How To Convert A Django Website To A Mobile App

Your Django website might work great for desktop users. But, chances are, it’s not optimal for people on mobile.

There’s only so much you can do to optimize your mobile user experience with a browser-based app or site. If you want to go the extra mile with your mobile UX, a mobile app is the only answer.

Django is a great web development framework. But it’s not a mobile programming framework. If you want to convert what you already have into mobile applications, you’re going to need the help of additional tools or development frameworks.

Read on and we’ll show you how.

Why You Should Convert Your Site to Mobile Apps

Before we get into converting your site into a mobile app, let’s look a little deeper into why you’d want to do this.

After all, your site is (in all likelihood) optimized and responsive on mobile. It’s usable for mobile visitors. Isn’t that enough?

Responsiveness is the price of entry for websites and web apps today. If you’re not optimized for mobile, go do that now.

But even if you’re mobile-optimized to the hilt, the mobile browser experience just isn’t ideal. The browser tabs are distracting, your app will feel awkwardly boxed in, and you’re missing some nice additional benefits you can only get with mobile apps.

Launching your own mobile app means:

  • Better user experience: a UX specifically designed for mobile, touch screens in particular.
  • Faster and easier to get into your app: just one tap from the user’s home screen and they’re in. Make it as easy as possible for people to use your app.
  • Increased loyalty and retention: someone downloading your app means they’re much more likely to come back, compared to having to type in the URL every time.
  • Access to push notifications: a great way to communicate with your audience, build a relationship, and get users into your app. If you’re browser-only, your use of push notifications is extremely limited.
  • Access to the app stores: getting in the Apple App Store and Google Play is no small thing. It gives you two more ways to acquire users, a big vote of social proof for your brand, and two powerful SEO backlinks (if that’s part of your marketing strategy).

You can get by without a mobile app. But if you’ve built a business, and want to scale that business, launching a mobile version of your app is a no-brainer.

Mobile apps look a lot cleaner, and are easier to navigate and use than browser-based sites.

How to Convert Your Django Website to Mobile Apps: 3 Options

So let’s assume you’ve got your website or app built out and working well on all devices. You don’t want to go back to the start and rebuild everything for mobile. Is it possible to just convert what you already have into mobile apps?

The short answer is yes. But there are a few ways to do it, each varying in difficulty and effectiveness. Let’s go through the options now.

Convert it to a Progressive Web App

First, you could convert your site to a Progressive Web App, or PWA. This lets you deliver an app-like experience, without actually building a mobile app.

A PWA looks and feels like a mobile app, but is still loaded through the mobile browser. You can add a launcher icon to your home screen, the site can be accessed offline, and the mobile user experience is a bit smoother.

However, you don’t get all the benefits of a mobile app with a PWA. You can’t get into the app stores, you can’t use mobile-specific features like push notifications, and downloading the app to a user’s device is rather clunky.

If you want to go down the PWA route, django-pwa on Github has all the code and instructions you need to do it. But it’s very much a half-measure, and not a huge improvement on a simple mobile website.

Build a Native Mobile App and Connect Your Site via API

Second option: go all out and build a native mobile app.

To do this, you’ll need to pick out a mobile programming language to build the front-end of your app, such as React Native, then connect it to your Django web app via API.

This option gives you full control over your mobile app, which is useful if you imagine your app experience (at least in terms of the UI) to be much different to the browser-based version.

The problem with this is that it’s a lot of work. You’ve got to be proficient in mobile programming languages, for a start. If not, that means hiring a developer (or developers – you might need to use different frameworks for your iOS and Android apps). That’s not going to be cheap.

If you do have the means to get it done, it’s still going to be a pretty long process. At the end, you may be left with a sleek and pixel-perfect mobile app, but it’s going to require more ongoing maintenance, with separate codebases for mobile and desktop.

Again, this is going to be a big cost if you outsource the job to a freelancer or agency, since you’ll also need to pay them for mobile updates and fixes.

If it’s a small project, and you’ve got the ability to code it yourself, go ahead and take this route. But for most people – particularly if your website is a legitimate business, in which case you’ve got a financial incentive to get your app live sooner rather than later – there’s a much better option.

