Convert a Javascript Web App to Mobile Apps for iOS and Android

JavaScript has completely changed the way we build websites. Whether you use a UI framework like Angular, Express or Next – or just pure JavaScript – creating an interactive web application has never been easier! Perhaps you have a successful and growing brand, and are looking for opportunities to expand. One great route is to take your brand to the App Store and Google Play. To convert a JavaScript web app to mobile apps is a different matter altogether though. 

The underlying technologies are incompatible with each other; there is no such thing as a magical ‘conversion’ from one platform to the other. You can either package your existing web app in a native container, or build a hybrid (or fully native) app that communicates with your web backend.

That’s unless you use our platform Canvas, which can convert a javascript web app to mobile apps for iOS and Android in just days. We’re going to talk more about that later on in the article. Firstly though, we’re going to give a complete overview of all the options you have open to you.  

Before we talk about how to convert your Javascript web app to mobile apps though, let’s look a little at the why. 

Why convert your JavaScript web app to native mobile apps? 

Javascript is a powerful and versatile programming language. It is easy to get started with, has a relatively short development time, and can result in some amazing web applications.

So why would you want to build mobile apps for it?

Reach More Users

Thanks to a combination of marketing and ease-of-use, a majority of users on mobile access the virtual world through dedicated apps. Mobile apps offer a more streamlined, ‘contained’ experience, that can retain users more successfully than a web app.

Furthermore, the visibility of an app on the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store is sometimes much better at reaching new users. 

Your existing JavaScript web app is good for desktop users, first contact, and picking up referral or organic traffic – but it isn’t an optimal mobile experience. It Isn’t ideal for engaging users and building loyalty and habit around your brand. 

Provide a Better Mobile UX

Converting your JavaScript web app into native mobile apps lets you meet the expectations of modern consumers and offer them a much better mobile UX through a less distracting, more enclosed environment and a direct route through a single tap on their home screens. 

This is far more direct than opening up a mobile browser, typing in an URL, and waiting for everything to load. The tab bar, navigation and other native features also provide a much better experience for users that is more likely to keep them sticking around.

These are some of the key reasons that brands tend to see a boost in traffic, return visits, dwell time, conversions and retention when they build apps for iOS and Android. 

Apps are easy to access, convenient, and engaging, but the benefits don’t end there.

Push Notifications

Push notifications offer a direct line of communication with your biggest fans – far more effective than email, social media or any other channel. You can use push notifications to build a deeper connection with your users, notify them of important information, and promote products or special offers.  

With browsers cracking down on web notifications and Apple’s dim view of them – only with cross platform mobile apps can you harness push notifications effectively for your business.

A Presence on the App Store and Google Play

On top of that, just having a presence on the App Stores is a great benefit. A lot of consumers these days use Google Play and the App Store to search for solutions to their problems, much like they use web based search engines. If you optimise well for App Store SEO, then you’ll pick up new users that are searching for related keywords. If you’re not on there you’re not in the game, they’re unlikely to find you on the even more crowded mobile web and can be snapped up by a competitor who is on the App Stores. 

An App Store presence also gives you a branding boost. Being there shows you’re serious about UX and mean business as a company – which looks good in the eyes of potential users, partners and investors. 

These are just a few of the reasons to convert your JavaScript web app to mobile apps. Now we’re going to move from the why to the crucial how. 

How to convert a JavaScript web app into a native mobile apps

JavaScript is a programming language built for the web. Things like accessing the native API of mobile platforms are not a part of its normal functionality.

Web technologies just work differently from those that power mobile applications. That’s why converting a JavaScript web app to a mobile app isn’t straightforward. When creating a web app, you don’t have to deal with the nitty-gritty details of how the pages are going to be rendered on to the screen, or how exactly to detect user input.

These things are taken care of by the browser itself, leaving you free to focus on the higher-level functions of your app.

Converting a JavaScript app to iOS or Android is not generally an easy task. It is doable though. We’re going to look at a few promising methods, then introduce our solution to the problem – Canvas – so that you can make an informed decision about what’s right for you.

Convert your Javascript Web App to Mobile Apps through a Wrapper/Web view

Implementation-wise, the simplest way of making a web app work on mobile is by wrapping it in a browser-like container application which renders your HTML and JavaScript website as it is. Such an app is just a ‘container’ running your web app in a web view.

Although it’s one of the easier options, creating one is not a completely straightforward process.

On Android, for example, you must build a native app in Android Studio. While you don’t need to implement the complete suite of features in Java (or Kotlin), you do need to set up the web view and enable JavaScript.

In addition, many JavaScript functions do not translate well to the native platform and must be interfaced with Android code to work properly.

