Today, many companies wanting to offer a digital service or product to their customers start with a web app. Indeed, web apps run on any modern device, so with it you potentially cover the biggest target audience possible.
However, web apps have their own limitations: they can’t support mobile-native features, they need the Internet at all times, and the more complicated they get, the slower they work in mobile browsers.
In this post, the EGO mobile and web development company explains why exactly you might need a mobile app in addition to the web version and what you should keep in mind during the ‘conversion’ process. We will also quickly mention the most popular tools for such a transition, and then provide a short instruction on how it’s done in Xamarin.
Although we use all the tools we mention, we’ll focus on Xamarin as we are an authorized Xamarin partner and have been working with it even before React Native and Flutter have been first released. If you want to know more about the projects where we used Xamarin, check out our cases on Reemaq, Idencia, and CentralReach.
Is Native Approach the Future of App Development?
Let’s perform an overview of the mobile market and see why it is important to think of native or native-like apps, to begin with, when developing new products.
According to Ericsson forecasts, global mobile traffic has been continuously growing and has increased tenfold since 2016. And smartphones generate 95% of that traffic.
From selling products and social networking to managing your bank account and reading blogs, literally any operation you perform on your smartphone is processed by an app. According to TechCrunch (App Annie), users spend 4.2hrs per day, on average, in mobile applications.
The analysis of in-app spending time shows that this time has continuously grown since 2012 (1 hour 40 minutes). Therefore, an app use trend is pretty obvious and you should follow it to remain competitive.
Since the mobile trend is here to stay, it is obvious users want to use stable applications, and mobile apps can ensure an unprecedented level of stability. This means, of course, that this is exactly what needs to be developed.
Can Progressive Web Apps Be a Compromise
Introduced first by Google in 2015, Progressive Web Apps became a new promising technology allowing you to extend the functionality of websites and make them more reliable, fast and engaging, i.e. get all the advantages of native apps.
Technically, progressive web apps looked like sites, but allowed to use the browser as a virtual machine launching the site logic locally and getting only the actual/updated data via the web.
It is thanks to this technology you can now see push notifications from your favorite news website and access your web services to get the tickets or check the details on your delivery order even when you’re offline.
In 2021, you’re probably using progressive web apps everyday without knowing that. Spotify, Pinterest, Uber, 2048 Game, Flipboard and Starbucks are all examples of PWA. As a website application development company, today we’re mostly asked to build PWAs.
However, PWAs still can’t do everything that native apps can. They’re poorly compatible with old devices, they’re not very battery efficient, and you may bump into system limitations put on browsers they will force you limit your service’s functionality or performance.
Convert Web Application into Mobile Application. Additional Reasons ‘Why”
Let us take a more detailed look at the list of reasons that motivate business owners to transform their web app into mobile app.
– Enhancement of functionality. Probably, one of the main reasons for converting an existing web application into a mobile app is the need to advance its functions. In particular, as we already noted above, if you have a need to set up push notifications, send SMS texts, or integrate it with modules that implement complex calculations, you definitely need to build a mobile app.
– Improvement of existing capabilities. To date, developers are trying in every way to raise the level of UX in their applications. This can be done in many ways. In particular, you can make the user interface as responsive as possible, optimize the application design for the features of the OS on which the user device is based, ensure the offline operation and possibility to connect social media accounts, or implement user data storage functions (for example, bank card details) when converting a web app to mobile app.
– Increasing the trust of users. Web applications that are freely available on the Internet often carry a number of indirect dangers for mobile users. If an attacker cracks your website (and seasoned “professionals” sometimes do this in a matter of minutes), they would be free to “attach” a malicious code or hidden functions to your application, which will later be used to steal personal data from a user device or “enslave” it into the botnet. As for mobile applications, they are uploaded to the official app markets, where security is always kept at an appropriate level. Software there is pre moderated and checked before being released publicly. Thus, users fear nothing when they download and install any applications that are posted within these trading platforms.
– Easy promotion. Using official marketplaces such as App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android, you do not need to hire a dedicated marketing team to promote your app. In these shops, there are built-in tools based on artificial intelligence routines, which independently “offer” suggestions to users of applications that are similar to those they have already downloaded in the past, based on keywords. Provided that your application is, in fact, useful, such a promotional strategy may reach an audience of, potentially, millions.
– Increasing the competition. The launch of a mobile application is a decisive step in towards strengthening the image of any brand. This increases recognition and solidity in the eyes of users because it is a tacit indication that the brand is successful on the market and the owners are ready to invest solid amounts in its further development. In turn, web applications are gradually losing their relevance, and their release is not equated to something quite as grand.
