How to Turn or Convert a Website into an App?
Content:
  • 1. 📱 Mobile Apps vs. 💻 Responsive Web Design: what’s the difference?
  • 2. 📃 Need to convert your website to a mobile app? Choose a business strategy!
  • 3. 🛠️ Design side: don’t copy, or how to convert a website into an app correctly?
  • 4. 🖥️ Tech requirements: how is the data processed?
  • 5. 📲 What about an easy way? Is there any converter?
  • 6. 💡 Conclusion
  • Do you want to convert a website to a mobile app but aren’t sure how to do that? Today we’re going to answer all your questions!

    Two decades ago your own website could be a great competitive advantage; nowadays you’d rather surprise someone if you don’t have one. It seems the same story happens with mobile apps right now. Some website owners still assume that “good old school websites” are more convenient and provide more value to its owner and an average user rather than apps.

    Yet, the following statistics show us the opposite:

    • 89% of mobile media time is spent in mobile apps; websites account only for 11%. (Source: Smart Insights)
    • 83% of B2B marketers claim that mobile apps are an important part of content marketing. (Source: Strategy Trends)
    • Retail apps’ conversion rate is usually about 120% higher than on websites. (Source: PR Newswire)

    Many successful companies and startups that initially entered the market with only a website (Airbnb, Dropbox, Facebook and others) now quickly redirect themselves to mobile. Don’t wanna stay behind? Keep on reading and you will find out how to turn your website into an app in the appropriate and the most efficient way.



    📱 Mobile Apps vs. 💻 Responsive Web Design: what’s the difference?

    If you’re already a website owner (and you probably are), you have apparently heard about the responsive web design concept. Or even applied it on your website. Nevertheless, many assume that it’s not necessary to turn a website into an app if you already have a site with a responsive design.

    It’s a fallacy.

    Even websites with a responsive design are still websites. “Responsive”, in this case, means that your site adjusts itself to the requirements of devices (like screen sizes and resolutions) on which it’s browsed. Eventually, it makes the website operate and look better on smartphones and tablets. Yet, it’s still not nearly an application.

    A responsive web design
    Responsive web design (image by Chris Bannister)

    On the contrary, a mobile app is a software product that you have to download either from Google Play (if you’re an Android user) or App Store (if you have a device running on iOS). The application is closely related to the hardware pieces of your device - like microphone, camera, accelerometer and so on - and uses them to provide users with better experience.

    Thus, in comparison to sites, apps have a faster and better performance, can operate well without an Internet connection and create a greater engagement using push notifications, the access to the camera and photo library, user’s geolocation and so on.

    An example of a mobile app
    You can't achieve such results with a website, can you? (image by Dann Petty)

    However, it’s all about UX and the convenience of your users. Let’s run a small test. Imagine, you are an ordinary mobile user who wants to read fresh news. What will you use: such a mobile website or an app? The answer is obvious!

    As you can see, a responsive design can be a great advantage for your website but it can’t replace a native app. I bet now you’re wondering how to turn your website into an app. Before we review the technical side of this process, let’s talk a bit about understanding this process from the business perspective.



    📃 Need to convert your website to a mobile app? Choose a business strategy!

    We won’t tell you a big secret: it’s always better to go multi-platform and satisfy both desktop and mobile users. However, this doesn’t mean that your app must be a smaller downloadable version of your website with the same functionality. You should look upon your app as a separate self-sufficient product. That means you have 3 options to select from:

    1. Transfer all functionality of the site to the application with minimal changes (develop a clone-app of your original website).
    2. Build an app with core features and enrich it with additional ones over time.
    3. Create an app with a few specific features.

    None of this variants can be considered as a less or more preferable since it all depends on your business concept.

    Usually, companies build an app with core features at first and then add the complementary features they omitted at the beginning. Even in this case the final version of the app may have many differences comparing to the original website.

    An app with core functionality
    An example of an app with just core features

    If you’re going to copy all the functionality of your website, keep in mind that users don’t always need all the features you offer them. Eventually, you may find yourself in a situation where the app is so complicated and has so many screens that users literally get lost in it! Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

    Yet, if you still want to jump on this path, make sure you adapt the features of your website to the mobile platform from the UX perspective. Read on, because a bit later we will tell you how to turn a website into an app in the most appropriate way.



