Do you have a popular WordPress website and do you want to take it to the next level with a mobile app to increase the engagement with your visitors or customers? Then you may want to consider making a mobile app for your site.
The reason I advise people to create a mobile app for their website is that it creates way more interaction and improves customer relations. Gather reviews for your app and get even more awareness for your brand. When people download your mobile app they can reach your content with just one tap on your app icon and they’re in. With a some of the techniques below, you can even send push notifications that say whatever you want so you can really engage with your customers and not just sit and wait until they return.
In this article, I will show you 8 ways to create a mobile app for your WordPress website. Most of the ways I’m going to show you will make sure that whenever you edit content on your WordPress website, the app will be synchronized with your website without updating it.
The reason I’m showing you 8 ways instead of just 1 is that everyone has their own preferences and budget. This article is useful for developers and non-developers and it contains solutions for people with large and small budgets. It’s also always good to see a few good solutions so you can compare them with each other and see what will work right now and what will work in the future when your website starts to grow and is generating more income. With every technique, I’ll let you know what the pros and cons of the particular approach are.
1. Plain WebView App
This is probably the easiest and least expensive way to create a WordPress app. A WebView is like an iframe which shows a website via an URL and your app will be exactly like your website. If you want to you can add some native functionalities, but it will never behave like a real app. It is very easy to make and there are many video tutorials on YouTube on how to do so.
Pros of the WebView App Technique
Cons of the WebView App Technique
First of all, the WebView app won’t work offline, so if people want to read your posts on their way without an internet connection they simply can’t. The second downside is that Apple is very picky about which apps they let through. If your WebView app looks exactly the same as you mobile website, which it mostly does, it is likely that Apple rejects your app, because they think it’s not unique and user-friendly enough. However, this will be no problem with the Google Play and Windows Phone store.
Another reason not to choose this approach is also one of the reasons Apple rejects these kinds of apps. It’s that the app will never be as smooth as a native or hybrid app, so it will give a less good user experience. With this approach you’ll also have to build a different app for every platform, you’ll have to make one for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, this, of course, depends on which app stores you want to put your app in.
If you are interested in the WebView technique, but you only want to make one app that works on all popular platforms, the next approach is probably more interesting for you.
2. PhoneGap WebView App
PhoneGap is an open source platform created by Adobe with which you can create apps with web programming languages. You can use every web programming language except PHP, which is server side, PhoneGap uses other languages for data storing. The programming languages you can use are HTML, CSS, and JS, this includes JS libraries like jQuery. Creating a PhoneGap WebView app is very easy and if you have web developing skills, you should be able to make it yourself. There are many articles online about how to accomplish this, just do a little Googling.
Pros of Using PhoneGap to Create a WebView App
PhoneGap is free and easy to use. There are many plugins that you can use with PhoneGap, just like on a WordPress site and you can easily create extra functionalities besides just a WebView. It’s also fairly easy to create a screen when the user has no internet connection, you just have to check for it with JS and if the user has no connection you show the offline screen with a “Try Again” button. This would be way harder with a WebView app programmed with Java or Swift. The biggest pro above the regular WebView approach is that you only have to create one app for all popular platforms. With this approach, you’ll also be able to send push notifications. Oh yeah, and of course all the plugins on your WordPress website will keep working in the app just like with the normal WebView approach.
Cons of Using PhoneGap to Create a WebView App
The cons of this approach are again all that of a normal WebView app and unless you put in some extra functionalities it will probably get rejected by the Apple App Store.
Apppresser uses a plugin which connects your website with a hybrid PhoneGap application. It looks like a native app and loads your website in an iframe of the app. You can easily customize your app and it gives a really smooth user experience. You can also add custom HTML pages which will work offline.
Pros of Using Apppresser
You can add custom HTML pages which will even work if people do not have an internet connection. With this approach, your app will really look and feel like an app. If you pick the Woo or Agency plan you’ll even be able to run WooCommerce in your app. You need no real coding skills to get an app with Apppresser up and running, it’s easy and comes with a dashboard just for you where you can manage your app and make changes to it. A lot of changes can be made whilst the app is already live without updating it and all the content on your WP website will be synced with your app.
Cons of Using Apppresser
The first downside of this approach is that it costs you money every year and the Woo plan costs $399.-, that’s excluding the costs of developer accounts, which for Android costs $25 one time and for Apple $99 per year. Also, not all your plugins will work with the app and this often limits users, you won’t be able to give your visitors the full experience that your website has. It also is still not a native app, it’s hybrid, so it will be slightly less smooth than a native app, but most users won’t even know because most people don’t even know what this means anyway.
If you’re interested in Apppresser I suggest you take a look at their website.
