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PWA Stack: from manual to automated asset generation

· 5 min read
Pierre Martin

Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) are a way to deliver fast, reliable, and engaging user experiences on the web.

In Front-Commerce, we’ve always ensured that every applications could be turned into a PWA to improve the user experience. To achieve this, developers can rely on standard web features and technologies that we name “the PWA Stack”. Front-Commerce acts as a technical enabler to ease the lives of developers to create and maintain this stack.

In this blog post, we will explore the evolution of this “PWA Stack”, from its manual asset generation approach in Front-Commerce 2.x to the streamlined and automated process introduced in Front-Commerce 3.x.

Developer guide series

This article is part of our Developer Guide series. We're publishing new articles all year. Stay tuned!

What does the PWA Stack consist of?

The PWA Stack, is our term to describe the different assets, technologies and practices turning websites into web applications with native app-like capabilities.

A PWA is built on the principles of progressive enhancement and web standards. It provides the ability to a website for being installed and run on various devices. The stack consists of three main components: the manifest, service workers, and app shell.

The manifest is a JSON file that describes the application and its behavior, including details such as the name, icons, start URL, and display mode.
Service workers are scripts that run in the background and enable features such as offline access, push notifications, and background synchronization.
The app shell is the minimal HTML, CSS, and JavaScript needed to power the user interface when the application is launched.

These components must be combined together to create reliable, fast, and engaging web experiences that are accessible to all users, regardless of their device or network conditions.

In Front-Commerce, the PWA Stack empowers developers to generate and register these components in a cohesive way so they can have a minimal setup working out-of-the box, so they can focus on developing code adapting the user experience to match their specific needs (or stick with the default minimal PWA setup).

2.x: a default PWA Stack to override

In Front-Commerce 2.x, the process of generating PWA assets is ready when starting a project. It however requires manual customization by integrators and developers.

Developers must override the manifest.json and app-shell.html in their project and modify its content to match their project, including the name, short_name, colors, and icons. While this provide flexibility, it also introduce complexity and the potential for human error.

One common pitfall is that developers often forgot to customize the PWA assets entirely or partially, leading to a generic and less effective PWA implementation when going live (hopefully we detect this when auditing the site, but it can then be forgotten or not prioritized).

Another problem we found over time, is that developers don’t necessarily want to invest in advanced customization or don’t understand clearly each of these components responsibilities. It could lead to partially working experiences.

We provided guidance on how to customize the PWA Stack components provided by Front-Commerce to ensure that the website is recognized as a Progressive Web Application (PWA), but as any guide … it doesn’t enforce anything!

3.x: simplicity first

In Front-Commerce 3.x, we approached the PWA Stack in a different way.

We focused on providing a simple and efficient way for integrators to describe the PWA Stack with metadata, and for Front-Commerce to derive all the required stack automatically.

This approach not only reduces the burden on integrators and developers but also ensures consistency and adherence to PWA best practices.

Technically, you will adapt the following configuration in your front-commerce.config.ts configuration file.

import { defineConfig } from "@front-commerce/core/config";
import themeChocolatine from "@front-commerce/theme-chocolatine";

export default defineConfig({
extensions: [themeChocolatine()],
// […]
pwa: {
appName: "ACME Store",
shortName: "ACME Store",
themeColor: "#fbb03b",
icon: "public/pwa-icon.png",
maskableIcon: "public/pwa-masked-icon",
cacheTTLInMs: 7 * 24 * 60 * 60 * 1000,

It only takes a few minutes to define, then Front-Commerce takes care of generating all assets required for your PWA Stack consistently.

The PWA assets are generated in adherence to best practices and include all different icon variations in the manifest, so each device can use the most adapted to their specifications.

Advanced customization

While the default PWA Stack is sufficient for most projects, we also want to provide more advanced customization options for developers who want to go further.

In Remix, routes are a great abstraction over the network layer. They allow to describe the data requirements for a given page, and could be used in the context of a PWA to provide a fallback when the data is not available. That's the goal of the Remix PWA project.
In Front-Commerce 3.x, our PWA Stack is using Remix PWA under the hook, but doesn't expose extension points for you to leverage its full power yet.

We're looking for your feedback and use cases to help us prioritize the next steps. Please reach out to us if you have specific PWA use cases in mind!

Join us again for the next article in our Developer Guide series!