In 2023, online conversations have moved from web-based apps to mobile and tablet devices, where 55% of all social media engagement happens.
With the trend set to continue, online communities almost have to allow access to members through mobile apps.
For this reason, we’ve written a comprehensive guide to teaching you how to create a community app.
We’ll walk you through the different solutions available for launching your own community app and explain the pros and cons of each, so you’ll be able to pick the best solution for your requirements.
What Is a Community App and Why Launch One?
A community app is a native mobile application that allows users to access your community and content on mobile devices.
The key difference between a native app and a mobile-friendly community is that users can download an app directly to their device. A web-based community, instead, must be accessed via a browser.
Most founders begin their communities as web-based. Then, as they grow their online communities and gain traction, they build a native community mobile app.
There are several benefits of having a community app over a web-based community:
- Easier Access – Communities are very similar to social media, and mobile apps make it more convenient to interact with your community and content on the go.
- Push Notifications – You can send push notifications to your members about important community updates, which helps bring them back to the community and increase engagement.
- In-App Purchases – You can monetize your community more easily as native mobile apps support quick checkouts, and users can purchase without leaving the app.
- Brand Recognition – Branding is vital for any community’s long-term success. A branded community app makes users more likely to join, engage, and purchase from you.
An example of a community that has branded mobile apps is Kula by Yoga.
The company’s main business is yoga teaching and coaching, and its community complements this by providing members with a place to talk and connect.
While the community is available on the web, it also has native iOS and Android apps.
Now that you know what a community app is and the benefits of having one, let’s explore the options for getting one for your community.
Option 1: Use a Community Platform That Offers Free Apps
Several online community platforms offer free mobile apps for the end-users through which they can access all the communities built on the platform.
The most popular community builder with a free app option is Circle.so.
It is a cloud-based community platform that allows you to build an online community on your own website. It’s incredibly popular due to its powerful community-building tools.
The platform has free apps for both iOS and Android devices. Your members can download the app directly from the app stores or can request a download link from inside your community.
Mighty Networks is another popular community platform that offers free apps for end-users. It has an iOS app available to all Circle creators, while the Android app is currently in beta.
A great example of an online community taking this approach is Simply Scrapper, and they do this through Mighty Networks’ free community apps.
They instruct their members to download the Mighty Networks app from the iOS or Google Play store. Once downloaded, members need to sign up using the same email address and can use all the same features as the web-based version.
The main advantage of using one of these platforms is that they can be used at no additional cost. You don’t need to set up, code, or do anything technical. The platforms take care of it all.
Community members simply have to download the respective app on their device and then navigate to the community to start using it.
However, this simplicity comes with a downside.
Keep in mind that these are your platform’s apps and not your branded apps. So, you won’t be able to have the high-end custom feel that many brands strive for.
It may also confuse your users as they may not be familiar with Mighty Networks or Circle, and you may need to explain it to them.
If you’re interested in building a branded community app, keep reading; we’ll cover it in detail next.
Option 2: Use a Community Platform That Offers Branded Apps
Apart from free apps, Mighty Networks also lets you create white-label mobile apps.
To create branded apps, you’ll have to opt for Mighty Pro, an exclusive pricing plan for getting branded iOS and Android apps for your community.
While the cost for this plan isn’t available on their website, the annual pricing for Mighty Pro is expected to be around $30k.
The second option for you to consider is Disciple. Like Mighty Networks, it is a hosted community builder that makes it quick and easy to set up your community.
Its white-label mobile app plans start at $7,596/year. The cheapest plan will only allow 1,000 community members, while the $12k/year plan will let you have 10,000 members.
The third option is BuddyBoss. Unlike Mighty Networks and Disciple, it isn’t a standalone platform. Instead, this community app builder has been specifically created for WordPress sites.
With BuddyBoss, you can get branded iOS and Android apps for your community, and its team will also set up the apps for you and offer ongoing support.
For app creation, we recommend going with the Done For You plan, which costs $2,348 as a one-time fee and then $219 per month.
The community is built on the Mighty Networks platform; you can access it through the web app and the branded mobile apps.
The biggest benefit of using one of these platform options is that the entire app creation process will be done entirely for you. The apps will be completely synced to your web-based community, providing seamless access to members across devices.
In addition to the simple setup, the platform’s technical team will take care of the ongoing maintenance and updates.
This is the best way to get branded community apps. Obviously, the right solution will depend on your feature requirements and budget.
Still, if none of these options suit your business, keep reading to learn about fully custom-developed app solutions.
Option 3: Get a Custom App Developed
The last option for getting a community app is to have one custom-developed. This will give you complete control over every aspect of the branding, design, and functionality.
To create a custom app, you’ll need to hire one or more developers to bring your idea to life.
However, all of this comes at a significantly higher cost. In fact, the bill will likely run into tens of thousands of dollars, and it’ll also take months to create.
This is the least recommended option, as most people’s needs can be met by platforms that offer branded apps.
In fact, before going for a completely custom solution, we recommend exploring customization options for the branded apps with your platform’s team.
All in all, most community owners won’t need this option, and only a few businesses that consider the app as their main offering and already have a proven demand for it should consider this route.
That was the complete round-up of the three options you have for building a community app.
Now, let’s summarize the options we’ve discussed:
- Free Apps – For beginners, we recommend starting with a platform like Circle or Mighty Networks that have free apps for the end-users.
- Branded Apps – If you want branded community apps, you can choose Mighty Pro, Disciple, or BuddyBoss, all of which let you easily turn your community website into an app.
- Custom Solution – This is our least recommended solution and only suitable for established businesses looking for specific features or functionalities not supported by other options.
We hope you enjoyed reading the article and that it helped you choose the right solution to create a community app.
If you have any questions, drop a comment below. We’d love to help you out!