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How to make your website an app for iOS and Android

Having a mobile app is undeniably important in today's digital, AI-crazed world. It can provide customers with an easy and convenient method of accessing your business, no matter where they’re located.

In fact, people check their phones an average of 58 times a day, according to Exploding Topics—leading more and more businesses to build dedicated apps to cater to these users. 

While there are many different processes for developing an app, one of the most straightforward options is using an app builder that shows you how to make a website an app. This kind of tool allows you to create a branded app for iOS and Android without having to write a single line of code, while also offering your audience the choice to connect with you however they prefer.

Ready to build your own mobile app? Get started with Wix.

Why do you need a mobile app?

Branded mobile applications offer a long list of benefits for both businesses and customers. They are especially relevant for companies that deal with frequent, repeat purchases or offer service booking systems—such as restaurants, eCommerce stores, gyms and salons.

Below are some of the reasons why you should consider making your website an app.

Improved user experience

More than half of consumers (56%) reportedly become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience. Apps offer a user-friendly, easily navigable interface and personalized experiences that users can access immediately upon download. Businesses can also use customer engagement data from apps to provide updates and recommend products.

“An app provides a direct access point from the home screen of a mobile device, and a native app experience is typically slicker and faster than a comparable web experience,” says Cathy Boyle, principal analyst at eMarketer.

Growth of time spent on mobile internet in the US

Consumer demands

A whopping 92.3% of people access the internet via their phones, compared to 65.6% of internet users who use a laptop or desktop computer.  While professional websites establish an online presence for website monetization by converting users into customers, an app can help you retain those customers and engage them on the devices where they spend the most time.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Google rolled out mobile-first indexing in 2018 in response to the growing number of people accessing the internet from their smartphones. The search engine wants to provide the most helpful search results to users, so Google now ranks websites based on mobile website content instead of desktop.

This applies to apps, too. Once Google detects a search conducted from a smartphone or tablet, it will also display “app packs,” or a group of three to six apps that the user may find relevant, in search results. You can use this feature to strategically get eyes on your business’s app and potentially field new customers.

Customer relationships

Having your own mobile app allows you to directly reach out to your customers. You can send push notifications when something new or exciting is happening in your business, such as a sale, a new product launch or an upcoming event. These interactions are incredibly effective for encouraging customers to come back and engage with your app, as well as strengthening your brand.

Integration with smartphones and tablets

Apps can also integrate with other useful phone features, like contacts, location and camera, to provide a seamless user experience.

Example of website converted into a mobile app

Considerations for making your website an app

When converting your website into an app, you must consider what type of app you want to develop. There are two main types of mobile apps that you can create: native and hybrid. 

  • Native apps are built for a specific mobile platform, such as Android or iOS.

  • Hybrid apps are web-based applications that use a combination of multiple languages, such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript code to create an app-like experience.

Native apps are typically the most complex type of application to develop as they must be custom-built for each mobile platform. They require a significant time investment and resources to ensure that they work on all desired devices. They can also access device features like your phone’s camera, contacts and accelerometer. The downside of native apps is that they can take longer to develop and require more maintenance than a hybrid app.

Hybrid apps are easier to create as they use a blend of native and web solutions. This makes the development process simpler and quicker than native apps since the code can be used for multiple platforms. However, hybrid apps may not have access to all the features of a device, such as a camera or GPS, and they may also not look as polished as native apps.

Another consideration to keep in mind is the functionality of the site. This includes making sure that all the website content is displayed properly and that features available on your site can be replicated and improved upon in the mobile app.

Finally, you’ll need to ensure that the look and feel of the app are consistent with your website, including all of its colors, fonts, logos, images and other elements. Additionally, the user interface must be easy to use and intuitive so that users can quickly find what they need without struggling.

Choosing a mobile operating system

You can feature your app on two primary platforms: iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system; and Android, the Linux-based system that sells apps on Google Play. Most smartphones and tablets run on one of these operating systems.

Using platforms like Wix, you can create an app that’s compatible with both iOS and Android at the same time without having to write a single line of code. That way, your app can reach both markets no matter what type of device they have.

Alternatively, you can hire a developer to design your app or use a program that only designs for a single platform. Before deciding which path is best for you, consider these points:

  • Time. Swift, Apple’s coding language, makes it quick and easy to develop iOS apps. On the other hand, Android apps use Java, a more time-consuming coding language.

Examples of websites that were made into apps

A significant number of the most popular mobile apps today started as web-based platforms. Here are some examples of popular websites that have been developed into apps:

  • Facebook is perhaps the most iconic example of a website that has been turned into an app. The Facebook app provides users with easy access to their news feed, messages and notifications, as well as allowing them to easily upload photos, update their status and more.

