Free Tool of the Week: Turn Your Blog into a Phone App for Free!
Thinking about ways to reach more people with my blog, I came across a few different ways to turn a blog into a mobile app. I love applications like engadget,com that keep me up-to-date on the latest technologies, and I love using their iPhone app so I can quickly launch it and see the latest news. While engadget mainly focuses on hardware, I think it would be great to have an app solely focused on software.
While on the lookout for a service that could do this for me, I came across a few different services that will make an app out of a blog for free. Testing them out left me generally unimpressed, until I found mobile conduit. It’s easy to use and very customizable–a major thing I was looking for.
The first thing you’ll see at their home page is a giant text input field for your blog’s URL. Typically, you want to add the word “feed” to your URL. (For example, when I tried my blog here at www.kinetic-media.com, it didn’t work very well, but when I tried www.kinetic-media.com/feed, it worked perfectly.)
So, first step: Type your blog’s URL in the box (and don’t worry if your blog is hosted on your own server):
Now click on “Create App.” This will take to a page where you can customize your app. And here’s where I fell in love. Take a look at how much you can do with your app, and note how compatible it is across all devices (iOS, Android, Windows 7 Phones, and Blackberry):
Clicking on these icons lets you see how your app is going to work on the different devices. After you do that, you’ll still be able to see your app settings on the left. Now choose your content. As you can see below, there are many different types of content you can add, from your RSS feed to your blog, and from Facebook to maps:
For purposes of illustration, I’ll select “News.” Up come the settings for your news feed (which would be your blog).
Here you can change some settings for this page–changing the icon, changing the name of the icon, changing the page layout. Under “Page Content,” you’ll need to enter the URL with “feed” added again, as well as decide how you want it to sort and update. (You can even have more than one feed on this page if you write for multiple blogs.)
Once you’re done with that, minimize that box, and you can add other boxes–for example the YouTube button:
The YouTube button allows you to do the same kinds of things–change your icon, label, layout, etc. Under “Page Content,” you can change the title and source. (For a username, just enter the username for your YouTube channel, and only public videos you have on your channel will show.)
Okay. So now I’ve clicked on two buttons to add for my content: blog feed and YouTube feed. Note that it creates two tabs at the bottom of the screen. (Every time you add something to your content it adds a tab for it at the bottom.)
Now keep adding more: Twitter, Audio, Facebook, Photos, Custom (Make your own), Contact Us, LiveAlbum, Module, Email, Map, Call Us and About Us. There’s plenty of content to place in this kind of an app. (Once you’ve created your app, you can always come back into your account and modify things.)
Look and Feel
The next step is to adjust the look and feel of your app:
Here you can change the name of your app. It will show on the top bar of your app, so whatever you type in here will be what your readers see. However, instead of just text, you can upload a logo (no more than 180 x 32) or an image that is compatible with panorama style (which is how Windows Phone 7 works), and it will appear at the top of the app instead.
The next step is to change the theme–the icon, style, background, and language. Select the drop-down box on each category (see below), and you have the option to use one of their templates or upload one of your own images (you’ll be told, at each step, what size of image needs to be uploaded).
Next: color scheme. You can pick from one of their color schemes, or you can create your own. (I wanted mine to look more like my blog, so I adjusted it accordingly.) In some other services, you don’t generally have so much control over colors and themes.
And now comes navigation options. If you’d rather have tabs above, or make all options into buttons, you’re free to do so. Here are the several layouts available:
Finally, you get to decide whether you want to enable advertisements. This can, by the way, be a good source of income if you provide your content on your blog for free.
Once you have filled out your settings, be sure to Save & Continue. It’ll ask you to log in, but don’t worry if you haven’t yet created an account because you can do so at this point by clicking on Join Now. (It only takes a few minutes to join, and it’s totally free. During the process it may ask you to activate your account–you know the routine: a confirmation email with a link to click, etc.)
Once your account is ready to go and you’re logged in, you can see your app in the dashboard. From this point you can create more apps, edit your existing app, or publish your app to the different mobile OS’s:
Once you’re ready to publish, you’ll need to enter some more info (app description, splash screen, etc.). Once you’ve filled out that content, just hit Generate:
And that’s it! This kind of thing is great if you have your own blog and want to share it with your readers. You can also send push notifications through the dashboard to announce new changes or events. Companies could even use it to keep their employees up-to-date, to train them on different aspects of their work, or even to make training videos available on the job.