The capabilities of WordPress as a website publishing system are well-known. WordPress enables the creation of impressive websites effortlessly and allows customization of the data model as desired. Expanding functionalities is also straightforward. However, not many consider that WordPress can also serve as the backend system for mobile apps.
It’s good to start by considering why a mobile app needs a backend system, because it may not be necessary at all. If you’re building the next Angry Birds, for example, a backend system is probably not essential. However, if your app includes updating information – such as news or opening hours – this information must come from somewhere and be easily updatable. Without management tools, changes need to be made directly to the app, requiring developer involvement. They implement and test the changes, and then the updated app is submitted to app stores. Apple and Google review teams then take time to test and approve the app. Users must update the app – if they remember to. Along this process, even minor changes can quickly become outdated. This is why content requiring updates is usually sourced from an external service.
A mobile app’s backend system typically consists of a data model stored in a database. Updating data also requires a user interface for easy management. In practice, the majority of information systems are databases with some kind of user interface. WordPress can also serve as such a tool.
WordPress suits this purpose particularly well for at least five reasons:
1. WordPress provides ready-made APIs: Information exchange between the content management system and the mobile app always occurs through some form of API. If the app needs to list the latest news, it sends a request to the backend for content. The backend returns the news in machine-readable form, which the app then transforms into a user-presentable format. The built-in REST API of WordPress works well for this purpose. The API includes predefined content types such as pages, categories, and articles. However, the API is also easy to customize to suit one’s specific needs.
2. A mobile app’s content always forms a data model: The app might list locations, contacts, products, or services. WordPress’s architecture is built on a flexible and extensible data model. For instance, a specific content type could be created for locations, to which different data – such as location and address – could be attached to. Classifications, such as services available at a location, could also be linked. Based on these attributes, filters can be created to narrow down content. WordPress’s ready-made data model foundation means no specific database design is needed, allowing developers to quickly focus on implementation.
3. The WordPress maintenance UI is familiar to many from website management: If you can manage websites on WordPress, managing a mobile app’s content can be done in the same way. A major advantage is that the maintenance tools already exist and are available without any additional work. When using other technologies, maintenance functions often need to be implemented, which can consume a lot of time.
4. Many times, a website accompanies a mobile app: If you want to list locations on your mobile app, you probably also want to list them on your website. One significant advantage of WordPress is that the same system can be used to manage both the website and the mobile app. Why not use the same content on your lobby information display as well? The API allows for this!
5. Often, just presenting data isn’t enough. The app might include a form that needs to forward data, such as an order, to an order system. Along the way, data needs to be validated, analytics data sent, and order completion confirmed. WordPress’s functionality is extendable and excellent for customizations of this kind. Functionalities can be expanded to meet various needs – similar to what’s done on websites.
The greatest benefit of using WordPress as a mobile app’s backend system is that a lot comes ready-made. At its best, WordPress can enable a rapid start to an app project, as there’s no time wasted dealing with the backend system.
One example of WordPress as a mobile app’s backend is the Sarfvik Golf app. The app is powered by a WordPress installation, from which data like opening hours and news are loaded. WordPress also handles the delivery of push messages.
If you’re starting a mobile app project, consider WordPress as an option for the backend system. Feel free to contact us – we’re more than happy to help!