Are you looking to convert your website into a mobile app? With millions of mobile applications available to download already, you’d be far from the first.
a bunch of individuals at an office talking about how to turn a website into a mobile app
Smartphones have transformed the world, whether you think it’s for the better or for the worst. We now have instant access to information, and anything you need to know about a brand can be obtained in seconds. Consumers no longer require a desktop computer to explore your website, as mobile devices accounted for more than half of all website visitors in 2023.
If your company already has a website but wants to provide a more user-friendly mobile experience, you can convert it into an Android or iOS app that provides your customers with a mobile-optimized interface. This is especially useful if your website isn’t mobile-friendly on phones or tablets, as you may create an app alternative for mobile consumers.
In this post, we’ll discuss:
why your business might need a mobile app
whether your app should be iOS or Android (or both)
variables to consider when creating a mobile app
how to convert a website into a mobile app
examples of quality mobile apps adapted from websites
That’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started
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Why do you need a mobile app?
Mobile applications bring many benefits to customers and businesses — it’s why nearly a third of small businesses already have one. Below are a few reasons why you might want to convert your site into a mobile app.
Ease of Access
Once a user installs an app, it’s much easier to open and engage with that application than it is to open a website in a separate browser application. Fewer barriers between the user and your content are always a good thing.
According to recent research, mobile users spend 83% of their time in apps compared to 17 in web browsers — we suspect this is due in large part to the convenience of having an application right on the home screen.
Of course, there’s the challenge of getting the user to install your app in the first place — see our guide to converting mobile traffic to app downloads to help with that.
Search Engine Optimization
Google and other search engines are designed to return the most relevant results based on your query. It stands to reason that having a mobile app will help your website rank higher in search results since more people use mobile devices to surf the internet.
For example, if someone searches for your brand or products on their phone, they are more likely to find the information they seek if your company has a mobile app.
Keeping in mind that Google wants to provide the best possible answer, your app will be displayed as an “app pack” when someone searches for your brand on a mobile device. Google will detect that the user is using a mobile device and will display results that are best suited to that interface.
It’s discouraging to see your favourite brand or product’s website on a desktop, but when you load it on your phone or tablet, the mobile version pales in contrast.
Your goal as a marketer, website owner, and/or web developer is to create an enjoyable experience for users, but what if your site isn’t mobile-friendly? Should you demolish it and start over, revamp the website, or try to mend the weaknesses that could lead to further problems in the future?
Instead, you may design a mobile app for your website. This manner, you may preserve your desktop version while giving a more user-friendly mobile variant.
The ability to provide push notifications to users is one of the most significant features of mobile apps. You may tell clients about sales, personal offers, new postings, and other events without them having to open your app.
When you enable push notifications, your alerts appear on the user’s locked or home screen, allowing them to view your messages as soon as they check their phone.
Another advantage of transforming your website into a mobile app is that mobile apps have greater access to your phone’s functionalities than a web browser does.
For example, you can integrate your app with phone contacts, browser data, camera functions, and other smartphone features such as GPS to enhance the user experience.
Multi-touch is a feature only available for iOS or Android apps. There are various gestures like swiping, pinching, and more that you can use to interact with an app. As a result, users get a more personalized, engaging, and habitual experience versus what they would get with a desktop browser.
Depending on their location, some users may have weak or no internet connection. While a website always requires a connection to the internet, mobile apps can work offline, so they’re always available.
You can also integrate several offline features within your app. For example, it’s possible to use Google Docs without an internet connection as changes are saved on the device and are moved to the cloud when the user is back online.
Ready to get started with your mobile app? First, we need to decide if your app will be offered on Android, iOS, or both.
Should my mobile app be Android or iOS?
Since Android and iOS apps use different code variations, you may have to decide whether or not to design your app for Android or iOS users. In an ideal world, you’d probably want to offer your app to both types of users, however, you may have to make a tough decision if you don’t have the bandwidth or resources to build two unique apps.
For starters, Android does have a larger user base than iOS. In 2021, the Android OS market share was 84% whereas the iOS market share was just less than 16%. Globally, many more people are using Android devices than iOS.
With that in mind, it’s also important to consider where your users are located. While Android is more popular worldwide, iOS is more popular in the U.S. and Japan — see the chart below.
