Afew days ago I sat down with Gal Brill, the founder and CEO of UppSite, an Israel-based start-up that can turn your website into an app in just minutes. At top is a video UppSite produced about their service, and at bottom is my interview with Gal.
As the Web turns increasingly mobile — with a majority of online Americans set to access the Internet through their mobile devices rather than their desktop or laptop computers within a couple of years — any sensible Web publisher should be thinking about how to optimize his or her site for mobile users.
— CEO Gal Brill
I’ve written about a few such services, including WPTouch Pro (Have you made your site mobile-ready?) and OnSwipe (Make your site ‘swipeable’ on the iPad). But UppSite is the first service to come along that can turn any website or blog into an app — on the iPhone or Android — for free, in a matter of minutes. That’s pretty cool. (A Windows Mobile version is coming in a few months.)
CEO Brill likens UppSite’s entry into the marketplace as akin to WordPress’s disruption of the blogging world, when it make it drop-dead simple to get a blog up and running in 5 minutes. UppSite’s mission is to help you enter the mobile era “in a truly easy way,” he says. In the coming years, he hopes and expects millions of sites — particularly small or mid-size publications — to do so.
“We’re democratizing the mobile era for any publisher,” he says.
A cross-platform solution that actually works
Up until now, online publishers have had to deal with the nightmare of developing and maintaining applications for each separate operating system: iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android, Windows Phone 7 and so on. Not only that, you’d be out of luck in some cases, depending on whether your site runs on WordPress, Blogger, Drupal, etc. While other services often offer little more than a prettified version of an RSS feed, UppSite promises native apps that offer a complete version of your site, with all of the important content and functionality.
How simple is UppSite to use? All it takes is for the website owner to enter some basic information, choose a theme, upload a logo and you’re good to go. Presto! After you’ve gone through the customization process, a mobile, iOS and Android version of your site will be generated. Critically, UppSite handles the submission process to the various stores, and will keep you updated on its progress.
Says Gal: “Some app providers will create a compiled file for you but then leave it to you to upload and implement it. ‘OK, so head to the app store, here’s a manual, figure out how to do it.’ We do it for you.”
The other nice part is that UppSite apps sport features that enable publishers to engage with readers and users. For example, site publishers can engage with readers directly from the app or notify readers whenever blog content is updated, resulting in more engagement and retention.
Coming soon: A shiny new Socialmedia.biz app
We just put UppSite through its paces by creating an app for Socialmedia.biz and will report back here when it’s live in the iTunes Store and Android Marketplace. What’s nice, though, is that even though it can take a couple of weeks to get an app approved for iTunes, the Web version is good to go almost immediately. So a user arriving on your site through a smartphone will see a site that’s ready for a mobile experience, even if it’s not as perfect as the native app that a user would have to download. (Unless I totally misinterpreted this!)
Publishers can choose from three types of payment options: a free conversion that gives all mobile ad revenue to UppSite, a $9.99 per-month option with a 50 percent ad revenue split with UppSite, and an enterprise solution that can be customized with UppSite as a per-demand, per-month option that allows the site owner to fully control the application. Most of the competitors we know about, like AppMakr, Duda Mobile, Conduit Mobile or BloApp, typically charge a fee for converting a site to mobile and shepherding it through the approval process, but UppSite hopes to make money through an ad network it’s launching.
UppSite officially launched at DEMO Spring in Silicon Valley, and I caught up with Gal a couple of days later on a sidewalk in San Francisco. I’m still playing with the service — as with any start-up, it still has a few kinks to iron out — but if you’re thinking about how to serve this teeming new audience of mobile users, UppSite should be very high up on your list of services to check out. Give it a spin!
Let me know if you have any questions about the service and I’ll pass them along to Gal and his team. Here’s our interview: