How to Make an App That Links to Your Website
More people today access the internet on mobile devices, over desktop. And of those people, most prefer to use mobile apps. Apps provide a more powerful and more convenient user experience, specifically tailored for mobile devices and touchscreens.
Because of that, the majority of online businesses, including ecommerce sites, membership sites, forums, online courses and content sites, can benefit from launching their own apps. Basically, if your revenue is correlated with the amount of time people spend on your site, you’re going to make more money with an app.
If you’re doing this, it’s important that your app and website are linked together. Building and launching a standalone app is not going to do as much for your business as an app version of your website.
That’s what we’re going to guide you through in this post. To learn how to create an app that links and syncs with your website, read ahead.
Why Linking Your App to Your Site is Important
Launching a standalone app, not linked to your site at all, is almost like starting a new business.
You’re going to have a new codebase to maintain and twice the content to publish and manage. It’s going to be double the work and operating cost - perhaps more, since the app space is likely a new space for you.
You’re going to have a hard time keeping the UX, messaging and content consistent across your app and your website. It’s either going to take a ton of painstaking effort to keep everything in line, or your users will have a different experience with your business depending on whether they access the app or the website.
This is a killer for many business types, such as ecommerce stores and membership sites.
Everything’s a lot easier if your app and site are synced. It’ll be easier to build, as you’re re-using a lot of the code and content that’s already there. And then it’s much easier to manage, going forward.
You essentially only manage one backend - your already existing website. The app and the website show basically the same thing, just with a few differences in the UI.
When you publish content, you publish it once. If you get orders, or people sign up to a subscription or membership, it only needs to happen once. All logins, accounts, etc are shared across app and website.
It allows you to access the benefits of mobile apps, while adding a limited amount of work to your plate.
There are two options to do this - let’s look at them now.
1 - Build a Native App with an API Connection
The first choice, and the most comprehensive, is to build a native mobile app, with an API that connects it to your website backend.
This allows you to customize every part of your user experience for the app user, and retain what you need from the backend of your website - logins, order details, etc.
However, be warned, this option is far from simple.
Here’s how you’d go about getting this done. First, you’d need a pair of developers to work on building your mobile apps. Why two? Because iOS and Android apps require different development frameworks.
iOS apps are built in Objective-C or Swift, while Android apps are coded in Java and Kotlin. In all likelihood, you’ll need separate teams working on each app.
(You could also use a cross-platform framework like React Native, which allows you to share much of the code across the iOS and Android apps, cutting down on development time).
This is for the front end. You’ll also need your development team to build an API (application programming interface), that allows your apps to communicate and share data with your website.
This is possible but somewhat tricky, and definitely requires you to have competent developers working on your project.
Is this a good choice? In short, it gives you the most control over your app experience, but it may not be worth the hassle. Here’s a quick rundown on the pros and cons:
Advantages of this approach
- You have full control over how your apps look and behave, independently from your website.
- Building natively allows you to utilize mobile device features, such as the camera and GPS.
- Your apps should be fast and responsive, as they’re built from the ground up for their specific operating system.
- You can expect to pay a lot for this. The average salary for Android developers in the US is $108,000, and $128,000 for iOS developers. Factor this in, with the complexity of the project, and you’re looking at 5-6 figures.
- Time: even for experienced developers, native app development is no simple task. Especially so when you factor in building an API on top of it. You probably won’t have a finished product for at least 6 months.
- This leaves you with several individual platforms to maintain. While the API allows you to share some data, you still need updates and bugfixes for each app (on top of your website). This requires keeping developers on staff, or relying on freelancers who may not be available or who may not be familiar with your product.
2 - Build a Hybrid App with Webviews
The second choice is to build a hybrid app, instead of a fully native app. The hybrid app serves as an extension of your website, in a form that people can download from the app stores and access directly on their mobile device.
This is usually done with something called “webviews”. Webviews are essentially a dedicated internet browser within an app, that shows a live view of web content.
Your app will have the shell of a native app, but the same content that’s on your website.
It’s the simplest way to make an app that links to your website. That’s because the app is your website. When the user opens the app, they’re seeing the same thing that’s currently on your mobile website.
