How to Convert a Website into an App
Nowadays, mobile users’ presence on the Internet significantly exceeds this for desktop users — 89% of mobile media time is spent in mobile apps, while websites only account for 11%.
Additionally, mobile users number is growing at a rapid pace. Taking into account that it’s already 5.27 billion unique mobile users, and more than 900,000 of them add to this number every day.
Furthermore, an app gives businesses a much better brand presence since users see a company’s logo more often, get push notifications, etc. So, the fact that many website owners decide to develop a mobile app at some point makes perfect sense.
However, native mobile apps aren’t the only mobile solution that businesses go for — it can be either Progressive Web Application or a website with a responsive design.
In this article, we’ll talk about each of the 3 options, give you some advice on when it might be more suitable to use a certain solution, and walk you through every detail that you might need to know when converting your website into an app.
So, if you want to convert your website into an app or other mobile solution — keep on reading for more details!
❓ FAQ on Website to Mobile App Conversion
Before we give you some detailed information on how this process can look like, we’d like to cover certain questions that you might have. Thus, you’ll have a brighter picture of what converting a website into an app actually is.
In this section, we review rather common cases. Surely, it’s possible that your use case will benefit from a different approach. So, if you’d like to have detailed feedback on your specific case, feel free to reach out to us. We’d be happy to help you!
What Are The Converting Options? What Might Be the Cost? 🔄
To begin with, the Internet is full of “turn a website into an app with a few clicks” offers. Such options actually exist — let’s call them autoconverters.
These autoconverters can be divided into 2 categories:
- The first one just takes your Website, places it into a WebView-wrapper inside the app, and emulates the navigation along with the behavior of a native app. Think about it, as if your website would open up via your mobile browser and get tweaked a bit to look more like an app.
- The second category of autoconverters is for website-owners, who use popular engines like WordPress, Shopify, Wix, etc. These services have developed plugins for those engines, which provide an API for converting. Additionally, they offer a mobile app template that interacts with the API for data exchange and displaying.
This picture shows an app converted from a website and, frankly speaking, both UI & UX designs don’t look promising to us. However, the looks and lack of user-friendliness aren’t the only repelling factors of such services.
The most significant one is that the functionality is strictly limited to what an autoconverter offers. So, if you’d like to add a chatbot to your app, use a 3rd party API, or implement any other feature that’s not on a converter’s list, you won’t be able to do that — neither now nor in the future.
And generally, every single step that you’ll have to take on your converting journey can and most likely will be limited to the offer of a converter.
We can’t say that such services shouldn’t be used at all. For example, they might be a reasonable solution in the following situations:
- You want to first test out how your audience will engage with a mobile product. Maybe you’ve noticed that a big part of your website’s visits come from mobile searches and want to offer a sustainable mobile app to these people. But before that, you’d like to make sure that it’s something your audience really wants.
- Understand what functionality will suit your use case better. Even though the general picture might be more or less clear, it’s not excessive to double-check that you’ve taken each feature into account and won’t have to rewind the development.
- You can be a start-up that needs a sort of Minimum Viable Product to show it to potential investors & others.
Another way of converting a website into an app is custom development. Unfortunately, there’s no magic button that will convert your website into a user-friendly app with a great and consistent UI/UX design.
Yet, custom development is a great option because of the benefits it offers:
- Customized Experience. Unlike apps built using WebView-wrappers or WordPress-like templates, native applications provide your customers with a flawless UX and performance.
- User-Centric Approach. The number of features and integrations will fully meet your use case since there won’t be any limitations.
- Scalable Solution. Unlike a template-based app, you can modify your app as much as and whenever you want or need.
- Opportunity to Stand Out. You will be able to build a unique app that won’t look similar to hundreds of apps, built with the same autoconverter.
- Better Results. Due to the reasons above, mobile apps are more convenient to use and beneficial in the long run, thus, you may expect an increased Lifetime Value and Revenue-per-user.
Regarding the question about the cost, it really depends on the type of your app. Price for auto converting services may vary from $0 up to $500.