    Keep in mind: requirements for the content and the interface of applications and sites are different.



    Some companies also decide to build an app with one or few specific features from their bigger web-brother. The brightest example of such an app is Facebook Messenger that is nothing more than a chatting application.

    Frankly speaking, this solution isn’t the most popular one. However, there is a saying that “true genius lies in simplicity” so if you need to solve a specific business task such a concise app may be the best option for you.

    For example, imagine that you are a restaurant owner who has a website that provides customers with information about the menu, catering service, table booking and delivery features, reviews from visitors. You are good at all points except delivery. That’s the situation when it’s reasonable enough to build a specific app for ordering a delivery to boost this part of your restaurant business, see?

    Food delivery app
    Food delivery applications are a great example of an app with just one specific feature (image by Divan Raj)

    Among our core competencies in Stormotion are not just coding and building mobile apps. We also try to deeply understand our clients’ business aims and suggest best technical solutions to achieve them.. If you’re not sure which path to follow, we would be glad to assist you.

    Conclusion: there is no right or wrong strategy. It all depends on the tasks the app should solve and your target audience’s issues that you should solve. So think carefully before picking the one!



    🛠️ Design side: don’t copy, or how to convert a website into an app correctly?

    Websites and native apps don’t share the same flow for a smooth UX. It relates to the interface, content, object placement and navigation. If you want to turn website into app and get a top-notch product as an outcome, you should adhere to the essential principles of the mobile UX. Therefore, let’s review them!



    Consistency: all eyes on UX

    “Less is more” is a key principle when it comes to mobile development. Web pages usually contain many buttons, text blocks and other visual elements. Moving all these objects in the application without any changes is an unattainable luxury. Screen sizes, proportions and resolutions of mobile devices put you in the position where you have to decide what features will remain on the front line, and which will go to the background.

    Consistency
    All eyes on UX (image by Gleb Kuznetsov)

    Simply put, for every in-app feature you will have to build a separate screen (or even several ones). So as not to turn your app into a maze or a riddle, Stormotion developers strongly recommend you to highlight the key features that bring most value for your users and don’t simply copy the whole functionality of your website.



    We all are used to that the navigation on websites is anything but simple. Few hidden bars, sliding and expandable menus, two- or three-level lists, icons on different sides of the screen and other navigation elements that are acceptable for an Internet page shouldn’t be transferred to a mobile app. Take this into account when you decide to convert website into app.

    A navigation system on a website
    Websites usually have a complicated navigation system (image by Oykun Yilmaz)

    However, there are some basic patterns for a mobile navigation that try to achieve the best discoverability and accessibility. So, let’s review the 3 most popular approaches to setting up a navigation system in a mobile application.



    Hamburger menu

    There are a lot of talks about hamburger menus these days. Despite some claim it to be an “old-fashioned” approach, it’s still used in many apps so you can follow this path too.

    A hamburger menu
    A hamburger menu (image by Gal Shir)

    A hamburger menu is a classic example of a hidden menu. The logic behind this navigation element is simple as that: it doesn’t occupy a screen space till a user calls it with a tap or swipe. What are the pros and cons of choosing a hamburger menu as the main navigation element for your app? Let’s see.

    Pros
    1. Saves a lot of space on the screen.
    2. Allows you to accommodate a large number of navigation options.
    3. It’s pretty well-known so most people won’t have any problems using it.
    Cons
    • Hides context so users don’t know which navigation options are available till they open a menu.
    • Users have to do 1 more action (open a menu) before they can reach another screen.
    • It’s located mainly out of the thumb-friendly zone (we will talk about it a bit later) so it’s often difficult to tap the needed icon.