Five Important Things to Keep in Mind When Converting Web Apps
Now, being a mobile and web application company, we’ll list a series of recommendations that would help you create a truly competitive product, especially if you are going to convert a web app into mobile app.
1. Keep in Mind the Nuances of the Platform-specific UI Design Guidelines
As you may already know, the two most popular mobile platforms – iOS and Android – have some basic guidelines about the interface design that are applied to mobile applications placed in their official marketplaces. Therefore, when creating a design for your mobile application, you will need to take into account the principles upon which Flat Design (in iOS) and Material Design (in Android) are based.
2. Adapt the Interface to the Display Format of Mobile Devices
It is important to remember that the quality criteria, used in the development of native and native-like mobile applications, is very specific. As a rule, mobile apps are limited to the size of displays. The important characteristics that you will need to keep in mind during development are also the power consumption evaluation (the mobile application should expend the battery of the user device sparingly), staying responsive even on weaker hardware, adaptability to efficient operation within the selected OS (in particular, it should not conflict with other processes running on the user device), as well as the quality of the interaction with the specific functionality of the smartphone or tablet (for example, touchscreen, contact book, camera, GPS sensors, etc.).
3. Extend the Existing Functionality
As we have already noted above, the existing web application can be supplemented with functions that are provided by the native APIs of the selected mobile platforms. This will help you not only make your old application more convenient for the public but also create a set of new features that would be available offline.
4. Determine Suitable Development Tools
In order to be competitive among many other mobile applications (according to Statista, every year the number of mobile app downloads is growing inexorably) and, moreover, to bring your business to a new level, you will have to take care of the quality of your solutions. In this case, as practice shows, quality (in the context of competitiveness) is provided not simply with the experience and the appropriate level of knowledge of developers who are working on your application. Quality is a synonym for nativity. Therefore, you certainly can not go without a framework that would allow you to create native or native-like products.
5. Do not Skimp on Testing Software
If you create a solution for iOS, you are unlikely to have any surprises related to the unpredictable behavior of your software. In view of the fact that the range of devices based on this OS is very limited, it is not difficult to test your mobile application successfully on all devices for which it is intended. This is quite another thing, when it comes to Android testing, as the devices here have a lot of fragmentation, the display formats and other technical specs vary greatly from one model to another and between OS versions. In order to ensure compatibility with the maximum number of mobile devices based on this platform, you will need the aid of paid testing solutions.
Now, let’s discuss the choice of framework for the web app converting process. In fact, if you already have your own web application, you can convert it with the Cordova framework to get a mobile app.
However, as our Android/iOS development agency’s practice shows, the only way to get a great mobile solution from your web app without cutting any corners is to build it from scratch, i.e. rewrite the code for the application, taking into account all the nuances of development for mobile platforms.
But how can you do that effectively on a budget? One of the most suitable ways to do this is by using the Xamarin platform, which allows users to create cross-platform solutions that are in no way inferior to native ones.
Overview of Hybrid App Development Tools
Since we’re talking about web->mobile app conversion, there are also tools to make hybrid apps. Hybrid apps are apps that work on different platforms yet use the same core codebase to run and function. Usually, we’re talking about iOS, Android and web. That means that you can re-utilize the code of your website to build mobile app versions via these tools.
Our goal is to show that the approach has been here for some time and proved its effectiveness, so our overview is going to be limited and concise. If you want to know more about the below-mentioned technologies, check out our 2021 post “Flutter VS Xamarin VS React Native: What’s Best in 2021?”
Made by Facebook in 2015, React Native allows to deliver hybrid apps that are comparable with their native counterparts in terms of performance (unless you’re building a monstrous and super-functional mobile beast).
Flutter was introduced by Google in 2017 and since has gained so much popularity that well-known sites like New York Times and Alibaba have transitioned to it.
Flutter is great when it comes to mimicking native interfaces, but for some, it is a tool with limited functionality and stability. So though writing apps in Flutter is superfast, you should first count all the risks.
Xamarin is the development environment for creating native-like mobile applications based on iOS and Android; a subsidiary of the Microsoft company. This tool allows users to write the code in C# using capabilities of .NET frameworks, which would have direct access to native APIs (GPS, accelerometers, push notifications, contact book, etc.) for each platform and require absolutely no knowledge of mobile OS native languages such as Objective-C, Swift or Java.
Xamarin is older than Flutter and React Native, probably more sophisticated and requires more experience, yet allows to build hybrid apps of any complexity. That is why it is used by companies like UPS and The World Bank. And it is a preferred choice of our iOS/Android development company.
