Mobiloud is a service that allows you to very easily and quickly build a mobile app for your WordPress site. One of the key selling points of this service is that the apps that are created are native apps, and therefore run faster and smoother on iOS and Android devices, while also offering more features and functionality, than other competing website to app creation services. (special offer at bottom of page)
You can check out the free plugin here (while the plugin is free there are costs involved when publishing the app).
One of the main reasons for building a mobile app for your WordPress site is the ability to turn one-time visitors into regular readers. By offering a convenient and optimised way for them to consume your content on the move, and on a range of devices beyond just their desktop or laptop computer, you not only give them more ways to access your site, but also make it easier for them to do so. When a user installs your app on their phone or tablet, they then have a very quick way to access your content while also enabling you to send them notifications.
While a WordPress site with a responsive design makes it possible for readers to view your website on their smartphones and tablets, creating an app with Mobiloud gives you access to a whole host of additional features designed to bring your readers back to your site on a regular basis, while also making it easier for them to find your site from their device.
The main feature of Mobiloud is that it creates a real native application, rather than just delivering an HTML site wrapped in a native container as is the case with other competing services on the market. But what is a native app and why is it better?
Native Apps Explained
A native application is one that has been written for installation and use on a specific operating system. With the Mobiloud native apps, a different version is written for each mobile operating system, such as iOS and Android. This allows the app to include more functionality and settings specific to that platform, as opposed to a mobile version of a website which has more general features.
A native app can also provide a better user experience, as the navigation system of the app is tailored for the buttons and navigational aids available on the target operating system and hardware. As the app is native, it can take advantage of the features of the operating system it was designed to run on. For native mobile apps, this can include things like push notifications, screen rotation, the contacts list, the camera and GPS. Advanced gesture navigation can also be used, such as pinch-to-zoom, swiping and flicking.
With a native app built for a website, the option is also there for data to be stored locally on the device, making it perfect for offline access to your content. As native apps are designed for a particular device and operating system, they are often the fastest option, offering better user performance over the alternatives, such as mobile web apps.
Mobile Web Apps
The popular alternative to a native app is a mobile web app. These might look like a native app but generally just run in the browser, although often without the standard browser menus and buttons, and are written in HTML5. The installation process is often just a case of creating a shortcut on the device with its own icon, which loads up the website when clicked.
As HTML5 can access some of the features of the operating system, such as some navigation gestures, tap-to-call and offline reading via browser caching, the lines between native apps and web apps are becoming increasingly blurred.
One popular website that chose to go with a web app instead of a native app was Facebook, with its founder describing the decision to use HTML5 as one of the company’s biggest mistakes of the last few years.
For more features, better performance and an interface tailored the user’s operating system; a native app is often the best choice.
The main downside of opting for a native app is the development costs involved and the skills required, which is where a service like Mobiloud comes in.
Is a Responsive Theme Enough?
Another option available for allowing your readers to access your content on a mobile device is to install a responsive WordPress theme. While this is a very easy way to achieve this goal, a native app offers far more benefits to site owners and readers.
Benefits of a Native App vs. a Mobile or Responsive Theme:
- Use push notifications to alert users of new content, even when the app isn’t open
- Increased usability, performance and enhanced functionality
- Promote your site and app on the App Store and Google Play app marketplaces
- Sync content for offline consumption
- Monetise your content with native mobile networks such as iAds or Admob
So now we know why a native application is a great choice, let’s find out how to create one with Mobiloud.
Creating the App
To developing your app in no time at all, you can use the online builder on the Mobiloud website. This is free to use and you only pay once you decide to publish the app. However, for WordPress users, the better option is to install the free plugin on your site.
Either way the design process is very straightforward and literally only takes a few minutes to walkthrough. The few steps involved when creating the app online are:
- Entering the URL of your site and its name
- Build a launch page which can include your logo and choice of background image
- Choose a background image for the app and set the toolbar colour
- Test drive the native app online to preview how it performs
The online preview of your new app uses the App.io service to emulate how it will look on an iPhone.
The benefits of using the free Mobiloud plugin for WordPress are that it gives you access to some configuration settings, which include the option to:
- Automatically resize thumbnail images
- Enable push notifications
- Enable support for HTML banners
- Select which categories you want to include in your app’s navigation menu
- Choose which pages to include in your app’s navigation menu
- Create sticky categories for your app’s article list
- Display Apple Smart Banners on your website to users viewing on an iPhone or iPhone to promote your native iOS app
The configuration settings are all displayed on one page and are easy to use and understand. Once you’ve saved the settings you can then use the online builder to create and preview your app for free, before deciding whether to have it built and published.
Other Features of Mobiloud
Apart from the setup and design of your native app only taking a few minutes, Mobiloud has some other enticing features:
- Built-in sharing features: make it easier for your readers to share your content on Facebook, Twitter and by email, thanks to a prominent share button.
- Stores user’s details for the ability to comment instantly, supporting WordPress, Disqus and Facebook commenting.
- Push notifications to alert your readers when new content is published, to bring them back to your site via the app (users can subscribe to individual categories or the whole site).
- Built for quick navigation using swipe and gesture browsing to access more content faster.
- Easy storing of pages and articles using the save button for offline viewing.
- Mobiloud submit and publish your app for you so you don’t have to sign up as a developer at the Apple and Android app stores (although you can self-publish if you want).
- Analytics covering downloads, views and how users are interacting with your content.
- Custom app building for extra functionality and graphic design services.
- Offer your app for free or as a paid app.
To see some examples of customer apps, visit the Mobilloud examples page.
With Mobiloud it’s free to design and preview your app and you only begin paying if you decide to publish. There are two pricing plans to choose from which are as follows:
- Professional: $49 per month
- Publisher: $99 per month
Both are billed annually and there is no long term contract beyond that. To view the details visit the pricing plans page.
So What Can We Expect In Version 2.0?
While the current version offers all the features a website like ours would ever want in an iOS or Android app the people at Mobiloud are planning even more features when version 2.0 of their plugin is released.
Those with good coding experience, and a familiarity with PHP, CSS & HTML will be able to fully customize the rendering of their articles. This will open the doors to a larger variety of applications such as directories and eCommerce just to name a few. There will also be support to allow users to login to WordPress itself opening the doors to membership websites using the app. Users will also be able to have a custom homepage menu if they so desire.
Mobiloud is definitely the easiest way we’ve seen for WordPress users to create native mobile applications for their websites. The creation of the app literally takes a few minutes, before letting their developers build and submit your app for publication on the two main app stores.
Being able to create and preview your app online before signing up is a great way to showcase the simple setup and excellent design of your app. By choosing to create a native app instead of just a web app, you get access to a whole host of extra features, most notable is the ability to use push notifications to alert your readers of new content. If you are looking for a way to overcome inbox apathy and low open rates on your newsletters, then push notifications are an effective way to get readers back to your content.
By using the optional free WordPress plugin, you do get access to some configuration settings which make it well worth installing if you plan to use this service for your WordPress site.
The on-going costs may be a barrier to some, but if you are serious about getting your content onto mobile devices in the best way possible, and with the least fuss then Mobilloud would be a good investment.
As a special offer for our readers Mobiloud.com have agreed to offer our readers a 10% discount when you mention that you arrived at their service from WPSquared.com