Hybrid apps, particularly webview apps, have had a bad rap in the past, for being slow and/or providing a substandard UX. But modern webview apps are very difficult to differentiate from true native apps - as these hybrid app examples show.
Let’s check out some of the pros and cons:
Advantages of a hybrid app
- Using webviews, it’s going to take a lot less time to build and launch your app.
- Less time also means a much lower cost, compared to building a native app.
- You get to completely convert your website to mobile apps. No need to rebuild or recreate anything.
- It’s much easier to maintain, as changes on your website update automatically in your app.
- You can guarantee a consistent UX across each platform.
- You don’t have as much freedom to customize your app experience.
- It can be harder to use some mobile device features.
- You might lose a little in terms of performance - though modern hybrid apps generally run as fast as your website allows.
Hybrid vs Native Development: Which Is Best?
So, which is the best option to build an iOS/Android app that links to your website?
While you can do more with native development, the advantages are really not worth it when you consider the added time, cost and complexity.
Hybrid apps are significantly cheaper. They take significantly less time to build. And, done right, it can be difficult to tell that you’re using a hybrid app rather than a fully native app.
If your goal is to take an existing, successful website or web app and convert it to a mobile app, hybrid is undoubtedly the way to go.
Along with being easier to build, a hybrid app is easier to maintain, and pretty much guarantees that people get the same experience on web and app.
There’s an argument to be made for native development if you plan for the app to be the centerpiece of your business, and you have the resources to build a native app. But for most businesses, every part of the equation points to hybrid apps being the way to go.
Learn more about native apps, hybrid apps and web apps in this deep-dive article.
How to Create a Hybrid Webview App for Your Website
Want to build your own hybrid app, and launch a fully-functional mobile app that links to your website?
First, you could hire a developer to build this. It’ll cost less than hiring someone to build a fully native app. But it’s still a little overkill.
Your best option is to use our tool, MobiLoud. MobiLoud is a no-code app building platform that's specifically designed to convert websites to mobile apps, using the hybrid/webview approach we’ve talked about in this article.
It allows you to go to market with your app in just two weeks - unthinkable if you hire developers to work on your project manually.
MobiLoud converts everything that already works for you on your website, to your mobile apps. You can layer on app-specific UI elements, such as a mobile navigation and menus, loading indicators and splash screens, as well as using advanced mobile features such as push notifications.
Best of all, there’s very little work you need to do. You just configure a few small things through the MobiLoud dashboard, and our team builds the apps for you. We even handle the app store submission process.
Our team also sticks around to provide updates, maintenance, and support for any changes you might want to your apps in the future.
You cannot understate the value of the savings you get in time, cost and complexity - both during the launch phase and after - compared to native development. MobiLoud is the easiest way to convert your site to mobile apps, bar none.
Can You Build High-Quality Apps with MobiLoud?
MobiLoud makes it easy to convert your website to iOS and Android apps. But what about the quality of these apps? Are these apps good enough to represent your brand, and grow your business?
The thousands of apps built with MobiLoud can attest to the quality. You can read numerous case studies here to see examples of high-quality, professional apps from MobiLoud users.
This includes ecommerce apps, such as:
Medicine for the Soul, a guided yoga & fitness app.
LeaderBooks, a membership platform for growth-minded professionals.
These are just a few examples of what you can build with MobiLoud. The only limit is what you can build with the web. As long as you can craft a quality user experience on your website, you’ll be able to translate that to your mobile apps without a problem.
If you want to build an app that links to your website, recreates the user experience from your website, and updates when your website does, MobiLoud is the best option.
It takes less than a thousand dollars to launch an app this way, and just a couple of weeks development time, compared to 5-6 figures and half a year plus, if you build natively.
You don’t need any tech expertise, or to hire expensive, sought-after developers with mobile app experience.
All you need to do to get started is book a free, personalized demo call with one of our app experts.
In this demo, we’ll discuss what you want to get out of your app, and walk you through the process.
After that, it’s a simple process to launch your app. You’ll just sign up for MobiLoud, configure your app, pass it to our team, and wait. Once you test it and you’re happy with the final product, we ship the final version and submit it to the app stores for you.
You enjoy the benefits of having your own mobile apps, without any of the added headaches of building or maintaining them.
Get in touch now to learn more.