How to Turn or Convert a Website into an App?
More and more people spend their time on mobile platforms, especially when it comes to shopping and entertainment. Many successful companies and startups (Airbnb, Starbucks, Zillow and your next door competitor) that initially launched only a website, have now also established their mobile presence, right?
Because the numbers speak for themselves:
- 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)
There may be plenty of reasons that brought you to the idea to convert a website to a mobile app: for example, you may want to provide your mobile customers with a better service or just noticed through the analytics that a large part of your audience accesses your site via their smartphones.
Yet, some say, that you can satisfy your customers by adopting Responsive Web Design, so it’s actually not necessary to turn your website into an app. Is it? Let’s find out!
Jump right to the part where we discuss the ins and outs of the web-to-app development process if you already know that Responsive Design is not your case (maybe you’ve optimized your website for mobile devices earlier or you want to provide an ultimate experience for your customers exactly with a mobile application).
📱 Mobile Apps vs. 💻 Responsive Web Design: what’s the difference?
The Responsive Design concept is not only extremely popular now among website owners. Taking into consideration how much time people spend on their smartphones, it’s a must-have for modern businesses.
The Responsive Web Design means optimizing your site for mobile devices: implement easy-to-use navigation, adaptive resolution and orientation, ensure fast loading speeds etc.
However, even Responsive websites are still websites. Yes, it makes the website work and look better on smartphones and tablets. But no, it’s still not nearly gives the customers the User Experience of an application.
In comparison to sites, apps have faster and better performance, can operate well without the Internet connection and create a greater engagement through push notifications, the access to the smartphone’s services, user’s geolocation and so on.
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, the Responsive Web Design can be a great advantage for your website but it can’t replace a native app. However, it will be more than enough if your service needs just a simple one-page website with just your short description, address and working hours (in this case we’d advise thinking about your content marketing strategy to provide more valuable content and functionality to your customers).
But if you’re into providing your audience with a brand new digital product to increase retention and increase revenue through mobile sales channels and retargeting, it’s time to learn how to turn your website into an app.
📲 Is there any converter?
The Internet is full of these “turn a website into an app with a few clicks” offers. That’s why some business owners erroneously believe that it’s possible to convert a website to a mobile app through some online converter.
And it’s true - such services exist, and we can divide them on a high level into 2 types:
- The first one just takes your Website, places it into a WebView-wrapper inside the app and emulates the navigation and behaviour of a real app.
Think about it, as if your website would be opened via your Mobile browser and tweaked a bit to look more like an app.
Have you ever used those “apps”, created by a converter? The UX is terrible, try it yourself. As a result, your client will prefer a competitor, who can offer him a native mobile-UX.
- The second type of converters is for website-owners, who use popular engines like WordPress, Shopify or similar. Guys from those converter-services have developed plugins for those engines, which provide an API and on the other hand they have a template which can use that API.
But what if you want to add a chatbot, which will help clients of your E-Commerce solve simple questions? Or you want to integrate any functionality which the template can’t offer?
You’re right - you will have a problem.
Okay. So what’s the solution?
The one and only magic converter that can help you is a mobile developer who understands your goals and will build the app tailored to your specific business needs and, even more important, to the needs of your customers. Advantages of the mentioned approach are:
- Customized Experience. Unlike apps built using WebView-wrappers or “WordPress templates”, native applications provide your customers with a flawless UX and performance.
- Customer Centred. Your app will have not only the features, which the template provides, but which your customers really want and will increase your level of service and sales.
- Scalable. Unlike a “template-based” app, you can at any point modify your app as much as you want and don’t have to wait till the template-creators will allow this.
- Stand Out. You will be able to build a unique app that won’t look similar to hundreds of apps, built with the same converter-service.
- Better Results. Due to the reasons above, native apps are more convenient to use and, thus, you may expect an increased Lifetime Value and Revenue-per-user.
Now that we understand, why a tailor-made App is the better solution, the following 3 questions arise:
- What features should be in my company’s application?
- How to convert the website navigation patterns into the ones that are native to mobile applications?
- What are the ways to make the development cost-efficient?
Read on since we’re going to answer all these questions!
📃 The Correct Strategy to Convert Your Website to a Mobile App
Before you turn the website into the app, it’s important to understand why exactly you need it, and based on that - choose the right strategy.
So the key question here is what features are to be included in your app so it helps to meet your key metrics and goals - like increasing Recurring Revenue and Lifetime Value of your mobile customers by providing them with an easier buying (or booking, or whatever fits your business) experience. Because in the end, those metrics are the only thing that matters and the only reason why you’ve chosen to convert a website to an iOS app instead of just the Responsive Web, right?
Although, it sounds obvious, the main rule you should adhere to is:
Your mobile app should have only those features, which your mobile users need. A good indicator is the most accessed pages from the mobile version of your website.
Such screens as Blog or About the Company are definitely not your priority, so they can be even omitted or just added as links, which open in the mobile browser.
You can also use an application to boost a specific side of your business.
For example, imagine that you are a restaurant owner who has a website that provides customers with information about the menu, catering services, table booking and delivery, 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 delivery to boost this part of your restaurant business, see?
Moreover, it’s important to remember that users have different behavioural patterns when browsing your website and application. How these differences should be considered and implemented during the development process? That’s what the next paragraph is about!
🎨 Design side: don’t copy, or how to convert a website into an app correctly?
Websites and native apps don’t share the same patterns for a user-centred UX. Specifically, we mean the interface, content, object placement and navigation. If you want to turn a website into an app and get a top-notch Product, after all, 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 elements will remain on the front line, and which will go to the background.
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.
Navigation: keep it simple
We all are used to that the navigation on websites is anything but simple. Several 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 a website into an app.
However, there are some basic patterns for the 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.
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 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 when you convert a website to an Android app (or iOS)? Let’s see.
- Saves a lot of space on the screen.
- Allows you to accommodate a large number of navigation options.
- It’s pretty well-known so most people won’t have any problems using it.
- 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 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:
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:
- Tab bar is easy to reach (as it’s in the thumb-friendly zone) which makes UX even more smooth.
- It’s always in a sight, so people will use it more often than options from a hidden menu.
- With its help people can navigate through screens with a single tap.
- 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.
This navigation pattern has firstly appeared in 2007. Nowadays it’s the basis of intuitive interfaces which you may also implement as you convert a website to a 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:
- Saves you a lot of space that you can use to place a valuable content.
- Some gestures are already considered as “standard”. For example, we spread to zoom or swipe to move to a neighboring screen.
- Such 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.
🛠 How Can React Native Be Useful to Convert a Website to an iOS App (or Android one)?
Despite your developers will still have to write some platform specifications, React Native app development can greatly decrease development time and costs as well as lower the price of further post-release support of both applications.
Therefore, if you want to convert a website to an Android app and an iOS app at the same time (or ensure faster development for the second platform in future), we strongly recommend you looking exactly for React Native mobile developers.
We in Stormotion offer our clients creative user-centred 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 in order to convert a website into an app and just picks a convertor.
Let us remind ourselves of the main takeaways of this article:
If you’re looking for a Creative Agency, which can help to Develop a Mobile App tailored to the needs of your customers - just hit the button below. We’ll be happy to bring your services to iOS & Android App-Users.