How to Build a Mobile App For Your WordPress Membership Site

If you run a membership site on WordPress, like a subscription-based community, a site offering premium content, or an online course, you should think about turning your site into a WordPress membership app.

By converting your site into an app, you’re going to offer a lot more value to your users, which will result in higher usage rates, and users staying subscribed for longer. You’ve also got more tools to boost significant lead metrics, as well as to attract new users.

Read on and we’ll go into more detail on the benefits of mobile apps, before showing the best option to launch your own WordPress membership app.

Learn more: how to create a mobile app for your WordPress site.

The Benefits of Apps for Membership Sites and Online Courses

App development takes a lot of time and investment. So is it really worth it to build an app for your membership site or online course?

The following benefits should give you an idea.

A Better User Experience for Members

Today, more and more people prefer to access the internet on mobile devices, over desktop.

In fact, mobile holds as much as 60% market share today, a sharp rise in the last 5-10 years.

With that in mind, you want to ensure you offer the best possible user experience for mobile users – not just desktop. And to maximize your UX for mobile, you need apps.

Mobile-optimized websites are ok – most sites are usable on mobile these days. But even the best responsive websites are never going to be able to match the UX of a mobile app.

Mobile apps are specifically designed for mobile devices. Everything is built with smartphones/touch screens in mind. The UI is cleaner and less distracting, it’s faster, and overall everything works a lot smoother.

LMs WordPress membership app
Mobile apps are a great fit for membership sites like online courses

It’s a big advantage as well to be able to launch the app directly with one tap, as opposed to launching the browser, then typing in the site or finding it from your bookmarks.

Learn more: why 90% of our time spent on mobile devices is spent using apps.

Increased Usage Rates and Retention, Decreased Churn

The effect of being able to offer a better mobile UX is you incentivize an increase in usage rates. People are going to come into your site/app more often, and spend more time there.

This is good for any site owner, but particularly beneficial for membership sites. You want people consistently using your site and getting value out of it. That way they’re more likely to stay subscribed, which is how your site makes money.

Many membership sites also benefit from the community aspect – the more people logging on and interacting in the site, the more value it provides to other members.

Anything you can do to increase usage, and thus increase retention rates and lower churn is going to have a massive effect on your bottom line.

Push Notifications

Apps also give you access to a powerful tool to further increase usage rates and communicate with your users – push notifications.

Push notifications let you send content directly to your users’ devices. They’re more visible than any other communication channel, like email, social media or SMS. And they get more engagement – just one tap from the notification and the user can open the app.

These are a great tool to use to remind people about your course, relay notifications from a community, or deliver new content – all of which help people stay active, and hopefully, subscribed for longer.

Increased Brand Presence

An app is also a powerful signal for your brand.

It instantly shows people that your brand is legitimate and trustworthy. People take a brand more seriously if they can see that it has the resources and the pull to launch their own apps.

The instantly recognizable Apple App Store and Google Play Store logos on your site are a big social proof signal too.

You can even get new users directly from your app store listings. These may turn out to be valuable acquisition channels in their own right.

Boost Your Brand’s Image and Credibility with an App Store Presence

And that’s not to mention the power of two 95+ DR backlinks from your app store listings, which provide a huge boost to your domain authority and the SEO foundation of your site. If you rely on SEO as an acquisition channel, this is just another very significant benefit of launching your own mobile apps.

Potential Obstacles For Building a WordPress Membership App

The benefits above are clear and fairly obvious. But on the other side of things, there are some obstacles that make launching an app not as easy as launching a WordPress site.

These are not reasons to avoid converting your membership site to apps. However, they’re certainly things you have to consider, as they provide added complexity to your project.

Let’s dive a little deeper.

Having the Expertise and Resources for App Development

The biggest issue for most sites is the effort and expertise it takes to build an app.

App development is a very specialized area. It’s much more difficult than building a website (even coding a website from scratch). There are fewer mobile developers out there, and there’s a good chance that you don’t have that kind of ability on your team.

So that means hiring mobile developers – such as a freelance developer, or an agency. This is hugely expensive. To build a mobile app for your site – on both iOS and Android, mind you – you can expect to pay upwards of $50,000. Far out of the budget for many WordPress membership sites.

There are tools that allow you to skip the investment in hiring developers, as we’ll expand on later, although not all tools are going to provide what you need to provide the best mobile UX for your users.

Learn more: the benefits of native app development vs low-code and no-code app builders.

Managing Multiple Platforms

You’ve got to consider the possibility of juggling multiple platforms, and keeping everything consistent, no matter how your users access your site.

You’ve got your desktop platform, an Android app and an iOS app. It takes effort to perfectly sync each platform, in terms of UI, content, etc. It’s particularly complex for membership sites, since you have a lot of things – logins, accounts, course progress for example – that have to be the same on each platform.

This is a huge issue if you decide to build mobile apps from the ground up. Ideally you need a solution that actually converts your existing website, and keeps it synced with your mobile apps going forward.

Integrating Your Existing Membership Platform

Building a mobile app for a membership site is more complex than a standard blog or news site. That’s because you need to make sure your membership setup transfers over without any hitch.

The last thing you want is to require separate subscriptions and logins for your website vs your app. You also don’t want to force all your existing subscribers to have to manually set up a new subscription, because you can’t get your existing membership plugin to work in the app.

This is a hurdle you’re likely to come up against with a lot of seemingly affordable app builders. It may be cheap and intuitive to build an app that looks nice, but integrating it with your existing systems will be difficult to impossible.

Payment Processors Working In Your App

You also want to make it easy for users to make in-app purchases. This could be subscribing and paying for their membership within the app, or making additional purchases (like one-off access to premium content).

