Convert Your WordPress Website into Native Apps with Canvas

If you’re reading this, then you’ve already made the decision to convert your website into a mobile app.
But you’re also probably here because the other solutions you’ve researched (or tried) just aren’t working out…
It’s not that open source software or DIY app builders won’t get the job done. They can. But, there is a tradeoff when using these mobile app building tools.
Open source solutions like Apache Cordova or Adobe PhoneGap were built for the skilled web developer who wants to use the code and tools that they are already familiar with. As such, native apps can be built and coded with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These open source products are free to use, but they’re not meant for the website owner that wants an easy and efficient way to build their own app. If you ever encounter problems you’ll need to turn to forums, and Google searches to solve your problems.
DIY app builders, on the other hand, take the opposite approach. They cater to the small business owner who needs a fast and affordable option for converting their website into a mobile app, with no coding involved. However, what you get from a DIY app builder service isn’t a fully native app, which means missing out on all those valuable elements you needed in the first place (like push notifications, native navigation, telephony features, and more.)
Of course, you could always just code the mobile app from the ground up.
However, you’d likely have to hire an app developer skilled in-app coding languages like Objective-C and Swift to handle this, which will be costly – at least $15,000 to $20,000. It will also take much longer to get your app to market, and you’ll have to take care of publishing it on the iOS and Google Play App Stores yourself. You may have a custom and fully native app in the end, but it will require a big commitment of time and money, and upkeep won’t be cheap either.
So, if that’s where you are right now, let’s talk about one more option: MobiLoud Canvas.
The below guide will explain the benefits of using this WordPress specific app-building service to convert your website into a mobile app.

A Brief Introduction to MobiLoud Canvas

If you feel as though you’ve been wasting too much time trying to find the best solution to build your mobile app, stop right now. MobiLoud Canvas combines the pros you were looking forward to with the other app-building options while doing away with the cons.
MobiLoud Canvas is a full-service solution that helps you convert your WordPress websites into native mobile apps in no time. With MobiLoud, you can:

  • Continue focusing on the business initiatives that typically fill your day.
  • Spare yourself the hassle and cost of hiring a developer to code your app.
  • Quickly create and customize your own app with little to no technical knowledge.
  • Build a mobile app with all the existing features from your WordPress site – unlike other solutions, you don’t have to try and rebuild everything you have on your site with a point and click interface!

Because we build, publish, and maintain the app for you, there really isn’t much for you to do aside from customize it  (though we take care of the initial configuration for you!). The process looks like this:

  • Schedule a free consultation call is scheduled to identify your app requirements.
  • We build the first iteration of your mobile app from your WordPress site.
  • You are then given access to customize the mobile app as you see fit.
  • You can preview your app in real time on your actual devices and when you’re ok with the result, confirm you’re ready for us to publish to the app stores.

The best part? Our team has years of app-building experience (800+ apps), which will put your mobile app in the best position to be approved by app stores.
If all of this sounds too good to be true, don’t worry. It’s not. Let’s dive into the process of using this app-building software to get a new mobile app up and running in no time.

How to Use MobiLoud Canvas to Convert Your Website into a Mobile App

Time to get into the good stuff: how to use MobiLoud Canvas to convert your WordPress website into a mobile app. (Just a fair warning: you may be shocked how easy this whole thing is.

Step 1: Schedule a Consultation Call

One of the beautiful things about Canvas is how quick and easy it is to get started.
First, go to our website.
See those two green “Request a Demo” buttons on the home page? Click on one of those to kick the process off.
During your demo, we will talk about your WordPress site and what you envision for the mobile app counterpart.
Once we have a good understanding of your requirements and you’re ready to get started, review the pricing plan options. If you’re interested in integrating WooCommerce or BuddyPress functionality into your mobile app, be sure to get in contact with our dedicated support team for more information on solutions and pricing.
Choose the plan that’s right for you, sign up, and then we will get to work on building the mobile app on your behalf.

Step 2: Your Mobile App Gets Built By MobiLoud

In this next step, there is nothing for you to do. Our app development team will take the information you provided to us, along with your WordPress site, and build out the first version of your mobile app.

Step 3: Log into MobiLoud Canvas

Within a few days’ time, you will be given access to your new mobile app through the MobiLoud Canvas interface. This is where you will be able to review the app we have built for you and customize it to your liking.
The following steps detail what each of the modules allows you to do in terms of customizations.