    Tab bar

    A tab bar
    A tab bar (image by Ramotion)

    Tab bar is another well-known navigation pattern for you since you definitely have already seen and used it. It’s usually located at the top or bottom of the screen and includes several most fundamental navigation options. What’s important: you can reach them from anywhere in the app. Moreover, it’s always located in the thumb-friendly zone:

    The thumb-friendly zone
    The thumb-friendly zone

    Tab bar is the best solution if your navigation system is not too branched out. Yet, it also has own pros and cons which we’re going to highlight right now:

    Pros
    1. Tab bar is easy to reach (as it’s in the thumb-friendly zone) which makes UX even more smooth.
    2. It’s always in a sight, so people will use it more often than options from a hidden menu.
    3. With its help people can navigate through screens with a single tap.
    Cons
    • Tab bar can hold a limited number of options (up to 5 and less).
    • It’s always visible so you have to think how it corresponds with all other screens.
    • If icons in a tab bar don’t have labels it may be hard to guess what is behind them.



    Gesture-based navigation

    Gesture-based navigation
    Gesture-based navigation (image by Aaron Wade)

    This navigation pattern has firstly appeared in 2007. Nowadays it’s the basis of intuitive interfaces which you may also implement as you convert website to mobile app. Instead of menus and icons users have to use different gestures in order to move from one screen to another and perform different actions.

    Let’s briefly review what are the pros and cons of such a choice:

    Pros
    1. Saves you a lot of space that you can use to place a valuable content.
    2. Some gestures are already considered as “standard”. For example, we spread to zoom or swipe to move to a neighboring screen.
    Cons
    • Such an invisible navigation may confuse users since they can’t see the full list of available options.
    • Some gestures require increased user efforts as they involve several fingers, shaking or rotating a device and so on.



    Fragmentation issue: a “responsive design” for mobile apps

    We’ve already mentioned a responsive design that’s used to adjust website to different screen sizes and resolutions. When creating an app, we have almost the same challenge: our developers have to make sure that the app works well on devices with different screens and, moreover, with different versions of OS.

    You should also take into account differences between mobile platforms. If you’re going to convert website to iOS app, you will face fewer problems with fragmentation but more stringent UI requirements than when you convert website to Android app. You can read more about differences between these 2 platforms in the following article:

    Read Also Android vs iOS Development: Which Platform is Better in 2017?



    🖥️ Tech requirements: how is the data processed?

    We already mentioned in this article distinctions between web and mobile mostly related to UI and UX. However, if you plan to correctly turn your website into an app, keep in mind that they also differently communicate with the database and server.

    Image by Matthew Skiles

    As you might already know, a website usually addresses directly to a database. However, a mobile app architecture involves APIs - special layers that accept application requests and handle communication with databases. Despite it might sound like not a big deal, this fact significantly distinguishes the way websites and apps communicate with a server and receive the data. Sometimes it’s even necessary to re-develop the BackEnd part of your Website from scratch so be prepared for it.

    Yet, if your server is optimized for mobile, our developers can build an API to transfer the needed data right into the app.



    📲 What about an easy way? Is there any converter?

    The Internet is full of offers to “turn a website into an app with a few clicks” but if you’re aiming to get a really high-grade product you shouldn’t think of it as an alternative.

    It’s impossible to build a fully-native app with a great performance and a nice-looking interface in a few minutes. The best thing you can get from such services is a set of templates. They allow you to “construct” an app like a puzzle which is obviously faster than coding it from scratch. Yet, you don’t even need to be a developer to guess which results you may expect at the end.

    We in Stormotion try to think beyond the standard and offer our clients creative user-centered and tailor-made solutions for their app projects. In the age of increased competition, your application should be equally valuable, catchy and easy to use. Losing even one constituent is the impermissible error that is often made by someone who is looking for a cheap but standard solution.



    💡 Conclusion

    The decision to invest time and money into creating a new product is always not the easiest one. Sometimes it seems too risky, sometimes the benefits are not as clear as we would like. Luckily for you, mobile is one of the most influential trends as for now, so to convert website into app is a win-win situation.

    Let us remind ourselves the main takeaways of this article:

    Build a native app and avoid using any magical “converters”.
    Choose the right business strategy specifically for your case.
    Pay attention to the UX differences between Web and Mobile.

    Any questions left? Challenge us and we’ll help you to convert your website to an iOS or Android app.

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