Mobile usage is on the rise, with research showing that 55.68% of all internet traffic came from mobile devices in January 2021. That is a huge increase from 2010 when the desktop was responsible for 97% of all internet traffic. Along with this, the usage of mobile apps has also increased. In fact, over 1.85 million different apps are available for users to download in the iOS App Store.
The good news is that turning a website into an app doesn’t necessarily require monumental effort — thanks to the advancement of software development.
Instead, there are only a few steps you need to take to create an app that offers your clients and their customers a seamless mobile experience.
Why create an app?
When faced with the evidence that mobile devices are responsible for around half of all internet traffic, it’s tempting for a website owner to simply make their current website more responsive.
So why would you advise someone to create an app instead?
Here are 4 reasons:
1. Smartphones are becoming even more popular
Smartphones are for the present, but they’re also for the future. In fact, it was predicted that by the end of 2020 6.1 billion smartphones would be in use around the world. Moreover, back in 2019 people spent 90% of their mobile time using apps.
Apps are, of course, bound up with smartphones because the technology is dependent on them. For as long as smartphones remain popular, so will apps.
2. Apps improve the user experience
User experience is key to retaining customers. The smoother a website is to use, the longer customers will stick around.
However, apps are preferable because they improve the user experience even more. Apps load faster and are less complicated. Not only that, but some customized features like in-app chat improve your company’s customer service ratings, too.
Furthermore, apps also collect user data that you can then use to make more improvements going forward.
3. Apps save time
With a website, a user has to type in your address and navigate through your pages. With an app, they can simply click it and it opens up.
And because mobile users want everything faster than desktop users, creating an app instead of a responsive website makes more sense. If anything, it removes another barrier (time) to conversion.
And, don’t think that you have to reinvent the wheel. Many in-app features that were once considered advanced, and required custom coding from the ground level, are now easily accessible. For example, you can enable chat by installing a ready-made chat app or bringing your own custom features to life with pre-built chat APIs.
4. An app adds value to your brand
While apps are on the rise, not every business has yet created one. Therefore, if you can create an app, it will allow you to stand out from the competition and add more value to your brand’s reputation.
In fact, recent data from one source suggests that up to 57% of consumers might prefer to interact and shop via the mobile app rather than any other channel. If your competitor can meet your target audience in the iOS or Google Play store and you can’t, you could be losing countless potential shoppers.
That all said, before you can create an app, the first thing you must do is …
Step 1: Optimize your website for mobile
You can’t turn your website into an app without optimizing it for mobile-first. This means implementing a responsive design that ensures those accessing your website via a mobile device are able to enjoy a user-friendly experience.
Using a database-driven content management system like WordPress makes it easy to implement a mobile responsive design, and all you need to do is adopt a WordPress theme.
WordPress offers both free themes and premium themes, and each one is already mobile responsive. However, before you pick a theme, it’s a good idea to take a look at a preview of what your site would look like should you implement a specific one.
There are a number of themes you can choose, with some of the most popular including:
Of course, make sure that you also optimize for Google Page’s latest update.
Step 2: Decide what kind of app you want to create
There are different types of apps you can transform your website site into:
- Progressive web app
- Native app
A progressive web app is a set of functions on top of a “traditional” web application, that turns it into a mobile app. One of its biggest benefits to the end-user is that it takes up less space on their device in comparison to native apps. Developers may see progressive web apps as easier to create because they don’t require teams for Android and iOS to get involved.
A native app, meanwhile, is an actual app that your site visitors will download and install from Google Play or the App Store onto their smartphone. They have been coded in such a way as to allow them to work on the operating system they’re installed on. For example, Swift or Objective-C is used to write native iOS apps.
Both types of apps have their pros and cons. Native apps work in conjunction with other apps better, and they’re easier to monetize because they’re integrated into the app store. They’re also typically more secure thanks to two-factor authentication.
Progressive apps, on the other hand, load quicker than native apps and create a unified experience. They can also cost less to create, and require less time to create.
Step 3: Transform your WordPress site into a progressive app
Turning your WordPress site into a progressive app is a simple enough process because you can use a free plugin called WordPress Mobile Pack.
WordPress Mobile Pack allows you to create a progressive app version of your website in just a few steps. You just need to install it and activate the free version of it.
With this plugin, your web app will be finished in around ten minutes or less. It’s up to you to add your logos, choose your color schemes, and so on. You will also need to decide which content you want to add to your app. This is important to note because it’s likely that you’ve got content that doesn’t suit a mobile audience.
Step 4: Transforming your WordPress site into a native app
Transforming your WordPress site into a native app is more complex than turning it into a progressive app. This is because (as we’ve seen) a native app is a full-on app that needs to be downloaded and installed on a smartphone in order to function. It thus has to integrate with the operating systems it’s used on.
As such, while you could start from the beginning and develop the app yourself (or work with a developer), it’s much easier to use a WordPress plugin.
When it comes to plugins, you’ve got a few options including:
MobiLoud turns your WP site into a native app for both Android and iOS. Its customizable interface integrates easily with your existing plugins and themes, and its team is available to take care of the publishing process for you. MobiLoud is also known for its high level of customer support.
MobiLoud is especially ideal for WordPress sites that are high traffic. Features include offline support and push notifications, and there is no MobiLoud branding available anywhere on your site.
Prices for MobiLoud start out from $150/month + $450 setup.
AndroApp is more aimed at those who are on a leaner budget. It lets you transform your WordPress site into an app rapidly, and it comes with a number of custom features for you to choose from.
AndroApp also has a variety of themes on offer, and you can monetize your app using AppNext and AdMob. Other features include custom branding, caching support, and unlimited push notifications.
But while AndroApp is easy to use, it isn’t compatible with either BuddyPress or WooCommerce. Moreover, you can only use it to create an Android app. This means you can’t use it to create an iOS app.
It’s affordable, however, and prices start out from $66 for the whole year.
AppMaker is a cloud-based plugin that lets you turn your WordPress site into a native mobile app. It utilizes a drag-and-drop interface, and it offers in-built notifications. No prior coding knowledge is required to use AppMaker.
The plugin is especially useful for small-to-medium size businesses. It comes with a functionality that lets your customers share videos and play podcasts, and it’s compatible with WooCommerce.
Pricing is customized and depends on your needs. The best way to work out how much AppMaker will cost you is to contact their team. Typically, prices are higher than other plugins, but AppMaker offers better performance and quality than most competitors.
Create a Fully-Custom App
This guide is intended to make your job easier and speeds up app development. Without a doubt, the easiest, quickest, and most cost-effective way to turn a website into an app is to use a plugin, such as one of the four listed above.
Of course, you also can start from the ground up. Make your job easier with a tool like Adobe PhoneGap. The only prerequisite is that you know how to write code. It can be a worthwhile option that gives you full creative control.
Step 5: (Final Step) Test Your App
Whichever route you go down, the final step you must take is testing. You need to be sure that your new app has zero errors, and that it works correctly on all operating systems.
The best way to test your app is to do it yourself on your own device. You can use a tool like BrowserStack to help you test the app for things like compatibility, functionality, usability, and all-around performance.
You can follow this quick guide to a perfect usability testing experience.
Transforming your WordPress website into an app doesn’t need to be difficult, but there are some important decisions you need to make first. For example, should you develop on 1OS or Android first? Then, do you want a progressive or native app?
Take the first step by turning your website into a responsive site, before deciding what kind of app you want to create. Then, find the right themes and plugins that will allow you to create an app that reflects your website and brand, and allows you to keep moving forward.