Step 4: Configure the Menu

Your new mobile app will come configured with a navigation menu specific to the app, to make it more user-friendly on mobile. Remember: the mobile app doesn’t need to be an identical match of the website (nor should it be).
Based on the demo call and the requirements defined during it, the MobiLoud team created this menu based on what you actually need.  
When you step inside your Menu within Canvas, you should see something like this:
MobiLoud Menu Tabs
Take time to review each of the pages, the links, as well as the icons. Each of these elements can be changed, so make sure you’ve carefully considered each before moving on. Sticking with clarity and simplicity when labelling your mobile navigation is usually a best practice here.
Also, if you’d like to reorganize the order in which the pages appear in the menu, you can do that here. Use the directional icon to the right of the URL to drag and drop your tabs into the order you want them to appear.
Further down this page you’ll encounter more customizations for the navigation related to animations, progress indicator, and more:
More Menu Options
One of the items you should pay close attention to on this page is the configuration of internal and external link behaviour.
Internal External Links
This allows you to control what parts of your app are internal and when you would like to move users out of the app to external sources.

Step 5: Configure the Color Palette

MobiLoud will have already taken care of customizing the colors of your mobile app based on what is defined in your website. However, if you decide to tweak any of these elements to give the mobile app a unique spin of the brand identity, you can do that under the Colors menu.
Canvas Builder Color Configuration
In this section, you can personalize the color palette of your app to ensure it matches your brand’s colors. Not only that, but you can choose different colors for different devices!
You have control over the basics like the splash screen and the tab bar colors. However, if you dig further into the options, you’ll see that you can apply color to the mobile app for iOS and Android users.
Android iOS Colors
There’s nothing that says the two have to be different. However, if you want to apply a slight variation, you can do so here.

Step 6: Configure Push Notifications

With the navigation and design settled, you can focus on what you want to do with push notifications. Push notifications are one of the greatest benefits of building a native mobile app. With DIY builders, you generally won’t get push notification capabilities out of the box, which defeats the whole purpose of building an application for your users’ mobile devices.
So, let’s look at what this page allows you to do.
Canvas Builder Notifications
First, you’ll have a choice as to what kinds of push notifications and alerts you send to your mobile app users. Main Alerts and Newsletter notifications are already added for you, but they are not activated. To switch them on for logged-in users, hit the toggle on the right.
To add new alerts, click “Add New Tag” and assign values to the custom alerts you want to generate. If this is a news or blog app, you may want to notify users about new blog posts. If this is an e-commerce app, special sales days or discount codes can be communicated to them through these. Social network apps would notify users about new activity in their feed or messages from connections.
Down below this section, you have the opportunity to rename the various alerts labels that appear in the app.
Push Notifications - Alerts Screens
Once you’ve completed filling out the page, save your changes. Your app will now allow you to send targeted messages to users. It will also allow your users to opt out of those notifications (per GDPR compliance), if they so choose.
I would also suggest going into your WordPress website at this point. With the MobiLoud Canvas plugin, you can add a few more specifications to how push notifications work.
If you haven’t done so yet, download the MobiLoud Canvas plugin from the WordPress repository. The Canvas plugin will give you another access point for the configuration and personalization of your mobile app.
Canvas Plugin
On the plugin configuration screen, you will see a note about activating the plugin. Click on the button and you’ll be taken to additional settings for your mobile app.
Under the new Canvas menu in WordPress, navigate to the Push Notifications tab.
WordPress Push Keys
The first section you will see here is for push keys. If you’re using an external service to manage push notifications, add the key here.
WordPress BuddyPress Push
If BuddyPress is activated on your site and you want to include it in the app, this next section won’t be greyed out and you can configure notifications related to the social network here.
WordPress Automated Push
Finally, you can use WordPress to automate and customize the look of your push notifications from the mobile app.
Once you’ve set everything to your liking, remember to Save Changes.

Step 7: Configure the Login Page

Even though you can already reach users through push notifications, enabling a login page would be nice if you want them to be able to create custom profiles for themselves. With a login, you can also provide a more personalized experience and communications for them.
The default setting in Canvas is a disabled login. To turn it on, go to the Login tab and click the toggle switch.
Canvas Login Configuration
This will reveal settings related to where the login page is located, where they’ll be redirected to afterwards, and you can designate a signup page here, too.
Also, be sure to refer to the WordPress Canvas settings page. Under Logins & Subscriptions, you can set additional configurations:
WordPress Login and Subs

Step 8: Change the WordPress Theme

Most of you will maintain a consistent design between your WordPress site and mobile app by utilizing the same theme for both. However, if your mobile app serves a complementary, but not identical purpose as the site, you may want to give it an identity all its own.
If, down the line, you have selected a brand new WordPress theme for your app and would like to skin your site with it, you can easily apply this using the MobiLoud plugin in WordPress.
WordPress Theme Options
Under the Canvas configuration menu, go to Theme Options. Once your theme is installed, you can select it from the dropdown menu. When you click on “Customize Theme”, it will take you to the Live Preview editor. Your customization options will be limited to:

  • Colors
  • Background image
  • Menus
  • Widgets
  • Additional CSS

Apply your changes, verify that they look as you want them to, and then Save & Publish your new app theme.