Worona is a young platform with which you can build apps. It uses a plugin and the WP REST API which make sure that your app is synced with your WordPress website at all times. It is also a very cheap solution and ideal for a small blog. They charge just $29 dollars one-time payment for publishing on the Apple App Store and Google Play store and they even publish to their own developer accounts, so you won’t even have to pay the fees for that. Worona is based on Corona SDK which was initially made for game development. It’s a platform similar to PhoneGap, but Corona uses the Lua programming language.
Pros of the Worona WordPress App Approach
Worona is very straightforward and simple to use, your app will show your latest blog post categories. Another big pro of this plugin is that you can test your app on their website beforehand. This way you’ll know exactly what you get before you spend a single dollar.
Cons of the Worona WordPress App Approach
There are still improvements to be made in Worona, the low price also comes with few features. I’ve tested the plugin on a WooCommerce shop demo and it didn’t show my products. This means the plugin will only work for blogs. Also when I was testing the categories, the post category wouldn’t load, I was stuck on their loading screen, which was quite a disappointment. I believe it also doesn’t work offline because it loads the posts from your website and it needs an internet connection for that. The content won’t be hard coded into the app but fetched from your site.
I believe that if Worona fixes a few things it can be a beautiful solution at low cost. If you want to know more about Worona, I suggest visiting their website.
5. Project App Plugin
This is a solution I created myself recently and the first version just released to the WordPress plugin repository. You can easily install this plugin and start editing your app right away, there is no external dashboard involved, everything will take place in your WordPress admin. You can customize the app, choose a theme, a homepage and it works with all plugins, except unfortunately with plugins that offer upload features. The plugin is completely free to download.
Pros of the Project App Plugin
With project app, everything from the app is synced with your website and the settings you put into place, in the Project App control panel in your WordPress dashboard. The app will work with all plugins, so people can easily order products on the go or send you a message. Another benefit of this plugin is that you can pick any theme you like for your app, so you can choose from all the themes that are compatible with WordPress. You won’t need any programming knowledge for the plugin. Just create and customize it, then order one of the Project App plans, starting at $30 and the Project App team will do the rest.
Cons of the Project App Plugin
This plugin of course also have a few cons. For starters it won’t work offline, instead, it has an offline screen so people can click “Try Again” when they regain connection. Furthermore, the app won’t be as smooth as a native app, especially if you choose your own theme. That’s why it’s recommended you use a mobile theme, one of our app themes, which will make it harder for people to tell if it’s a native or a hybrid app. The plugin doesn’t support push notifications yet, but this will be added in feature updates
Of course, I can give you more information about this solution and the development of this solution over the others because I created it myself, but I won’t say it’s the best solution for everyone just because I created it. Again, the best solution for you depends on your budget and your coding knowledge. If you want to know more about the Project App solution. I suggest you take a look at the website.
6. Native App
A native app is an app programmed with the native programming languages, like Java and Swift. This is probably the solution where you want to hire a professional developer, but it can be done. Depending on your site and customs requirements this solution can cost you from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, of course, the price of such always depends on where you live and where you hire the developers from, but it will most certainly cost more than the solutions above.
Pros of a Native App
A native app works offline and gives the best feeling to the end user. You can ask your developer to put in as many features as you want and you can ask him or her to make it work with several plugins.
Cons of a Native App
This solution can cost you a lot of money as I mentioned before. With this approach, it also can take very long. They have to know what features you want, show you a demo, develop it, test it and publish it. Of course, the time of completion will depend on how big your site is.
Honestly, I don’t know that much about this solution, because I haven’t been able to test this. But I came across it recently and seems to work on websites that don’t use WordPress as well. Their solution seems to be hybrid and very smooth. They also offer a lot of themes, but I don’t think it will work with plugins. I will skip the pros and cons of this solution, because of a lack of information. I still thought I should let you know about Bobile because it seems quite feature rich and user-friendly to me.
If you want to know more about Bobile I suggest you take a look at their website.
8. WordPress REST API
Finally, the last solution for creating an app for your WordPress website is the WordPress REST API. The API turns your website’s PHP code into JSON, then you can convert it to an app. This is a solution most suitable for developers and takes some time. Of course, you could also hire a developer to do this for you. You can use this technique with platforms that use JS, CSS, and HTML to build apps (like PhoneGap).
Pros of the WP REST API
You can create and customize everything you want, it’s all up to you. If you only want to show your posts, like the Worona plugin does, this can be easily done. Your app will be a fast and intuitive hybrid app. There is even a WP REST API cache plugin which can make your app work offline.
Cons of the WP REST API
You have to be a developer that knows JSON or you’ll have to hire someone to do it for you.
Interested in the WP REST API? Take a look at their page.
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- 8 Plugins and Techniques to Turn Your WordPress Website into an App - April 18, 2017
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