  • Netflix was originally founded as a DVD service, but its early vision of streaming services potential turned into a Hollywood disruptor that has completely changed the way we consume media content. With its mobile app, users can access an extensive library of films and TV shows from their smartphones or tablets and watch any time from anywhere.

  • Google Maps is another popular example of a web-based service that has been converted into an app. Using this mobile app, users can access detailed maps of their area, as well as directions and navigation services.

  • Amazon is one of the most popular eCommerce websites, and it has an app that makes shopping on the go easier than ever. The app provides quick access to product listings, reviews and purchase options. It also offers features like Amazon Prime and Amazon Alexa.

  • Uber’s success would be far from what it is today if it hadn’t turned its web-based service into an app. By offering a mobile native platform, the ride-sharing company is able to make it much easier for users to order a ride from their mobile devices at any point in time, leading them to become one of public transportation’s biggest competitors.

Best app builder features to look out for

If you decide to opt for using an app builder instead of hiring a developer, there are several features you should look out for:

  • Intuitive user interface with guided steps that make sense and are easy to navigate.

  • Customization tools that allow you to tailor the design of your app according to your own preferences and needs.

  • Device compatibility that supports your target market and goals.

  • Seamless app and website sync that ensures your online presence is synchronized without requiring double the time and effort.

  • Automatic updates so that your mobile app works with the latest operating system versions.

How to make a website into an app—or build a standalone app—with Wix

Once you’ve mastered the ropes of how to make a website, you can create an app with Wix’s mobile app builder that suits both iOS and Android. The builder integrates with your website, creating your app from your existing content. 

Alternatively, you can create a standalone app first using Wix’s AI for branded apps, then create a site to complement it later. 

“Users can now create a custom native mobile app using the AI chat experience by simply describing their goals and visions and AI does the work.” - Noa Eiland, head of mobile apps at Wix

Creating an app for an existing website (via the app builder)

If you want to create an app to complement an existing website, follow the steps below.

  1. Log in to your Wix account and navigate to the “Site & Mobile App” tab in the left-hand menu of your dashboard. Click “Mobile App” to open your branded app editor, then select the tab for “Your own mobile app.”

  2. Click “Set up without AI” on the first page. You’ll see the following options under “Customize Your App”: 

    1. Choose a name and icon (see more app name ideas

    2. Pick your app’s theme and preferences

    3. Edit your layout and add content

  3. Go through each step and select your preferences. On the right side, you’ll see a mock mobile screen displaying how your app will appear as you customize it.

  4. Save your options then scan the QR code from your phone under the “Advanced Customization” menu. This will take you to a preview screen, where you can see how your app looks, directly inside your Wix Owner mobile app. Within the app, you can continue optimizing your branded app’s content, images, display and links.

  5. Once you're satisfied, create Apple Developer and Google Developer accounts and submit your app for approval.

  6. Finally, submit your app for approval through Wix. Wix will conduct an internal review and then take care of the whole submission process with Apple and Google on your behalf. Once approved, your app will appear on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Creating a standalone app (via AI) 

Wix’s AI for branded apps is currently only available when creating a new, standalone branded app. To get started, follow the steps below. 

AI chat experience for created a branded app in Wix

  1. From the Branded App by Wix welcome page, click “Build Your App.”

  2. On the next page, select “Create a branded app from scratch.” From here, you’ll see an option to bring your app to life with AI. Click “Start Chat.”

  3. Answer the questions that appear on the screen. The AI will ask you about your business and vision for your app, including what you want to call it and the main purpose for building it.

  4. Based on your answers, the AI app builder will create an app profile outlining your goals, core functionality and more. If all looks good, click “Generate App” at the end of the chat.

  5. Within seconds, you’ll receive a mockup of a mobile app. You’ll have the option to further customize your app (e.g., add new design elements, widgets or screens). Play around in the mobile app editor as long as you’d like and preview any changes. Note that under the “Advanced Customization” menu, you’ll find a QR code. Once scanned with a phone, you’ll be able to preview your app from the Wix Owner App, where you can see how your branded app looks and feels on a mobile device.

  6. When ready, hit “Save & Publish” to make it live in the App Store and Google Play. Wix will sync your app activity with your site and dashboard in real time; it will take care of the submission process with Google and Apple, automatic version updates, new feature releases and more moving forward. 

example of a branded app built with Wix's AI tool

How to make a website an app FAQ

How to make a website an app for free

You can turn an existing Wix website into an app with the app builder for free, although some features (such as eCommerce features) may only be available with a paid plan. The app builder includes clear step-by-step instructions for getting started and automatically syncs any app activity with your site and dashboard.

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