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How to Convert Your Website Into a Mobile App?

Mobile revenues are expected to hit $700 billion by the end of 2017. Do you feel like your business is missing out on those profits?

Instagram, Uber, Snapchat and a bunch of others companies have already proved that mobile-first business model works darn great. So should you jump on the bandwagon if you already have a mobile-friendly website? Yep, you may want to ponder over that. Here’s why.

What’s In It For You as a Business?

Users spend 90% of their time in mobile apps compared to mobile websites. The consumer dollars follow the same path. Over 78% of users have made a purchase using a portable device in 2016 according to the latest report from Mobile Ecosystem Forum.

Items_and_services_purchased_via_mobile_in_the_last_6_months

But let’s step away from e-commerce domain and take online publishing for instance. The Guardian, The New York Times, Buzzfeed and a bunch of other top-tier media publishers have a dedicated mobile app on top of having a responsive website.

The reasoning is quite simple. Just take a look at this chart:

time-spent-apps-mobile-web-700x386

Mobile apps opposed to mobile web, create a new dedicated channel for communicating and engaging with your audience.

Just like your email list, social media, and on-premises kiosks, it’s another channel your business can leverage for higher profits. Part of the deal is that people tend to access installed apps more frequently compared to mobile websites. Additionally, you can retain mobile users with push messages to encourage more frequent interactions. In fact, have you noticed how web apps and websites started to adopt the same approach in the past few years?

For startups, the same is true. Dropbox, Airbnb, Pinterest, Slack didn’t wait too long with expanding their offerings to a mobile app. The question is how to turn a website into an app in the first place?

Glad you’ve asked That’s what we are going to talk about next.

How To Convert a Website to a Mobile App

Fact. People spend more times in apps, compared to mobile websites. Fact number two: they also tend to abandon apps more frequently. To be precise 23% of users leave an app after using it just once.

The most common reasons are:

  • Technical difficulties – the app glitches, crashes, and freezes.
  • Complex onboarding and/or high barrier to entry.
  • Ad clutter
  • Overall poor user experience

Unfortunately, a lot of business are guilty of the following when converting their websites to apps. Most forget that before going into the tech details of turning a website into an app, you should ponder a bit on your app goal.

People tend to use apps in a slightly different manner and in different circumstances as compared to mobile websites. Hence you will need to adapt the UX accordingly.

In general, you will have to cater to the next group of users:

shutterstock_216479920 (1)

  • Bored Ben who seeks for some entertainment or distraction. He wants instant gratification and engagement while he’s doing something else e.g. waiting in line or commuting to work.
  • Urgent Ursula wants immediate access to information. She’s in a hurry and needs to find an answer to her query as fast as possible or solve her problem on the go.
  • Repetitive Ryan needs a real-time update and hence visits the same website/app over and over again.

A mobile website doesn’t always satisfy the needs of those personas. For instance, Ursula doesn’t want to navigate through numerous tabs to get an answer. She just wants to press a few buttons and get the solution. Ryan doesn’t need access to complete functionality. He just wishes to check whether his mates posted an update on his question.

To turn a website into an app, you’ll have to adapt the design first. Here are a few tips for that.

Step 1: Simplify Navigation

You’ve reduced the number of drop down menus for a mobile website. Now, you’ll have to re-organize those again into buttons.

Compare how Airbnb does that:

Airbnb app & website

Left: Mobile App. Right: Mobile Website

Caveat: An app should immediately prompt what to do and deliver hotkey access to the most popular features. You may need to map out your customer journey to identify the ultimate user flows within your app, style screens and navigation paths accordingly.

Step 2: Use Familiar Mobile Patterns

A website wrapped in a mobile app shell will feel alien. When converting your website to an app you should account for the specific mobile gestures and take advantage of the common mobile UI design patterns.

Uber app

Left: Slide Navigation Right: Calendar View Pattern

Step 3: Instant Gratification

Remember our heroes Ben, Ursula and Ryan? They pursue a very specific goal when interacting with an app. And most importantly they want an instant reward for their interactions.

  • Ben wants new content at his fingertips personalized for him.
  • Ursula needs something fast e.g. a taxi ride in three clicks.
  • Ryan wants to check the delivery status or get to know when the online check-in becomes available for his flight.

Users engage with apps longer when they receive tangible rewards. That’s a basic explanation of what user engagement strategies are aimed for – feed the rewards in exchange for the person’s time and attention.

Unlike a mobile website, a user wants to complete the least steps possible to gain that reward. And your job is to deliver it as fast as possible and over deliver later down the line.

Next, you need to incorporate the retention mechanisms to keep your users engaged.

Localytics has discovered that adding messaging functionality can improve the retention rates by 46%:

In-App-Messaging-User-Retention

If incorporating a chat doesn’t work for your product type or you don’t want to implement any costly add-ons, you can try the following strategies instead:

  • Up to 88% of users are more engaged when receiving push notifications.
  • Bring your customer support to the mobile app to encourage more communication within it.
  • Drive users to the Core Actions within your app. For instance, to complete the first purchase, make new connections or try your key features.

Should You Use a Website To App Converter?

A quick search will give you a large list of services offering to convert a website to an Android or iOS app sans any custom coding.

Yet, before you grab that deal, consider the following points:

  • Most converters only allow converting websites built in HTML, CSS or Javascript. If you are using other technologies, you will need to re-architect your web app beforehand. And that comes with an additional price tag from the developers. Additionally, such apps often run slower and the user experience feels a bit “unnatural”.
  • Other tools rely on HTML5 to convert websites to iOS and Android apps. Yet even Mark Zuckerberg, initially a huge evangelist of this protocol, later admitted that HTML5 isn’t just good enough for building scalable mobile apps.
  • Other converters do not allow utilizing certain smartphone-native features such as location tracking through GPS, camera or Touch ID payments.
  • Scaling and improving an app developed with a converter or a free app builder is much harder as well. Your project will be placed under constraints from the very beginning and you may be forced to build a new app from scratch later instead of upgrading the current version.

You can get additional insights on the differences between native and hybrid apps (the kind of product you receive when using an online website to app converter) in our previous post.

If you need to patch a hole and say “yes, we do have a mobile app too!”, an online converter will do the job. But if your goal is to create a new profitable channel for your company, bringing measurable ROI, building a companion native mobile app is a much better choice.

Previously Alty has helped Mockup.io to transform their web product into an iOS/Android and wearable app, which resulted in massive growth of user adoption and user retention rates:

screenshot-alty.co-2017-02-15-16-29-38

So, are you ready to leverage the mobile channel? We’d be delighted to consult you on your project!

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