Both operating systems have relatively the same functionality and you can host your app on both platforms if you choose. Other than the number of users that each system has, the main difference between the two is the coding format. Android uses APK files while iOS uses .ipa which is an iOS-specific file.
If you decide to host your app on both Android and iOS, you can, but you’ll just need to code two separate apps — even if they offer the same exact features.
Another difference between Android and iOS is the approval guidelines. Apple’s guidelines are very strict — it tends to only publish engaging and useful applications that utilize features that are unique to iOS. According to Apple, “Websites served in an iOS app, web content that is not formatted for iOS, and limited web interactions do not make a quality app.” Therefore, it’s more common for websites that are converted into iOS apps to be rejected by Apple’s App Store.
Apple also pays attention to the user interface (inappropriate UI is the most frequent rejection reason). It offers “Human Interface Guidelines” and “UI Design Dos and Don’ts” for designers and developers to follow. If Apple feels your app’s interface is substandard, it will reject it from the App Store.
Now that we’re ready to begin app development, let’s review some important factors before getting started.
Variables to Consider When Converting Websites to Mobile Apps
There are a bunch of tools that help convert websites into mobile apps (iOS or Android). However, such services can’t guarantee a great user experience. That’s why it’s better to develop a native app from scratch rather than converting your site using a third-party tool.
With that in mind, it’s important to note that app development requires preparation and time. If you haven’t designed an app, you might not know what it takes to build one from scratch. Here are a few variables you should consider before developing your app:
how to make a website an app: variables to consider
Apps are different from websites in the sense that you can’t use a low-cost builder tool like a content management system to make them. You’ll likely need a developer or development team in your ring.
Native app development can cost a lot. However, it’s better to invest some money at the start of the process and get a good result right away, rather than paying for a service repeatedly to create the interface you’re looking for.
We’ll talk more about pricing in the next section, but when you’re paying thousands of dollars to build an app, you’ll want to get an idea of the total cost of the project before committing to app development.
The mobile market is full of unique devices, including multiple types of smartphones and tablets. So, when creating a UI/UX design, you should consider different screen sizes and ensure that all images, charts, and buttons look great on various devices.
Pro Tip: to avoid problems, you should cooperate with an experienced and skilled UI/UX designer.
Typically, people will search for your website more than they’ll search for your mobile app. While Google will help by adding “app packs” to search results, you can also add a popup on your website to tell users about your mobile app. This will encourage people to download your app, especially if your site isn’t responsive on mobile.
With all of our bases covered, let’s put our plan into action and discuss how you can convert your website into a mobile app.
How to Convert a Website into a Mobile App
1. Determine if you need a mobile app.
If you’ve got this far, chances are you’re moving towards app development. However, we should note that not every website requires a mobile app. If your website is already mobile-friendly, you may not need an app to improve your customer experience. In that case, a mobile app just may be extra work that might not pay off if more users simply prefer your website.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if a mobile app makes sense for your business. The more “no’s” you have, the more likely it is your company would benefit from having a mobile app.
Is my website mobile responsive?
Can I easily make my website mobile-friendly?
Can my website do everything that my app does?
Are most customers visiting my site on a desktop browser?
Does my website rank well on search engines?
Do my competitors offer a mobile app?
2. Create a list of required features for your app.
Before you dive headfirst into app development, it’s important to consider what features you’ll include on your mobile app. Not only does this give you an idea of what you’ll need to build, but it will help you calculate costs and stay within budget.
After all, it’s easy to get carried away thinking about all the possible functions your app can perform. However, by coming up with a vetted list of features, you’ll create an attainable vision for your app and ensure every one of its features is useful to your target audience — rather than just being a flashy extra.
3. Hire a development team.
To create a high-quality app, you must collaborate with a trained and experienced development team. There are two possibilities these days: recruit an in-house team or work with a reputable vendor.
Both options have advantages and disadvantages. An in-house team, for example, is typically more expensive. Rent, hardware, software, taxes, vacations, and other expenses must be covered. In-house development, on the other hand, allows you to completely control the development process and create an app tailored to your exact specifications.
Outsourcing is typically the less expensive option because you can hire developers from various locations, each with a different rate. The disadvantage is that you cannot supervise every aspect of development and must rely on others.