How to Get a Native-like App with the Help of Xamarin
Starting to Work with Xamarin
In this guide, you will learn more about the process of creating a mobile app using Xamarin (thanks to its features, it is not difficult). Xamarin is available as part of the Microsoft Visual Studio installation package. To start, you can download a trial version. If you plan to create iOS applications, you will need the VS version for mac OS, and also XCode, which is available in the App Store. Keep in mind that, when installing the Visual Studio package, you must select the “Development of mobile applications on .NET” checkbox. When the installation process is complete, you can check that Xamarin is installed by using the “Help” -> “About Microsoft Visual Studio” menu item. Done! Let’s keep going!
Step-by-step Guide to App Creation
To this end, our design and development company suggests you follow a list of step-by-step instructions that would allow for creating a business solution that is just as efficient in terms of performance and functionality, as well as those created using native development languages.
Step 1: Engineer the Project
First, you need to engineer the future mobile app and compile all the project documentation. Having a complete corpus of project documents greatly simplifies the further development and coordination of all participants of the process.
Step 2: Code the App’s Main Business Logic and Put it Into the Main Library
Now, you will need to structure your app. First, you will have to determine the parts of the code that implement the main functionality of the software, not attributed to its user interface and access to the internal capabilities of mobile devices. This operation allows you to reduce the amount of work that would be required to create native-like versions for each selected mobile OS in time. This code in the form of functional modules should then be placed into the main library of the future app.
Step 3: Create the Respective Projects Using the IDE
In this step, we will review one of the main advantages of Xamarin: the ability to write custom code for each mobile platform in C#. For these purposes, Xamarin assumes the use of the well-known Visual Studio IDE (and its plentiful useful plugins) in the development process. Thanks to this feature, developers get a single tool for accessing individual projects created for each individual platform (be it iOS, Android or Windows Phone).
In particular, using the Xamarin.iOS class library (it provides access to the iOS SDK), you can easily create in C# and start the debugging process for the part of the application native to iOS. Similarly, you can work in Visual Studio with a part of the project that’s native to the Android platform, using the Xamarin.Android class library.
As for the implementation of this stage, for each individual platform, you will need to create a separate project. Next would be a project with a business logic code that is placed in the Core class library and can be referenced from separate native-related projects. In order to link all pieces of code together, you will need to carefully study the Code Sharing Manual published in the official Microsoft documentation library.
Step 4: Create a UI
One of the main features of Xamarin is that, for the creation of the UI, developers can use classes from the libraries Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android. These, in fact, are types of “interpreters” of iOS and Android platform SDKs, respectively. Thus, a solution that is completely identical to what would be written in native programming languages (for example, in Objective-C or Swift for iOS and Java for Android) is built.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, the native part of the project consists of the implementation of the user interface. To do this, you will either need to insert into the already existing program code a separate “piece” for each project (on iOS, Android and Windows Phone, taking into account the capabilities of the corresponding class libraries described in the previous step), or resort to XML in case of Xamarin.Forms. The second option involves manual configuration of controls using iOS Designer and Android Designer.
Step 5: Test the Result
Depending on the mobile platform you chose, you will need different tools to test your application.
In particular, if you are testing the solution on Xamarin for Android, you will need the help of the Visual Studio Android emulator. In order to get started, simply select your project with the extension ‘.Android’ or ‘.Droid’, designate the device for emulation, and press the start button. Now the testing procedure has begun! We must note that emulators are resource-hungry, thus they would operate quite slowly on low-spec computers.
In turn, to test the newly created iOS application, you will need an original Mac device, configured to work with VS. After the configuration process, you simply need to select an iOS project, launch the iPhone Simulator and assign the device you need for testing. After clicking on the start button, the testing process will begin.
Separately, we must note that you can also use the paid Xamarin Test Cloud solution, which allows you to test the application in the cloud on more than two thousand different mobile devices.
We’re done! Having completed a series of simple instructions, you have successfully obtained a native-like mobile solution or even several platform-specific ones, built using C# language, Xamarin framework, and Visual Studio IDE.
As you can see, the procedure for a web app to mobile app transformation carries a lot of nuances and steps to consider. That is why, to avoid wasting time, efforts, and resources, you should choose a professional web/mobile application development services company who will assist you with your task.
Our EGO Creative Innovations agency will gladly help you convert your web app into a mobile app in a fast and easy manner. Due to the partnership with our app development experts, you will get a timely and complete solution for both Android and iOS. We have been on the market since 2005 and possess a deep expertise in building both mobile and web applications.
Our team guarantees your full satisfaction with each completed job, as we know our business like nobody else does. You can contact us any time and get a free quote regarding your project.