Introducing ‘Build to Web’ – simple deployment of your mobile codebase as a web app

Last week, at the Launch conference, we announced a major new feature for the framework: Build to Web. is now the simplest way to build for both mobile and web from the same HTML5 codebase. launched a couple of months ago as the simplest way for web developers to create native mobile apps from a single HTML5 codebase. (Not to sell ourselves short, that’s a huge deal.)

But what about the web?

We’ve already blogged about how consumer attention is shifting to apps and that web developers are going to have to make big changes to keep up. But the web is still hugely important – even for a mobile-first company. The fact remains you need somewhere to showcase your product to users who do not already have your app installed.

To maximise the conversion ratio of people arriving at your web site to active app users, you really want to give them a taste of your app’s features: your invitation for users to try the app on other devices is incredibly compelling if they have already tried it and loved it on a website first!

Now, with our new Build to Web feature, you can deploy your code as a web app just as easily as you built your code as native mobile apps before. Consider the web as another platform you can target with our Forge framework. You can create a rich application for the web proper, extending your app’s reach and audience with no need to write any more code.

Simple development workflow

Creating a web app alongside your mobile apps fits right into your workflow. Running forge build now creates a Node.js web app at the same time as iOS and Android apps. We’ve kept our build process lightning fast — after the initial build, your native and web apps can be re-built in just a few seconds. This makes iterative development really fast.

To test your web app locally, run forge run web and the app will open in a new browser tab. Whichever platforms you’re targeting, this is a great way to inspect the DOM and debug your Javascript, using standard desktop browser development tools.

When you’re ready to deploy your web app, run forge package web and your app will be deployed to Heroku from the command line.

Create powerful web apps using our JavaScript API and web proxy

Because it’s all the same codebase, you can take advantage of all our framework’s existing benefits. You can mash-up third-party APIs by using the Forge API to work around cross-domain restrictions (normal in-page JavaScript can only make XHRs to the same server as the one hosting the current page).

So what happens when your app expects native functionality, e.g. a camera or address book? You can show/hide the key parts of your app using our platform detection API.

Really simple back ends

And what about storing data remotely to share with others or your own accounts on other devices? We want to make this just as platform agnostic, fast and easy to implement as your app itself. That’s why we recommend using Parse as a lightweight database; their simple REST API for data storage is a perfect compliment to our mobile framework.

We’ll blog more soon with a tutorial on how to use and Parse effectively together.

A new way to develop apps

With Forge now able to deploy the same client-side code to both web and mobile, you can now cover all the important platforms for your app from a much smaller, single codebase. That’s a huge cost and time saving, even excluding the ongoing maintenance benefits.

Combining that capability with backends-as-a-service, such as Parse, a completely new way to develop apps is emerging. Write a single client-side codebase in HTML5, and use 3rd party services to get your data store, push notifications etc (in an increasing number of cases, without any server side code at all!). Then deploy your single code base to multiple mobile platforms and the web.

The result is the fastest and simplest process ever for web and front-end developers to create rich apps in a mobile world.

Questions/ideas? We’d love to hear from you on or in the comments below.