Outsourcing tends to be the cheaper option since you can hire developers from various places, and each will likely have a unique rate. The downside of this is that you can’t oversee every aspect of development and you have to trust that you’ve hired the right people to do the job.
Fortunately, one way to account for this is to create a recurring meeting schedule between you and your developers. This will help keep your project on track and will allow you to make changes during the development process. That way, you aren’t handed an app that looks nothing like your original blueprint after waiting for weeks or even months for your developers to build it.
4. Estimate app development costs.
It’s time to start crunching figures once your feature list and development team are ready to go. The more complicated your programme is, the more expensive it will be to develop, is a reasonable generalization. A “simple app” can actually cost anywhere between $38,000 and $91,000 to design, according to one research.
When estimating the expenses of developing mobile applications, there are numerous elements to take into account. The quantity of features you intend to add, the length of time it will take to develop the app, your collaboration partners, etc. When it comes to pricing, all of these factors are relevant, so you should consider them before developing your app.
If you find yourself over budget, a good place to start is by revisiting your feature list to see which features are essential and which ones you can wait until later to add.
5. Create a user-friendly UX design.
Aside from the basic functionality of your app, your UX design is the most important factor to prioritize when building your interface. After all, what’s the point of developing a mobile app if it’s not as responsive as your website?
If you can’t make your mobile app more mobile-friendly than your website, then you may want to consider investing more in your website’s design than building a brand-new app.
If you’re looking for tips to improve user experience, check out this complete guide to UX design.
6. Test your app.
You should test your app before submitting it to the app store, just like you would any landing page, social media post, or email campaign. This allows you to fine-tune your app’s functionality and address any bugs or problems before your users notice them.
This will not only help you retain users who may have deleted your app as a result of these issues, but it will also save your support team time from having to respond to customers who are experiencing problems with your mobile app. Even if you are unable to fix all of the flaws before going live, you will be aware of potential issues and will be able to prepare your service team before they are exposed to these types of inquiries.
7. Submit your application to the
7. Submit your app to the App Store.
Once your app is ready to go, the final step is to submit it to the App Store. Both Android’s App Store and Apple’s App Store take about the same amount of time to review your submission — each taking about three days total to approve your app. After your app is approved, it should be available for download in the respective app store.
Examples of Apps Converted from Websites
What might a website look like when successfully converted into a mobile app? To give you a better sense of where to take your app’s design here are some notable examples of websites converted into mobile applications.
The New Yorker
The New Yorker has evolved from print to internet to mobile app since its debut. The desktop version of the website includes news articles, opinion pieces, cartoons, a shop, and other features.
Looking at the mobile app version of the New Yorker’s website, we can see how it mimics the website’s graphics while offering all of the same functionality — even the crossword puzzles.
screenshot of the New Yorker mobile app based on a website
Many online stores use apps to convert their desktop webpages to mobile. Take, for example, H&M: Its mobile app offers a similar shopping experience to the website and allows you to customise your experience based on your preferences.
One unique feature of the app is its scanning feature:
One cool perk exclusive to the app is its scanning feature: Use your phone’s camera to scan the price tag of an item in-store to see whether the store has more of the item in stock.
Blue Apron offers meal kits to aid home cooks with their ingredients. Members can order meals and manage their subscriptions on the website. Blue Apron has made it even easier for clients to explore new recipes, store their favourite recipes, and manage their accounts by transforming their service into a smartphone app.
a screenshot of the blue apron mobile app taken from a website
Calendly is a professional scheduling programme. To accommodate users on the go, the company developed a mobile application for iOS and Android that provides access to its core features. On the simple mobile interface, users can schedule meetings, review and modify appointments, and book meetings.
Like Calendly, design company Canva took the strengths of its web application and condensed them into a mobile app version to reach a wider customer base. It allows you to make customized graphics, edit photos, and even edit short videos on your phone.
Optimizing Your Mobile App
Web behaviour is changing, and if you want to construct a successful website, you must adjust your content to how people look for information. In this situation, that means creating a user-friendly and resourceful mobile app for consumers searching for your business on a phone or tablet.
You can convert your website into an engaging mobile app and provide a better on-the-go experience for your customer base by following the steps outlined above.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2021, but it has been updated for accuracy.