over HTTPS secure transportation protocols and only when absolutely necessary.

When we built clubcloud, we wanted to build the best option for the fitness industry.  We carefully studied the needs that our initial clubs presented to us and the top items on every list we compiled were cost, ease of operation, and security. We agreed that PWAs were the best option for our clubs, and we are confident that the clubcloud application is the right option for your club, too. 

How to download a PWA on iOS.

Harold Leonard June 28, 2024
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