Build a Wrapper App with MobiLoud Canvas

The third choice is to use MobiLoud Canvas to convert your site into mobile apps.

Canvas converts your web app, and all its existing functionality, into actual mobile apps for Android and iOS.

You can publish your app in the app stores, your users can download them, you can use push notifications and everything else that comes with mobile apps.

Canvas does this by creating what is called a “wrapper app”. This is an app that’s made with the container of a native mobile app, with all the code that an app needs to function on iOS and Android devices.

The content on the app is displayed using “webviews” – live windows into a mobile website. Think of it as a dedicated browser showing your website inside the mobile app.

You can layer native-specific elements, such as navigation, menus, splash screens, logins and notifications on top of the webview, creating an experience that looks and feels just like a native mobile app built from scratch, but with significantly less work required.

Example of a regular website converted into a wrapper app with Canvas.

Advantages of the Wrapper App Approach

In almost all cases, building a wrapper app with Canvas is the best way to go. Here are some reasons why:

Time & Cost

Converting your site to mobile apps with Canvas takes around two weeks. Compare that to building a native app from scratch, building an API for your site, and linking everything together, and you’re looking at huge time savings.

With development, saving time means saving money. You’re not paying a developer to work on your app for 3-6 months. Or, if you’d be doing it yourself, you can utilize this time to work on other projects or do other tasks on your site that make you money.

Your app being live and in the app stores quicker means you’ll see the benefits quicker as well. After a few months, the project may have already paid for itself, whereas if you were to build natively you’d still be waiting on the final product.

You Retain 100% of Existing Functionality

Possibly the best feature of wrapper apps is that you’re able to completely replicate what already works for you with the web app.

That’s because it is your web app. No rebuilding, no features that you need to drop for the mobile app. If it works on your website, it’ll work in your app.

Maintaining a Single Codebase

Going forward, your app is going to be much easier to maintain, because you’ve only got to manage one code base.

Compare that to building a native mobile app with another framework. You’ve got to maintain and update that code base, as well as your Django app. If you make UI changes, you’ll have to make it twice. It’s going to grow into a huge hassle just keeping everything in sync.

With a wrapper app, everything updates automatically. You make a change on your website, your mobile apps change at the same time. It’s significantly easier for you long-term.

Canvas Handles the Initial Build & Updates

Finally, when you use MobiLoud Canvas, there is minimal work for you to do to build and maintain your mobile apps.

We handle the initial build. You just need to configure a few things, test it to see that it works like you intended, and we do the rest.

Going forward, we handle updates, fixes, and regular maintenance for your mobile apps. Most people who choose to build a mobile app themselves, or outsource it, don’t consider this part of the equation. It ends up growing into a big hassle and a huge ongoing cost.

With Canvas, we’re always here to help, for a predictable and manageable cost. You never have to worry about OS changes or minor issues causing problems, and scrambling to find an expensive freelancer to fix it.

How To Get Started

Converting your Django web app to mobile apps with Canvas is a seriously easy and straightforward process. You’ll be shocked just how simple it is to launch your own powerful and professional-looking mobile apps using this approach.

First, request a demo call with our team. In this free demo we’ll walk you through how the platform works, and determine whether Canvas is actually the best option for you.

Next, you’ll sign up for Canvas and submit your app. From here, we build your mobile apps. You’ll be able to customize mobile-specific features such as menus, colors, notifications and logins. We also offer a full service package if you’d rather be completely hands-off.

We’ll get back to you once the initial build is done, so you can test out the app on your own device. After that, just let us know when you’re happy, and we’ll ship the final build in just a few days.

At the end of it all, we’ll also handle the publishing process for the App Store and Google Play.

That’s it – just a couple of weeks to go live with your own mobile apps.

Remember, our team remains with you for any changes or questions you have after your apps go live. Canvas is not just an app builder, it’s a service. For the hundreds of happy MobiLoud customers, this service is really the differentiating factor between Canvas and other ways to build an app.

Get in touch now to start the process, and give your mobile users the experience they deserve.