Step 9: Activate Monetization

Since you don’t have to deal with ad blockers in mobile apps, this may be the perfect opportunity for you to monetize your brand.
Back in the Canvas interface, go to the Advertising tab.  
Canvas Advertising Configuration
First, hit the toggle to enable advertising. Then, configure your advertising platform and add information regarding the ad units you want to display on iOS or Android.

Step 10: Set up Analytics

Even if you don’t enable user logins, it’s still helpful to track user activity around the app. You can do this by setting up a Google Analytics (and/or Facebook) tracking ID.
Canvas Analytics
This will give you a good sense of what users do when they enter the app. It will also help you later determine if there’s any friction preventing them from fully enjoying the experience of the app.

Step 11: Automate Ratings Requests

In order to give your mobile app a fighting chance in the app stores, you’re going to have to promote it–on your website, in a blog post announcement, in a newsletter, on social media, and anywhere else you have a chance to speak about it. You’ll also need to make sure it’s optimized to rank well in the app stores.
Of course, this doesn’t all have to fall on you. Social proof is highly effective in convincing consumers to buy into something that’s brand new (like your app). If you can generate enough customer reviews and ratings, you can leverage your current user base to grow the app.
To do this, enable the Ratings prompt in Canvas.
Canvas Ratings Configuration
This will send out automated messages to users while they’re in the app, and ask them to leave a rating for their experience in the app store.

Step 12: Configure Miscellaneous Settings

In the Settings tab, you can decide what sort of technical features you want to enable for your app. You can enable Development mode if you are regularly updating your configuration and want changes to be made live to the app.
Canvas-Other Settings
This includes things like turning on push notifications for iOS and disabling location tracking for Android.

Step 13: Customize Your Settings with the Advanced Editor

Remember how we said you don’t have to know how to code in order to use MobiLoud Canvas? Well, that’s still true. However, if you or your developer want to add additional customizations to the mobile app, or would rather just work in the code rather than the builder, you can do so through this module.
Canvas- Advanced Configurations
Using the Code View or Form View (which breaks the customizations down based on parts of the app), you can tweak every element of your app. There are also a few hidden settings you can apply to the JSON configuration.

Step 14: Test Your Mobile App

Once you have completed configuration, it’s time to test the mobile app using the live demo in MobiLoud Canvas. To do this, click the “Test App” button in the top-right corner of the page.
This is what you will see:
mobiloud canvas preview

When it’s done, your app can now be tested out in both the iOS and Android experiences (use the tab in the top-right corner to switch).

Step 15: Publish Your Mobile App

After you’ve completed reviewing the app, and you have approval from all stakeholders, it’s time to publish it to the app stores.
Either with the test module still open or when you’re back on the main Canvas builder screen, click the blue “Publish” button.
Publish App
This will send your fully configured app to the MobiLoud team to finish building the app and publish it to the app stores, which generally takes a few more business days.

Step 16: Optimize Your App Store Descriptions

With your mobile app available in store, give some love to its title and description. By optimizing its appearance inside the app store, you can make it all the more appealing for brand new users to discover it even when surrounded by the competition. The description, screenshots, and ratings will then get potential users get excited about hitting that download button.

Step 17: Download and Use Your Mobile App

Once MobiLoud has completed publishing your app, you will be notified. And once it is available in the app store… Well, now it’s time for you to download and start using it!
With the help of MobiLoud, your mobile app can be quickly and easily published to the app stores, too.

MobiLoud Canvas: The Clear Choice for Building Your New Mobile App!

As you can see, MobiLoud Canvas provides a full service for building your own mobile app that most other options can’t come close to. It’s affordable in price. Ridiculously easy to use. And, you get a native app built in a matter of days!
Other options such as DIY app builders may seem attractive due to their simplicity and low price point, you will likely face limitations and have to deal with all troubleshooting yourself, which can be time-consuming and more expensive in the long run.
If you’re ready to convert your website into a mobile app with MobiLoud Canvas, or you have questions before signing up, we encourage you to schedule a demo with one of our representatives now.