This requires Android development skills along with an in-depth knowledge of how web view apps work. You’ll also need extensive experience in webkit CSS to modify the formatting of the app for mobile.

After all that, you only get the Android version.

The process for iOS is similar. You’ll need a Cocoa developer to create a web view app in objective-C and configure a few components to make your JavaScript app play nice with it.

Certain features of JavaScript are known to not work too well in iOS, so be prepared for a potentially long and debugging process.

And even after all this, it won’t exactly be an app.

A web view displays a webpage, without any navigational improvements or visual improvements, making for a poor user experience. Also, a basic wrapper like this also lacks common native features such as push notifications or analytics.

While you can – and should – implement all these functionalities with dedicated native development, it will end up taking quite a lot of costly development, which may defeat the purpose.

Rather than doing it yourself, you could just use Canvas. Canvas is based on the same ‘wrapper’ principle, but we optimized everything and added all the features to create an optimal UX – plus we handle everything for you from development and publishing to ongoing maintenance. More on that later though, let’s look at another option.

Convert a Javascript App to Mobile Apps with Cordova & Ionic

Instead of creating separate web views of your app for Android and iOS, another option is to create a hybrid solution that can work across both platforms.

This can be achieved using Cordova plugins along with a front-end framework like Ionic.

Cordova is a solution for linking your web code (JavaScript, CSS, or HTML) to the native API. This approach saves you from creating separate interfaces for Android and iOS in their respective development environments, as Cordova plugins work across devices.

After all the backend code is rewritten with Cordova plugins, all that is needed is to build a front-end native app to work with this codebase. Ionic is the best option for this, as it is cross-platform and is often used in conjunction with Cordova.

While this method works well and is faster than the previous option, it might be a bit expensive. You will need to hire developers (or use your in-house team) to create a hybrid app in Ionic and then prepare your web code with Cordova to fit into it.

Let’s look at another possibility that allows you to develop for both iOS and Android simultaneously.

Build Mobile Apps from JavaScript With React Native

If the Cordova and Ionic process seems too clunky to you, React Native can be a good alternative.

Based on the React UI library, React Native allows you to build native applications for both Android and iOS – with JavaScript.

The good thing here is that you can build true native apps, with no need to build a container or search around for the right Cordova plugins for every JavaScript functionality. React Native runs JavaScript directly, so a single codebase can run across both iOS and Android.

The downside here is that you are essentially rebuilding from scratch. Your existing code is obsolete.

Unless you built your app in React (and to some extent, even then), your app needs to be rewritten, and recreated, to take advantage of React Native’s cross-platform functions and classes. Parts of your backend code can survive, but the UI needs to be rebuilt from scratch.

The result is a cross-platform app that works and looks great on both platforms, but requires a lengthy development process. You are practically creating a new app instead of converting your existing one, and the costs are reflective of that.

The good thing is that your existing developers might already be JavaScript pros, so they could learn how to build apps with React Native faster. It will still take months of work though, and cost somewhere in the mid five figures to get to the launch stage on iOS and Android.

Is There a Better Way to Convert a JavaScript Web App to Native Mobile Apps? 

All the above methods are possible ways to get your JavaScript app onto iOS and Android. They come with some severe limitations though. 

You’d need to invest from low to high five figures, and manage a fiddly project that would drag on for six to twelve months. You also would struggle to recreate the exact functionality of your web app through mobile apps – there will most likely be compromises and trade-offs. 

There is a better way though that allows you to recreate your JavaScript app exactly within native iOS and Android apps in just days, for a fraction of the cost. 

Convert your JavaScript Web App to Native Mobile Apps with MobiLoud Canvas

MobiLoud Canvas is our platform, developed over 7 years and hundreds of apps, that lets you convert any website or web app into native iOS and Android apps. 

All you need to do is sign up, configure a few settings to customize the apps, then our team takes care of everything else. 

You’ll test the apps when they’re ready, and our team will also dedicate several hours to testing and making sure the app’s performance is optimal. After everyone is satisfied, we’ll prepare and submit your apps to Apple and Google for publishing.

You’ll be ready to launch in under two weeks, and you’ll invest less than a developer’s day rate to get there.  

Let’s go a little deeper.

How Does Canvas Work?

Canvas is the best ‘wrapper’ on the market. We built on the webview concept and optimized it, so you can take your Javascript app and convert it into native mobile apps that function exactly the same. 

Canvas is not just a wrapper though. It adds native navigation and a native tab menu, native animations, loading indicators and splash screens, and more to create the full app experience. 

There’s no need to touch any code, and no need to rebuild or recreate anything. It’s all about adding native app features to your existing web app so that it gives a great UX and can be published on the App Stores and installed on users phones just like any other app!