Custom development is much more expensive and the costs usually start from $5,000, depending on multiple aspects like the number and complexity of features, UI design, 3rd-party integrations, an hourly rate of your development team, etc.
Is it Easier to Build an App if You Already Have a Website? 👐
As much as it’s a pity, usually you can’t reuse the website code to build a mobile app from scratch. However, it definitely is easier to develop an app if you already have a functioning website.
First of all, you already have a certain design of your website and brand style. Meaning that you don’t have to spend time reinventing the wheel but simply follow the general concept, coloring, logos, etc.
Surely, you might want to have a different UI design concept, however, it can damage the consistency of your products with the brand, which isn’t a good thing.
It’s important to know that there are certain native features in apps that can’t be implemented by reusing a website’s code. For example, in-product purchases. Websites and apps have different ways of implementing such a feature. It can be done with help of APIs like Stripe or Braintree, yet, code will still be different.
So, to define what features can or can’t be implemented by reusing the website’s code, you need to research how each of them is working on different platforms.
How to Make the Process Time- & Cost Efficient? 📈
So the process would be faster and cost you less than it might, there are several tips you can follow.
# 1: Think everything out well in advance.
In both Web & Mobile development, going back to change the code is quite time-consuming. Additionally, there are certain checkpoints where adding small changes means rewriting a good chunk of code, which , naturally, will take some time & increase development cost. So, by conducting a thorough preparation stage, you can decrease the development time and costs.
# 2: In the first place, implement only features you know you’ll need for sure.
It might not be reasonable to create an app full of high-tech features and integrations as a first mobile product from your brand. Some basic functionality with a couple of special brand details to stand out should do it for now.
Later on, you can surely elaborate on the development further and modify the app. Such a strategy is a great way to cut development time and optimize the budget.
If you’d like to learn more about the costs of developing a product with essential features only (which can be called MVP), you can check out this article:
Is it Possible to Transfer All Features from a Website to an App? 📲
When converting a website into an app, you basically extend the functionality rather than cut it.
Here’re a couple of examples how the same functionality can be enabled in different ways:
|🖥 Website||📱 Mobile App|
|During the sign-up process, users often get verification codes on the phone or to the email that they have to type in manually.||In mobile apps, it’s possible to make verification code capture automatic. You can enable it by using APIs like SMS Retriever.|
|Photos & videos can only be imported from the device.||You can integrate the app with a mobile camera to use it right in the app.|
|You can’t really use notifications to their full potential since desktop notifications don’t work as efficiently as push notifications, which are a mobile product feature only.||Push notifications are a great mobile tool that can be used for a variety of purposes personalization, sales increase, audience retargeting & others.|
|Websites normally have their menus opened, without users having to click additionally to open it.||Many apps use the concept of hamburger menus — that doesn’t occupy screen space till a user calls it with a tap or swipe.|
📱 Mobile Apps Vs. PWAs
Basically, ,apart from a mobile (native) app, there are 2 more options for providing a user-friendly experience for mobile users — a PWA and responsive web design.
In this section, we’re going to cover the difference between a native app and a Progressive Web App, give you some examples, and go into detail about what a PWA basically is.
In fact, it’s pretty hard for users to tell what exactly they’re currently using. The experience is quite similar to what mobile apps provide since animations are smooth and navigation is responsive.
Why don’t we take a closer look at the pros and cons of PWAs:
- PWAs are cross-platform, meaning that they provide the same UI/UX for each device and screen size by adjusting to it.
- They load fast, work with a poor internet connection, or even offline.
- It’s pretty well-known so most people won’t have any problems using it.
- The user can share the app via just a URL.
- You can’t add any feature or integration you want since the choice is limited. For example, you can’t implement Payment Gateway. Additionally, push notifications can be enabled for Android devices only. Generally, iOS users will be missing out on many features in PWAs like battery status, inter-app communication.
- The battery drain is faster because PWAs require more CPUs.
On the other hand, native mobile apps provide the following pros and cons.
- Seamless performance since it perfectly fits mobile platforms.
