If you run a blog and are looking for additional ways to increase your readership and retain visitors, then creating a mobile app for your site could be just the approach you are looking for.
Turning your WordPress website into a mobile app can help your site or blog in a number of ways:
- Make it more convenient for your readers to access your site on a smartphone or tablet
- Add another way for your content to be found (via the app stores)
- Save yourself the effort of creating and managing a mobile version of your site
- Increase engagement and return visits with mobile push notifications and commenting on the go
- Another monetisation option for site owners to explore
There are plenty of options on offer for this task. As always, they have their pros and cons. Some cater to just the Apple devices while others include the ability to make Android apps. Most services have a way to assisting you in the process of submitting your apps to the stores but in most cases you will have to pay for the submission fees.
Droid Your Site allows you to take away the Android app apk file. You could then in theory publish on your site for users to download and install on their devices, although how willing they would be to do this is debatable.
If you don’t want to create an app but still want to accommodate mobile users, check out our guide to creating a mobile friendly WordPress site.
Here are the options available for creating a mobile app for your WordPress site:
Droid Your Site
This free service isn’t limited to just creating web apps from WordPress sites and will have a go at any type of website. It only creates an Android app for download or distribution through the Google Play store so bear that in mind.
The service is very straightforward to use. You do need to register using your email address, but after that you can begin building your very own app.
To create an app for a site, you do need to verify that the site is your own, or at least one you have access to. To prove this, you are required to add a line of code to the header of your site. This is easy to do in WordPress:
- Login to the admin dashboard of your site
- From the side bar menu, click on ‘Appearance’, then ‘Editor’
- Click on ‘Header(header.php)’ from the list of files on the right
- Located the ‘</head>’ tag
- On the line above the </head> click paste the line of code
- Click on the ‘Update File’ button and the site should be verified
Once you’ve verified the site you can being building the app, which only takes a few steps:
- Enter an App Name
- Upload an Icon – this is the icon that will represent your app on the users device
- Upload an App Splash – this is the splash screen that is displayed when the app is loading
- Publish the app or download the APK file
When it comes to creating the icon and app slash screens, the files need to be a certain size (1024×1024 and 640×1096 respectively). You can download an app splash screen template from Sourceforge.net to help you get started.
If you want to test your app before publishing at the Google Play store, you can download it, upload it to your Android phone and then install it yourself. If you attempt this, just make sure you enable this ability from your phone’s settings. This is usually found under the Application menu, from the settings menu, with the title ‘Unknown sources’.
Overall this was a pretty simple way to turn a website, WordPress or not, into an Android app.
This is a pretty cool way to build an app from your site. UppSite have their own free WordPress plugin which you can install to simplify the process of setting up your app, making it even easier to use than Droid Your App.
Once the plugin is installed, you will need to activate it and then UppSite begins analysing your site. During the analysis process, there are two main options to choose from to best describe your site:
- Mobile for Business
- Mobile for Content Sites (blogs)
- Or you can have both
During the setup you can create an icon for your app or upload your own design. Writing the description for your app is also easy enough. You can also customise the appearance of the app by selecting a colour scheme and uploading a top bar logo.
With UppSite you can also create a landing page for your mobile site. The landing page contains links to where your app is available (Google Play, App Store, etc.) so mobile users can easily find your app when browsing your site.
If you want to create a custom splash screen or upload your own design you will have to upgrade to the premium plan.
When it comes to plans and pricing, UppSite has two options best described as free and premium. The premium plan runs at $99 per month which means it’s only going to be viable for sites that are serious about their mobile outreach.
When comparing the plans, the free plan has plenty of options that should let users quickly decide if their site has potential for being converted to a mobile app. You can’t publish the app on Google Play or the Apple App Store with the free plan. The only option for distributing your app is through the UppSites app.
Users of UppSite can easily create the icons and modify the appearance of their apps by simply using the visual editor and colour pickers. More savvy users can upload their own images for use. By covering both angles this service will appeal to all types of users who want an easy to build a mobile app for their site without hiring a developer or attempting it themselves.
Despite the relatively hefty price tag (in the long run), UppSite Pro is a good choice for those who want an easy way to create an app from their site, for distribution on the two main app stores: Google and Apple.
The free version doesn’t really bring much to the table, as I doubt many people will find your app via the UppSites app. Its main purpose is to let you see what your app might look in the pro version, without having to enter any payment details.
Other Options for Turning Your Site into an App
Other options available to site owners who want to build a mobile app from their site include:
- JoeMobi: create your own native mobile app with this plugin but service has a hefty price tag
- Mobile by Conduit: make apps for Android and Apple devices, free and premium price plans
- Mobiloud: build your own app with monthly or one off pricing plans
- MoPublication: create iPhone and iPad apps for your WordPress site, free 30-day trial
- WiziApp: create free HTML5 webapps and Android apps or pay for an iPhone app
- Applifier: premium service to convert WordPress sites to a native app for Android, iOS and Windows
The investigation for this topic turned out to be a little disappointing. I was unable to find a satisfying solution for creating an app for free. However, if you have a real business need for creating an app from your site, then the good news is there are plenty of premium options to choose from. Most of them have WordPress specific functionality and they all come with a selection of templates and colour schemes to relive you of any design duties when constructing your app.
If you want another way for your site and it’s content to be found and consumed, creating a mobile app is one way to do that.