Turn your website into an app

The current situation in the app market feels a bit retro to me; it’s comparable to the 90s when everyone was being told they needed a website and rushing out to create them without really understanding how to or considering the value to their business. Now websites are a tried and tested system and it’s apps that are the immature market which although they can be of high value, are not being generally well understood or, very often, being done well.

Even big brands like Tesco are missing the mark – with only 2.5 stars from user reviews on their iPad app.

turn your website into an app

Even big brands like Tesco have not quite got the transition from website to app perfected

In this post we’ll explore how to turn your website into an app including the advantages, the timing and the methods to use.

Why do I need an app?

The reasons why you should be taking advantage of apps as a channel could fill an entire blogpost so I’ll be brief:

1. Extra marketing channel
Having an app provides an additional channel for your brand to be found by your customers – people can discover it by browsing the app store as well as by browsing the web.

2. Mobile is taking the lead
By next year people will be using their mobile to access the internet more than their desktop according to Morgan Stanley.

3. Higher conversion rates
Data indicates that conversion rates on tablet are nearly as high as on desktops (a figure set to rise with increasing adoption) and a report last year by Adobe Digital Marketing Insights showed that tablet users spend 21% more than other shoppers.

4. Added extras
An app also allows you to directly take advantage of device functionality e.g. camera, push notifications and integration with social channels.

5. Retention and engagement
Downloading an app indicates that your user, customer or potential customer is engaged with your brand as the process takes more effort than visiting a website. After it is downloaded, accessing the app is convenient and provides less barriers to use for the customer increasing the likelihood they will engage with your brand. This also increases your opportunities for longer term customer retention and prolonging engagement via content updates.

And if you think this something you don’t need to pay attention to then think again – using a website not designed for mobile on a mobile device alienates your audience (think how frustrating it is when the links are hard to tap or the screen does not display properly) and can actually damage your brand.

So when should I take the plunge?

Use data as the basis of your decision to go mobile – take a look at your Google Analytics stats and when they indicate indicates high percentage of mobile visitors it is probably time to consider investing in your mobile presence. (Great custom Google Analytics report from Lens 10 to help you make the decision).

Alternatively if you can think of ways to leverage mobile to add value to your business or if you think there would be value in having an extra discovery channel then perhaps now could also be a good time.

How do you go from website to app?

OK, you’re sold – it provides value and it can be used to compliment your current offering, now, how do you turn your website into an app?

Mobile site vs app
Whether you decide to go native or stick to a web app or mobile-optimized site depends completely on your requirements – check out my other blogpost Mobile website or app: Which is right for you? for more advice.

Be clear on the value that downloading your app will provide to your customers (current or potential).

Structuring an app is quite a different proposition from designing a website as users navigate each in different ways. A sitemap would be transformed into different ‘sections’ in the app which are usually denoted by iOS tab bar (image below). Market research is also a good way to understand how the best apps work – download other comparable apps and understand what you like and don’t about the way they are structured.

turn your website into an app

Example of iOS Bar Icons (courtesy of Icons Berlin)

The strategy behind your content must be that in first place it should be useful to your target audience and give them a reason to download your app above visiting your website. Design your content with the idea in mind that your audience is on the move; it should be updated regularly and available in bitesize chunks so that it can be easily absorbed.

Remember that your users are using touch to navigate your app not a mouse so ensure that you filter functionality so that it is engaging for mobile users. This means keep design simple and immersive with no long forms, making buttons easy to find and press and limiting the amount of typing required.

Also consider building in-app purchasing functionality – although this will add to the cost and development time, as I mentioned already above mobile platforms and particularly tablets have higher conversion rates than desktops.

Deciding to invest time and money into building a new marketing channel like an app is a big decision but hopefully you found some of the points above useful. We’re always happy to chat should you need some advice about app building or how you could make it work for you so give us a tweet or drop us an email. Otherwise let us know in the comments if there’s anything we missed!