AppPresser: A foundation for using WordPress to make mobile apps

apppresserAppPresser is a foundation for people to use WordPress based tools to build mobile apps for the iOS and Android platforms.

AppPresser is a collaborative effort between Scott Bolinger, Brad Williams, Brian Messenlehner, and Lisa Sabin-Wilson. You may notice that Brad, Brian, and Lisa are partners of WebDevStudios, but AppPresser is a separate entity from WebDev.

I talked to Scott and Brad about AppPresser to find out how people can use it, and to see how they envision this product (or service?) maturing.

Essentially, AppPresser is a suite of tools for use in WordPress by WordPress developers. So, if you have a website, but you want a mobile app, you can use AppPresser to act as a wrapper of WordPress and use WordPress to build your app. AppPresser has the other parts available to make the WordPress-based app fit the iOS and Android app stores.

Is this just a wrapper for websites?

We’ve seen simple website wrappers before, and so have the folks behind AppPresser. They are adament that AppPresser is more than a simple wrapper for a regular website.

We’ve checked out all of the plugins that “make your site an app” but they all really just wrap an existing site and submit it to the app store.

-Scott Bolinger

They even note that the iOS store in particular doesn’t like apps like that and typically rejects them. AppPresser is designed to allow WordPress developers to take advantage of device technologies that aren’t available for most websites.

Some sample things AppPresser helps with are integrating with the device camera, geolocation tools, and phone contacts. So, for the camera, AppPresser could have a shortcode available to WordPress developers that lets a developer use a shortcode, just like they’re familiar with in WordPress, and tap into the camera upload feature for iOS and Android devices.

Structuring an app

AppPresser at a base level is a plugin, and they use device detection within the plugin to identify that a visitor is coming from an app on a device. Someone could have AppPresser enabled on their main website, or it could be hosted on a subdomain or something separate. But for something like an eCommerce catalog it would likely be the same site as to not have problems syncing content.

Enabling AppPresser and using device detection doesn’t mean the site won’t work as expected on regular Safari or Chrome browsers in devices. AppPresser instead switches out the theme, similar to a plugin like WP Touch, only from the app view, and the app functionality and theme would only be applied when such a setup is detected.

Targeting eCommerce first

AppPresser is starting with some plugins and a theme that are particularly useful for eCommerce. One of the demos Scott showed me was a catalog theme that has a very native feel to it, and also has a feature for people to upload pictures of their products using their device camera while they are leaving a review.

However, eCommerce definitely isn’t the only target for AppPresser. They noted quite a few different types of apps that AppPresser could target: real estate apps, band apps, a video app, etc.

Charging for AppPresser

AppPresser is going to be a bit tricky to price. Most people using AppPresser will still be doing a lot of development work. Since AppPresser is almost like an App framework for WordPress, like a theme framework would be for themes, developers can extend AppPresser to do lots of things.

But support could easily be both very technical and time intensive. And probably very few people will need support year round, but rather just during their project build.

They are thinking about pricing models and haven’t finalized it yet, but the idea currently is to likely have one-off pricing for various extensions to AppPresser as well as monthly support.

Not for everyone

AppPresser definitely isn’t for everyone. It’s not for a regular website owner to just buy and have a mobile app ready to go. Certainly, something like that is possible, but as I mentioned above that’s not the point of AppPresser and getting such an app into the iOS store would likely be difficult.

Instead, AppPresser is supposed to make app development accessible to PHP and WordPress developers. This is a great thing, because if any of you are like me, you probably throw your hands up when someone says they want a mobile app. I have no interest in learning Objective C or languages associated with building mobile apps.

AppPresser makes mobile apps a possibility for a lot more website owners. This shouldn’t be something someone decides on lightly, but if you establish a need for an app version of your website, but don’t want to hire a mobile app developer, this could be a great option.

Looking for alpha and beta testers

Scott, Brad, Brian, and Lisa are definitely interested to see what use cases people can come up with. Learning what people are looking for out of mobile apps will make it easier for them to decide what to build into AppPresser. So if you are interested, be sure to get in touch with them.

AppPresser is planning to launch before the holidays, specifically the American Thanksgiving. So if you’re interested in talking to them, or just want to get updates on the release, you should sign up on the website soon.

My thoughts on AppPresser

AppPresser interests me, but I’m generally of the thought that a lot of people that think they need mobile apps really don’t. Still though, for those that do need one, this could be great.

I look forward to seeing where they take this project. I’m a bit skeptical that it can be a viable product with such busy people. But if the market shows a need for this product, I’m sure they can work that part out. And all four partners of AppPresser have done some interesting things with WordPress and mobile apps before, so if someone is going to do this it may as well be them.

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  1. Exciting project! I’m one of those that likes the idea of building mobile apps but I don’t have the time or inclination to master objective c and even tools like provided by sencha and so forth feel like going into the deep end. Also, having WordPress as a back-end is an intriguing alternative to using any of the big players, i.e. with the potential to keep all the data under your own control.

    It will be interesting to see how this project manages online/offline modes…

  2. Ambitious project! But I would agree with the article author – most of websites owners do not need to build an app for a simple reason – their visitors do not want to use them. The rest should build perfect native mobile apps which is impossible to do using frameworks, etc.

  3. Yes! WordPress as an application platform just got stronger.

    Integrating WordPress with device specific functionality will not only open new doors for developers with application ideas, it also reduces the cost of entry. “Sell through the App Stores” and work with what you know… WordPress. Brilliant!

    “WordPress as an application platform” is the story here, not “turn my website into an app.”

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