How to use WordPress to build a Web App?

How to use WordPress to Build a Web App?

The State Of The Word presentation delivered by Matt Mullenweg was quite perceptive of what WordPress was to offer in the coming years. One thing was very clearly mentioned in the presentation – WordPress powered apps.

As a matter of fact, more than 24.7% of webmasters are using WordPress, and certainly almost every site owner wants a mobile app too. Since they are running WordPress powered websites, it makes absolute sense to have WordPress powered apps so that whenever the website is updated, the app is simultaneously updated too.

For example, if you run a news website, you would indeed want you published articles to be available immediately in the app too. Similarly, if you make any changes to the website, you would want the same changed to be applied to the app without having to repeat the all the changes in the app.

There are various ways to build apps today including third party CMS, MVVM structure, and MVC Model. However, if you are using WordPress to build your website, why not use it to build an app? WP has its own unique architecture to manage data, but these concepts can be taken and used separately to build something of your own.

WP users are habitual of using themes and plugins to tweak the appearance as well as the functionality of their websites, and these do not always work well with a mobile app. This apparently brings few unique challenges in the way of a developer when approached by a client who is looking to get a mobile app developed out of his/her WordPress website.

WP is a great platform to get started, thanks to a wide range of APIs offered to leverage. It comes with content types, sanitisation, user roles, authentication and so much more. Moreover, if you are building a huge app, you would not even have to worry about the user interface, taxonomies, meta boxes and image gallery.

Does your business need a mobile app?

Well, having a mobile-friendly version of your website may seem quite enough to target mobile users and drive traffic from mobile. But that’s not enough. Until and unless you are running a casual blog on WordPress.com, your business needs a mobile app regardless of its type, size and length. Mobile users today prefer using mobile apps over mobile-friendly websites which make it quite a necessary tool to target your mobile audience.

  • A mobile app assists your target users to get your content faster than a mobile-friendly website.
  • These apps can also provide a certain amount of content offline as well
  • Can be used to send push notifications to the users
  • These mobile apps make the most of the mobile features including contacts, camera, and geolocation
  • It also offers better user experience and user interface.
  • According to recent statistics, mobile users spend more time on mobile apps than on mobile web and features such as push notifications can offer better user engagement than web pages.

Non-native vs Native Apps

Non-native vs Native Apps

A native app is a mobile app designed particularly for a smartphone operating system such as Java for Android and Swift or Objective-C for iOS. Since native apps are designed within a mature environment following the user experience and technical guidelines for the operating system, it not only boasts of its higher performance but also seems perfect for the end user. The targeted audience is thus more likely to understand the navigation and features of the app quicker.

They also have the important benefit of being able to conveniently access and employ the inbuilt capabilities of a device such as a camera, contact list, GPS and so much more. These applications are usually faster than non-native apps, however, a different version needs to be designed for a different operating system which certainly adds to the development cost.

These days, an increasing number of mobile apps are being developed as cross-platform apps in HTML5, depending on the same tools that you use for developing sites. Non-native apps are also known as Hybrid apps which are developed using HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS rolled in a native container which loads the content on the page as the users navigated through the app. These apps surely appear like native apps but eventually outside the basic frame of App, these apps are fueled by the official site.

Ways to create mobile app with WordPress

App Builders

App Builders

App Builders are one of the easiest and cost-effective ways to build an app for your business. There are a plethora of app builders available which allow you to create a simple yet functional app without having any technical expertise and coding knowledge. Some of the most popular app builders include Telerik AppBuilder, Reactor, Good Barber, Shoutem, and Mobile Roadie. Each of these app builders offers a great WordPress support and allows you to incorporate comments and posts.

As an instance, Reactor is a great App Builder launched by AppPresser, which is particularly designed to help WordPress webmasters to create a mobile app that directly connects with their WP website. The app builder allows you to integrate WordPress custom content such as events and more, videos, photos, pages and posts. Moreover, unlike other app builders, it also has deep incorporation with things such as various plugins like WooCommerce integration and custom post types.

Well, app builders come with myriad pros and cons that should be considered before even considering this option to build your mobile app.

Benefits

App builder allows you to create an app without having to be familiar with any programming language or coding.
It also saves a lot of money and serves as a great option for those who do not have a huge budget for their mobile apps.

Limitations

App Builders allow you to build only a simple, functional app. However if you want to tweak the design or functionality of your app, you perhaps have to find another way of building an app.

Get a hybrid custom app

Getting a custom or tailor-made mobile app is another way of creating an app. This method works wonder for those who have unique or specific needs. Though this method requires a good budget and investment, it is worth all your investment, and efforts.
Getting a mobile app developed requires a framework and the WP-API technologies. A conventional hybrid mobile app primarily developed using JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. It is then combined with Apache Cordova (earlier known as PhoneGap) to provide access to native device features. The applications developed access WP content with the help of an API.

Creating your App’s API

wp-api

API is an application protocol interface, a tool which apps and websites use to interact with each other. If you are planning to integrate your app with another service, it would communicate with that through service’s API. Though it is not necessary to have your own API, it only makes it a lot convenient.
The main reason why you need an API for your app is to allow other services to incorporate with it. There would hardly be any better way to make your app an imperative part of your audience’s workflow than to integrate it into what your audience is already doing. In a nutshell, when you build something that integrates with the popular products, you get a chance to tap into their acclaimed user base.

How to create your own API?

Today, creating your own API is easy. There are basically two ways to create your own API – JetPack’s JSON API and WP-API.
Both the above are JSON RESTful APIs, which makes it extremely easy to work and incorporate with other application protocol interfaces that employ the same standard.

WordPress core comes with a new feature namely WP-API which is a WordPress’s JSON REST API, which provides a more decentralized approach. This new feature enables two-way communication like approving comments and creating posts from the mobile app. This feature also makes it easier to get the content of your WordPress website into mobile app. All you need to do is install a plugin called WP-API Plugin on your WP Powered site.

JetPack’s JSON API enables you to establish a tailor-made app that uses WordPress.com’s REST API and oAuth2 service. This API has been around for quite some time and has reached version 1.0 lately. The two API are almost similar in regards to functionality. However, the only difference between these two APIs is that WP-API hosted on your servers while JetPack’s API runs on WordPress.com’s servers.

Conclusion:

WordPress has become an integral part of the online world and with the passage of each day, the popularity of WordPress is only growing. There was a time when WordPress was used to build only blogs, however, today, WordPress is capable of powering mobile applications. In spite of this being a small scale application, the possibilities with custom fields, custom taxonomies, custom post types and typically anything related to CMS are endless.

I hope this article works as building blocks for your future mobile apps and help you create beautiful and fully functional apps.