This is another hurdle with cheap app builders or rushed development jobs. You don’t want to force people to go into the website as their only option to subscribe – that way you’re going to leave a lot of money on the table from people who find you from the app stores.

You should also support a wide range of payment options, such as Google/Amazon/Apple pay, along with the regular regular credit card options.

Maintenance and Updates

Finally, the biggest thing that most people fail to realize when building apps is the cost of upkeep.

Once you build and launch your app, that’s not the end of the process. There are going to be operating system updates (e.g. new versions of Android and iOS), which may force updates to your app.

You’re going to get bugs. You’re going to get small things that need to be fixed.

All that needs to be factored into the cost of your app. If you pay for a custom app build, you’ll also need to keep a developer on staff (or at arm’s reach) for updates and maintenance. And if you use an app builder, you’re going to need to rely on their support to keep your app running with minimal downtime.

Learn more: a full list of the best WordPress mobile app builders.

How to Launch a WordPress Membership App

Let’s now take a look at how you can transform your WordPress membership site into a membership app.

There are several options that can work – to varying degrees of success, cost and efficiency – for converting your site to mobile apps:

We’d argue the most effective, giving the best combination of time, cost, functionality and support, is MobiLoud Canvas.

Canvas is a tool that converts any existing website into mobile apps for Android and iOS.

It converts 100% of your site’s functionality to your mobile apps. The apps are essentially a live window to your website, with some small UI and UX changes to give you a proper app experience.

The apps work exactly like mobile apps should – users can download them from the app stores, you can enable push notifications and in-app purchases, and the UI is tailored specifically for mobile users.

Yet everything is completely synced with your website. That means your existing membership structure, logins, plugins, themes will all be the same on the website and in the app.

Best of all, MobiLoud Canvas is a service, not just a “do it yourself” software tool. The team at MobiLoud builds your apps for you, handles the app store publishing process, and also handles updates and maintenance.

It offers the best aspects of app builders and a custom app build rolled together in one.

So how exactly is Canvas better than the other two options? Let’s break it down.

MobiLoud Canvas vs Native App Development

Choosing to build your app from scratch, allows you complete flexibility over every pixel of your mobile apps. But the tradeoff is huge in terms of cost, time and complexity. In the end, it’s just not worth it.

We mentioned earlier the price to get mobile apps developed – considering you’ll need multiple developers, as well as someone to manage the project – is likely to be more than $50,000. You can also expect to pay around 10% of the initial cost each year for maintenance and updates.

Considering you’ll need your membership system perfectly synced across web, iOS and Android, the price may be even higher due to the added complexity.

MobiLoud Canvas is significantly cheaper up front, and in the long run. The cost of launching your apps comes out to around 2-3% of native development. And the monthly subscription – which handles updates, maintenance, fixes and any other ongoing needs you might have – is cheaper and more convenient than relying on agency or freelance developers.

You’ll also have your apps ready in approximately 2 weeks, as opposed to 6 months+ for native development.

You’re not really missing anything with your apps, either. As long as your site is optimized for mobile, your apps will look and work great. There’s not enough to be gained through native development that warrants the huge addition in cost and complexity.

MobiLoud Canvas vs DIY App Builders

The other option you might consider is a no-code app builder, such as Glide or GoodBarber.

These tools are a DIY solution. They give you a drag and drop builder with pre-coded elements that let anyone build a functional mobile app, without writing code.

These tools will generally come at a lower cost than MobiLoud, and a much lower cost than native development. 

There are some big downsides, though. While it’s true you don’t need to know how to code to build an app with these tools, it still takes a lot of effort. It will take some time for you, or someone on your team, to put together a professional-looking and usable app.

Then you’re going to struggle to integrate your apps with your existing membership system. These tools give you a limited number of external tool or platform integrations, to handle the backend of your app (i.e. payment processors, ecommerce functionality).

This can work for simple apps, but not for more complex projects like this.

Finally, you’ve got to consider that you’re on your own in building and maintaining your apps. These tools may offer limited support, but you’ve got to figure out most of it yourself.

It’s nothing like the level of hands-on support you get with MobiLoud. MobiLoud also lets you retain your existing functionality, and synchronize your site on each platform, which you can’t do with a regular no-code app builder.

The difference in cost is well worth it in this case. The time and effort it saves you using MobiLoud, as well as the extra value you extract from your apps, more than makes up for anything you save by opting for the cheaper route.

MobiLoud handles all the technical details of your app, seamlessly converting your site to a clean mobile UI.

Wrapping Up

There are huge benefits to launching a WordPress membership app. The benefits of converting your site to apps are bigger than for most site owners, in fact, because of the power of increasing usage rates, user retention and thus decreasing churn.

However, it’s also more complex to convert a membership site to a mobile app. The heart of your site – the membership system and subscriptions – needs to be totally in sync across each platform, which can easily become a mess if not handled correctly.

Luckily MobiLoud Canvas is perfectly suited for this. It converts any website, including membership sites to fully functional mobile apps.

You’ll be able to retain everything that already works on your website, and continue to manage all your content and memberships from your WordPress dashboard.

It’s more affordable than native development and more powerful than template-based no-code app builders.

It’s easy to get started with MobiLoud. First, schedule a free demo to learn more about the platform and how it’s going to work for your project.

If you’re ready to move forward, you’ll find the process simple and pain-free. And if you don’t like how your apps turn out, there’s a 60-day money back guarantee, meaning there’s zero risk on your part.

Transform your WordPress membership site into a WordPress membership app with MobiLoud Canvas.