You have a functioning website and your users or customers like it. It is generating good business and has value. Some of your users with you had an app so that they can leverage your services on the go wherever they are…
Your website is responsive. So it opens pretty well on a phone.
Kinda looks like an app!
The obvious choice? Can I have my existing website available on the app stores so that my customers can access them just like any other app?
Yes. You can. But should you? ?
The answer is complicated and depends on your appetite for risk.
As per Google play policies for Designing Apps for Children and Families effective 5 May 2021, “App Functionality: Your app must not merely provide a WebView of a website or have a primary purpose of driving affiliate traffic to a website, regardless of the ownership of the website.”
Click here ?
Here’s an example of a developer asking for help from the Google Play community:
Similar are the views of the Apple app store.
As per section 4.1 of App Store Review Guidelines, “4.2 Minimum Functionality Your app should include features, content, and UI that elevate it beyond a repackaged website. If your app is not particularly useful, unique, or “app-like,” it doesn’t belong on the App Store.”
Click here ?
So, it is pretty clear that both the app stores - Google Play and Apple App Store have app guidelines that discourage developers from re-packaging existing websites as mobile apps.
Key Points to Keep in Check
Users should get the best experience based on the medium they are on.
From the view of the app stores, for an application to be available on an app store, it should benefit the users as an app.
If users can have the same functionality as a website on their PC/laptop or inside a mobile browser, what is the point of giving the same experience as an app?
Doing so unnecessarily populates the app stores with apps that provide no or very little value to the users.
This is why app stores dislike websites repackaged as mobile apps.
Such apps will most likely get rejected due to this reason. ?
We would like to clarify here that we have seen a few cases where both Apple and Google have approved such re-packaged websites for their app stores. Either on the first go or after months of back and forth discussions and explanations with their resolutions team to make the case.
But this has been an exception. Like 1 in 10 cases. Mostly because it depends on many factors how they treat your case.
You could decide to go ahead with a repackaged WebView app. But understand that you are carrying a risk. Your time and investment, however small it may be, may amount to zero if they decide to reject it.
Better Options for App Development
There are other, more acceptable ways to build your app. You could choose any one of the below options:
- Progressive Web Apps (PWA)
- Cross-Platform Apps
- Hybrid Apps
- Native Apps
Progressive Web Apps (PWA’s)
Progressive Web Apps (PWA’s) cannot be put on the Apple app store but they are perfectly acceptable on the Android app store.
Even without the app store, you could have them “installed” on mobile phones with a few tricks.
The good news is that you can probably convert your Website into a PWA with comparatively less effort as compared to building a Cross-Platform or a Native mobile app.
One of the major benefits of PWA’s is that they can be distributed from your website.
PWA’s do not need to be distributed from the app stores. Hence, they do not need to follow app store guidelines to the tee. App stores also have no control over such apps.
Apps that belong to unregulated industries like cannabis apps, video streaming apps, torrent apps, cryptocurrency apps, stock trading apps, and fantasy gambling apps like PWA’s. This way, they control the distribution of their apps under their control.
Businesses with good web and mobile web presence also opt for PWA’s as a bridge between their web and mobile experiences.
Apps in verticals like travel, news, or retail apps benefit from giving their users a PWA experience to test the waters before committing to a full-blown and highly committed Native app experience.
As per App Annie (leading app store data provider) - Trivago (hotel booking app) found success with PWAs with a 150% increase in user engagement in PWA versus their mobile site.
Find out more about our thoughts on Progressive Web Apps in our future posts.
One of the major benefits of using cross-platform apps is that they remove the need to work on two separate code bases - one for the Google Android app and another for the Apple iOS app.
Cross-platform apps are also comparatively faster and performance-oriented as compared to Hybrid apps.
They also have a better interface with the device’s core hardware libraries. Therefore, you can build better and more inclusive apps with them.
Find more statistics at Statista
Unlike PWA’s, Cross-platform apps cannot be installed from your website. They need to be distributed by the app stores - Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
Therefore, just like Native apps, the distribution of Cross-platform apps is also controlled by the app store companies.
We do not recommend hybrid mobile apps to anyone after 2017.
There was a time when they made sense. But they do not anymore. Why? That topic probably needs a different post in the future.
With the prevalence of Cross-platform apps, it does not make any sense to build new apps as Hybrid apps anymore. Unless you have a really small app and your team does not want to learn a new framework/language.
For the time, money, and resources spent on building a hybrid app. We would suggest it is worth it to take the risk and launch your website as a repackaged WebView app to the app stores.
Le Crème de la Crème.
Best of the best.
This is where legends are made. ?
Open the app store and look at any of the chart-toppers. The list is filled with Native apps.
Why? Because they give the BEST and most native user experience.
Smooth animations, fast performance, quick transitions, that feels like any other app built by Google or Apple themselves!
Downsides? Just like Cross-platform apps, Native apps also need to be distributed by the Google and Apple app stores. You have no control over it.
Just like everything in life. Best things aren't easy.
It takes good commitment, planning, coordination, and investment (time and money) to build native apps.
Different developers with expertise on different platforms build two apps with the same purpose of integrating with the same backend APIs.
If you are thinking about repackaging your website as an app. Think hard. Weight your options among PWA’s, Cross-Platform apps, and Native apps, and decide wisely.