How much do you care about the mobile visitors to your site? Did you pick a responsive theme and just call it a day? Responsive themes are certainly better than nothing, but are they really the best way to showcase the mobile version of your WordPress site?
I’ll try to answer that question and more in today’s review of the WordPress Mobile Pack PRO plugin from Appticles.
What Does WordPress Mobile Pack PRO Do?
WordPress Mobile Pack PRO helps you create a progressive web app version of your WordPress site.
Now on to the next question, what the heck is a progressive web app? Don’t worry if you don’t know – I didn’t either until I started researching for this review.
Originally an idea pushed by Google in 2015, progressive web apps essentially use modern technologies to deliver an app-like experience in a regular mobile web browser.
So, instead of users needing to download an app version of your WordPress site from their respective app store, they can just visit your progressive web app in their mobile browser of choice. There are a few other cool features, though…
How Are Progressive Web Apps Different Than Responsive Websites?
Whereas responsive website designs are more about just scaling your existing design to better fit a mobile screen, progressive web apps push to truly capture the app experience. They do this by:
- Making it easy for mobile users to add the app to their home screen (without needing to use the app store, of course).
- Adding push notifications to be able to re-engage users.
- Trying to minimize the need for reloads.
- Loading more reliably, even with slow or no network connection.
- Functioning across different browsers.
- Serving up secure content over HTTPS.
Progressive web apps accomplish all this by using cool sounding technologies like service workers, W3C manifests, and lots of other futuristic things I won’t pretend to understand. All I know is that people smarter than I have found a way to make it work.
WordPress Mobile Pack PRO Features
I already told you that the core feature of WordPress Mobile Pack PRO is to create a progressive mobile app for your WordPress site. Basically, it turns the mobile version of your site from this:
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To something more like this:
Obviously, the latter is much more navigable on mobile devices. Beyond that appearance switch, you can:
- Customize the look of your app with different themes.
- Change colors, fonts, logos, app covers, etc.
- Choose which categories or pages to include in the app version of your WordPress site.
- Easily monetize your app with Google’s DoubleClick for Publishers.
- Add social sharing buttons
- Enable / disable your app for tablets
- Add Google Analytics
And your readers will be able to:
- Add your app to their home screen and run it in fullscreen mode
- Navigate by swiping right and left without page reloads
- Access your app on iOS or Android using Safari, Google Chrome, or the native Android Browser.
Hands On With WordPress Mobile Pack PRO
As soon as you install and activate WordPress Mobile Pack PRO, your progressive web app is live. It’s literally that simple.
But you’ll pretty definitely want to customize your web app to make it work optimally. Here’s how you can do that.
Step 1: Customize the Look and Feel of Your App
In the PRO version, you get two free themes. There are also a number of additional premium mobile app themes you can purchase. I went with the Extrude theme:
Then, you can hop over to the Look & Feel tab to customize your app’s colors, logos, fonts, and covers:
You can choose from premade color schemes (probably a good idea if you’re design challenged like I am), or you can use your own custom colors.
Further down the page, you can change fonts, font sizes, and upload images for your app’s logo, icon, and cover.
Step 2: Choose What Content to Include in Your App
Next, you’ll hop over to the Content tab to configure what content displays in your app. You can configure two things:
- Which categories to display
- Which pages to display – you can also create different versions of your pages for your app.
For categories, the toggle on the left lets you enable/disable them, and the Edit button lets you add a cover image the category:
So you can understand why you might want to add a cover to your categories, here’s what the categories look like in the app (without an image):
So you could replace that generic grey box with a custom image to make your app feel more unique.
For pages, you can toggle them on and off by a similar mechanism. And if you click on the Edit button, you can create an app-specific version of the page:
Editing the content here will not change the desktop version of your page.
Step 3: Monetize Your App
If you want to generate revenue from your app, the Monetize tab lets you easily inject DoubleClick for Publishers ads into your app:
Unfortunately, I’m not signed up to DFB, so I wasn’t able to test this feature directly. But the interface for inserting ads is quite simple.
Step 4: Configure Remaining Settings
In the final tab, Settings, you can configure a few miscellaneous details:
- Display mode – you can choose Normal (enabled for all mobile visitors), Preview (only enabled for admin accounts – good for testing) and Disabled.
- Google Analytics ID – easily add Google Analytics tracking.
- Tablets opt-in – choose whether or not to display your app for tablet users.
- Menu options – choose whether or not visitors can access your website
You can also enable social media sharing options on this page.
How “Add to Home Screen” Works
This isn’t a setup step – I just thought it was too cool not to share. Here’s how it’s possible to add the app to your home screen in iOS. You click Add to Home Screen:
Then you’ve got an icon on your home screen:
Then when you open that icon, it runs full screen. It’s no longer confined to the Safari browser I was using before. See how there’s no URL bar at the top?
I had no idea this was possible. So I’m quite impressed :)
WordPress Mobile Pack PRO Pricing
There is a free version of WordPress Mobile Pack that you can play around with. It’s good for getting a taste, but it lacks a few key features. There’s no:
- Style customization options
- Monetization options
- Access to premium mobile app themes
If you want WordPress Mobile Pack PRO with the Extrude theme (the version I reviewed), it will cost you $49. You can also get the full Mobile Pack PRO Bundle with 5 different themes for $99. And if you want to go even further, they also offer extensions for:
- Push notifications
- Offline mode capability
- App store publishing
Should You Use WordPress Mobile Pack PRO?
I found the actual process of using WordPress Mobile Pack quite enjoyable. The interface is well-designed and set up is easy. I was able to figure everything out without consulting any documentation, which is always the sign of a quality plugin in my opinion.
So the question is more, do you need a progressive web app version of your site? Ciprian, one of the guys behind the plugin, published an article detailing why he believes progressive web apps are the future of WordPress and the mobile web.
I personally don’t know enough about the subject to give a definitive answer. But I do know that I found it much more enjoyable to use the app version of my test site on my phone than the regular responsive version.
I found some articles showcasing amazing improvements are moving to progressive mobile apps. For example, Flipkart tripled their time on site and Alibaba increased their mobile web conversions by 70%. So if you’re in eCommerce or digital publishing, it’s definitely something you should check out.
And I also know that if you want to create a progressive web app version of your WordPress site, then WordPress Mobile Pack PRO is a great way to do it.
What are your thoughts on progressive web apps? Do you think they’re the future of the mobile web?