The final result is your Javascript web app, in a form that:

  • Can be published on the App Stores and installed on users’ phones
  • Allows you to send out push notifications on iOS and Android 
  • Has all the features added to create an engaging app experience

This gives you all the key benefits of native mobile apps with a fraction of the expense and hassle. Your life will be much easier since the iOS and Android apps will sync 100% with your existing web app – so there’s still only one codebase to manage. Anything you need to change on the apps specifically you can do through our simple dashboard, including sending out push notifications to users. 

Because it is a conversion process, you get to keep what already works. All your web app’s features, functionality and content will work exactly the same in the apps – so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Just take your winning formula from the web and it will work great on the App Stores too. 

Save Time, Effort and Resources

Even with the easier methods we went over earlier, the work would take months and cost $20,000 at least to get a first version ready. 

Managing the project would also be a nightmare unless you have a lot of experience and time to spare. The work would also never really be done – new versions, new features, updates and routine maintenance would eat up tens of thousands of dollars over the first few years. 

Canvas makes the decision to build apps a whole lot easier. We can get you apps just as good launched for 10% of the cost, in weeks not months. We also handle all ongoing updates and maintenance as part of our full service – so there are no unexpected surprises. 

Canvas is also easy for you to manage. Nothing technical is necessary, you can control everything that you need to from our simple dashboard. Canvas apps will also update with any changes you make to your web app  – so there’s nothing to add to your workflow!

Take the savings in time, money and energy and reinvest them into your core product for the web – the apps will take care of themselves!

Push Notifications for iOS and Android

With a 4x higher open rate compared to email and unrestricted reach unlike through social media, push notifications are the most effective engagement channel. Over time, your app audience will start to reflect your most loyal and engaged fans. Push gives you a direct line to these most valuable users.

Canvas integrates with OneSignal, so you can send unlimited notifications – automatically or manually – whenever you see fit. 

Canvas provides a whole control panel for your users to manage their preferences for push notifications, so they can easily choose what they’ll be notified for. All you need to do is attach a tag to match what’s available in their options.

The Canvas native “Alerts” screen also allows users to review all the notifications they’ve received. You can configure this to load a built-in list of notifications or to load an internal notifications screen in your web app.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to engage and re-engage users with timely notifications and drive traffic.

Packed with All The Features You Need

Your Canvas apps aren’t just your Javascript web app in an empty shell – we have built all the features necessary to give your users a great experience as close to a six figure native app as possible. 

Native animations, splash screen, loading spinners, native tab menus, internal or external screens, everything can be controlled from MobiLoud’s simple configuration dashboard.

If you are looking for something specific we can almost definitely help. We’ve built thousands of apps with Canvas and have seen almost every edge case possible. Chances are we have a solution for the issue or request you have in mind. 

We Are with You Every Step of the Way

When you convert your Javascript web app to mobile apps with Canvas, the whole MobiLoud team are here to support you through the whole process. 

The partnership starts with a demo call in which we go over your vision for the apps and answer all your questions. After you’ve used Canvas to create the apps we test them thoroughly and take it from there. 

Getting accepted on the App Stores, especially by Apple, can be tricky. If you used any of the previously discussed methods you could find yourself struggling to get approval and needing to go back to development for painful rewrites. 

With Canvas though this is no issue. We know the process inside out and can 100% guarantee approval after we’ve completely taken care of testing, compiling and submitting your mobile apps.

When the apps are launched it is cause for celebration, but our support doesn’t end there. 

Our team will also handle all ongoing technical maintenance and new version updates for your apps. We are your mobile partners, handle anything that crops up fast and effectively, and are never more than a phone call or email away.

You won’t have to worry about security issues, new iOS versions or phones coming on the market, we’ll take care of all of that for you and update your mobile apps as needed.

Remember that these are your own apps, you’ll be listed as the developer on the stores and every account used will be your own – you just invite us as your developer. So don’t worry about being able to replace the apps or being stuck with a provider – you’re in control and can switch away any time.

Convert Your Javascript Web App to Mobile Apps Today!

We hope that you now have a good idea of what it takes to convert your Javascript web app to mobile apps. Some ways are easier than others, but you aren’t too short of options to think about. 

Canvas is undoubtedly the most straightforward and efficient route – especially if you want apps that do the same thing that your web app does, which makes sense in 90% of cases. 

If you want to learn more about Canvas, you can read about it here, or why not check out some stories from our customers about how they grew their businesses with Canvas apps?

When you are ready to take your brand to the App Stores just book a quick demo call with one of our app experts. They’ll take you through the entire process and tell you everything you need to know to get high quality apps up and running in record time!

Book a call today and let’s convert your Javascript app to mobile apps!