- You can implement any feature and APIs that exist on the market
- Works well with complex and multi-structural architecture.
- The installation is necessary, which adds to the brand presence on the internet & creates an additional traffic channel.
- Development time and cost are higher, compared to PWAs.
- Technical maintenance and updating are more difficult.
- You need to get your app approved by the app store where you’ll publish it.
So, to sum these two tables up, the difference between native apps and PWAs is that mobile apps are a better choice for complex solutions. Thus, this may be a preferable option if you need advanced features and a more seamless performance, while PWAs work great for something less functional.
Based on mentioned above, we’ve come up with a list of less general use cases that demonstrate when it might be a better decision to go for either a native app or a PWA:
|You are looking for extended security features like biometric authentication.||You need one app for both iOS and Android users.|
|You need integration with a device’s hardware.||You have limited time and budget.|
|Your product features in-app payments, subscriptions, etc.||You don’t need neither advanced functionality nor integrations.|
|Must-have app store presence.||Push notifications aren’t a must-have for your product.|
By the way, for a more detailed review of PWA development options you could check out our article dedicated to this topic:
💻 Responsive Web Design
Another way of providing a sustainable mobile user experience is by making your website’s design responsive (or mobile-friendly if you wish).
Actually, if you have a lot of traffic from mobile searches, we’d say that a mobile-friendly design is something rather necessary. It’s because nowadays Google’s algorithms favor responsive web platforms.
In a nutshell, Google gives responsive websites higher positions for mobile searches. Meaning that not depending on how high-quality the content on your website is, it can be ranked high for mobile searches unless it’s not optimized for it.
You can find more details in Google’s guide on this topic and run a test to check if your website is mobile-friendly. That is, even high-quality web platforms can’t be high-ranked for mobile searches if they’re not optimized for mobile devices.
So, to help you improve your Google positions for 5,27B mobile users’ searches, we’d like to give you a couple of tips on how to make your website responsive.
Consistency: All Eyes on UI
“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, we’d recommend you highlight the key features that bring the most value for your users and don’t simply copy the whole functionality of your website.
Responsive Navigation Patterns
One of the key conditions for a website to be mobile-friendly is having habitual, simple, and intuitive navigation patterns.
First, let’s talk about the tab bar. 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 pros and cons which we’re going to list:
- 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.
Another concept to take a look at is gesture-based navigation — 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.
Screen Size Adjustment
Another important thing is adjusting your website to various screen sizes of mobile devices. It may seem like quite a challenge since screen sizes are completely different. And while Apple devices don’t have that diversity, Android devices are completely different.
Yet, you shouldn’t be worried about that — with the right Tech Partner, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Moreover, certain tools allow you to automatically adjust a website to multiple key screen resolutions, making it pixel-perfect on various mobile devices.
Visible CTA Buttons
To draw users’ attention to what you want them to do, CAT in mobile apps should be visible so they can easily find where to tap.
To make that visible, you can:
- Make it of a different, contrast color, compared to the background.
- Place it in a geometric figure.
- Use distinct font.
- Make it bold or cursive & others.
🛠 How Can React Native Be Useful in Converting a Website to an iOS App (or Android one)?
Even though 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 into an Android app and an iOS app at the same time (or ensure faster development for the second platform in the future), we’d recommend you consider hiring for React Native mobile developers.
In conclusion, we’d like to say that converting a website into an app isn’t actually converting since there’s no such thing that can automatically rebuild the website into an app with a code.
To have a sustainable solution, you most likely will have to opt for a custom mobile development. However, if you already have a web product, it’ll be easier for you to build an application.
Let’s briefly review the main highlights of the article:
- Define which parts of your service customers expect to see in your App and focus on these, rather than copycatting your website.
- Decide on whether you’ll use an autoconverter or develop a custom app.
- Pay attention to the UX differences between Web and Mobile and consider using React Native to deliver apps for both platforms at once.
If you need any help with converting your website into a sustainable solution optimized for mobile devices that will fully meet your mobile audience’s needs, feel free to contact us. We’d be happy to help you!