If you have a blog or website that uses the WordPress content management system, you can easily turn your blog or website's content into an app that can be used on smartphones and tablets.
Why would you want to do this? With smartphone ownership approaching saturation point, enabling readers to access your content on their phones is vitally important. But won't your responsive WordPress site already do that? It's a question of how people are now reading content.
The fact is apps are a more popular way to access content than websites no matter how responsive they are according to research from Pew Internet that revealed that the average smartphone user checks their phone 150 times a day.
Couple this with Forrester data that shows people are more engaged with the apps on their phones than any other content, and it soon becomes clear that if you can place the content on your blog or website into an app, it will gain more attention.
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Developing your own app is still a complex process that requires you to learn how to program for iOS and Android devices. Fortunately, there is a simpler and much faster way to convert your content into an app using some handy WordPress plugins and third-party conversion applications.
There are a number of options to choose from when creating your own app, and we're going to explore some of the best efforts now...
One of the key strengths of the Mobiloud (pictured above) system is that you build your app completely within WordPress. The plugin allows you to choose which new pages that you've created in WordPress appear in the app. There is also a live testing feature so you can see how your pages will look on a variety of mobile devices before you click the publish button.
To use AppPresser effectively you should ideally have some experience and technical expertise of developing apps, and also of using the PhoneGap utility that AppPresser needs to function. As a development framework, if you want to get your hands dirty when creating your app from the WordPress content you have, AppPresser will give you the ultimate control.
From the same development team that created AppPresser, Reactor is a much more accessible app building platform if you just want to complete forms, fill in a few fields and upload images to create your app. Much of the development work you have to understand with AppPresser is hidden behind a user interface that integrates nicely with the familiar WordPress screens.
Unlike many of the other app creation systems that complete the design and build process of your app within WordPress itself, IdeaPress uses the SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) approach with the app creation and customisation completed on the IdeaPress website. The available customisation isn't as flexible as other systems, but the offline browsing is welcome for when your readers find themselves with no internet connection.
This app building application uses HTML pages as the basis for the app, which are free to create. If you intend to support native apps, you'll need to purchase a licence for iOS and Android. There are several themes available to help you create a good looking app. Once the plugin is installed it starts to generate the HTML pages from your blog. This application is less configurable than some of the other services, but if you have a blog that is well structured, WiziApp will be able to convert this content to an app in minutes.
If you are looking for a fast way to convert your WordPress content into an app, this utility is ideal. It supports iOS and Android allowing customisation with analytics and commenting, which are often added – and chargeable – extras with some other services. And if you want to avoid paying the ongoing monthly fees that most services charge, the one-off payment for JoeMobi could be cost effective for you.
As one of the most cost-effective app creation solutions, Worona's Pro version includes all the extensions you will want to use including push notifications, the removal of Worona's branding and support for social networks. Analytics and ad support are not yet available, which could be a deal breaker if you are looking to monetise the content on your app.
The key with all the applications we've just highlighted is to think about how you will create the content on your WordPress site, and how this will be pulled into the app and then displayed.
Each of the app creation systems will look at the WordPress pages you want in your app and translate the words, pictures and video which is then imported into the app. In many cases, plugins you rely on for the formatting of your pages in WordPress will be ignored when the page is displayed in the app.
You need to take some time to test how you design the pages you create in WordPress and how they will look in your app. Some of the app creation applications do a better job than others and can see the WordPress plugins you are using, but as mentioned, others simply ignore plugins.
Testing your app is therefore vital before you put your new app live, and you need to see first-hand how the content on your app's pages actually displays on different devices and across the two main mobile operating systems.
Apps and the mobile web
With mobile devices now being the preferred way to access content online, it makes sense to also tap into another trend where apps have become a publishing environment in their own right. You may have started to WordPress, as it offered a fast and convenient way to get a website live on the internet and also an efficient way to update your content. Apps are now racing ahead of every other platform to access content.
Much has been written about the use of responsive website design to ensure your site can be viewed on every digital device. However, the mobile web should not be confused with apps. The app has developed into a new content paradigm with an app for just about any task you care to name. For website owners who want to expand the reach of their content, creating an app is the perfect solution.
However, native app development is still a specialised skill and is costly because of this. Using the WordPress to app creation services currently available enables you to vastly reduce these costs and get your content into an app that your audience will want to access.
Being able to send them a push notification when you publish new content to your WordPress site that they can then instantly see by opening your app is a powerful communications tool.