A new Australian online service allows you to easily turn a website into an Android app for free. Creating an iOS app costs a low monthly fee.
There's no denying that some people prefer to use apps rather than visit web sites on their phones and tablets. But until now, the cost of a custom app has been way beyond the budget for many small businesses.
What's changed is that Melbourne-based AppsWiz has developed technology that can automatically generate an app based on a website.
"We believe we are the first to do this," said AppsWiz marketing and communications manager Lisa Chapman. "We've tried to make it incredibly easy," she said, explaining that the company is targeting sole traders and other small businesses.
Because the app is based on a business's website, very little other input is required beyond a few clicks.
What you get for free
My Mobile App is completely free if you only want an Android app and you don't want to send more than one push alert per month.
The ability to send alerts (such as sales, pre-Christmas late-night openings, new products or services, and so on) is a key benefit of an app. Used carefully, they are an effective and very low-cost way of getting your message across. But if you send too many alerts – especially if they are not relevant to the recipient – there's a real risk that your app will be discarded.
The paid tier of My Mobile App costs $US9.99 a month as an introductory special (the regular price has yet to be set). For that you also get apps for iPhone and iPad, unlimited push alerts with targeting ability based on users' preferences, and more comprehensive statistics.
My Mobile App has been beta tested in conjunction with the Shopify ecommerce platform, Chapman said, but integrations with other services are at an advanced stage and My Mobile App will work with a wider range of sites within a month or two.
Preparing and creating an app
Eventually it will be the case that "anyone with a website can have a My Mobile App", she said. However, best results are achieved when the site has a responsive web design – meaning the site is coded so that it automatically adapts its layout and presentation according to the size of the screen and other limitations, accommodating both desktop and mobile users without the need to duplicate content in different formats.
The generated app is sent to Google Play and subject to Google's approval process is normally available for download the same day.
With the paid plan, the iOS app is also submitted to Apple's App Store, with approval typically taking seven days.
Any changes to the web site – whether that's as small as a price change on a single item or as large as a completely new section – is automatically reflected in the app, although in some cases the change may not appear until the app is restarted.
My Mobile App in action
One Australian business that has already taken advantage of My Mobile App is Melbourne-based jewellery and accessories retailer Erstwilder. If you're curious about the relationship between a website and the corresponding My Mobile App, download the Erstwilder app from Google Play or Apple’s App Store and see for yourself. (Erstwilder's site serves as an example of responsive design – try changing the width of your browser window.)