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Mobile Friendly Real Estate Website Options and Pitfalls - Part 1

March 26 2012

This article from Jim Cronin on the Real Estate Tomato blog is so packed with terrific information, we're going to split it into two parts. Part 2 of the article will be published tomorrow.

Thinking About Going Mobile With Your Real Estate Website/Blogsite?

Do you need it?
Is this just something that the buzz is causing you to feel like you are in danger of being left behind? Or is the fact that mobile web browsing has exploded in the last 2 years mean it’s time to get in front of that audience too?

Do you have a mobile audience yet?
Check your visitor statistics.
Exactly 13% of all our clients’ traffic was from a mobile device last month (Feb 2012)

Does what you currently offer fail on a mobile level?
Check it for yourself:

Desktop Simulator Desktop Simulator
Online Simulator Online Simulator

Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that this article’s content will be irrelevant by the time I hit publish, but the topic has generated enough discussion around these parts that it warrants at least a solid overview, however fleeting it may be.

 

What are my options when it comes to being mobile friendly
with my real estate blogsite/website?

The trend to handheld computing is putting a lot of pressure on designers to make sure that their clients’ websites are up-to-snuff when it comes to rendering on a mobile device.

But, the solutions aren’t necessarily worth it, yet.

The first challenge is that often those that are inquiring about a mobile friendly website aren’t exactly sure what they are asking.

The first challenge is that often those that are inquiring about a mobile friendly website aren’t exactly sure what they are asking for.

But the bottom line is that they want to ensure that their audience is able to have a rewarding experience on their website regardless of the device they use.

The biggest challenge is the fact that most real estate websites are dependent on the use of a 3rd party IDX function to offer a home search and other special listing services. Most mobile solutions don’t account for the IDX function and the consequence is the loss of this incredibly important feature. More details on this consequence in the options below.

The following are the options currently available
for a mobile friendly experience:

Do Nothing
The websites that we design are optimized to display properly within a 1024px wide resolution.  Anything wider than that will display a background image filling in any empty space.  This is currently the standard in the industry.

The height of a standard website was at one time 768px. But with the propensity to scroll, users no longer expect everything to appear ‘above the fold’, and there is no longer a typical height for a website.

Sites built in the standard 1024px resolution render just fine on smart phones and tablets because these device makers need to be able to offer an enjoyable web experience to their users. So they have made an effort to meet this standard.

However, looking at and using sites on a handheld can prove to be cumbersome, with all the zooming in and swiping it takes to get a rich experience… hence the development of more friendly solutions for websites.

Pros:
- No cost
- Full website experience, even if it is a little cumbersome.

Cons:
- Mobile internet can be slow, and having to load your full website can kill a visit.
- Non-smartphones will have an impossible time using the site.
- You feel like you should do something, right?

Layout Altering Plugins for WordPress Content:
What happens in these plugin-generated, mobile versions of your site is that your content is consolidated for easy viewing, and the rest of the site’s functionality is either removed or dumbed down. This causes an issue with the IDX/MLS display in that it is no longer an option to any mobile viewer.

Their value is that they are simple for the mobile viewer, but I don’t feel that the sacrifice of the IDX is worth it.

  • WP-TouchWP-Touch automatically transforms your WordPress content into a mobile theme.
  • WP-Touch ProWP-Touch Pro (Starting at $49) allows for a more customized theme/branding as well as the option to switch back to non-mobile display.
  • Wapple ArchitectWapple Architect ($0 to $1000s) Claims to do a better job of maintaining your site’s style/branding with custom editor options, all-the-while offering a much more robust viewer experience.
  • WPTapWPTap Plugin that automatically detects the mobile browser and activates the mobile theme you have installed or redirects it to a unique mobile url (m.domain.com).
  • WPTap ThemesWPTap Themes is a collection of more elegant layouts/themes/functions for sale in the $40-$100 range.
  • And similarly is WP Mobile DetectorWP Mobile Detector (detection, and loading of installed mobile theme)
  • WPMobile Detector PremiumWPMobile Detector Premium ($50: Customizable themes, editors and more)

Most mobile solutions don’t account for the IDX function and the consequence is the loss of this incredibly important feature.

Pros:
- Easy to implement
- Fast loading
- Easy to read content
- Cheap

Cons:
- No IDX!
- No calls-to-action
- No lead generation
- Weak branding
- You end up with a site that is hardly similar to your actual site.

Stay tuned for the continuation of this article (and more mobile-friendly options) tomorrow. To view the original article, visit the Real Estate Tomato blogReal Estate Tomato blog. For more from Jim Cronin, check out his contributor profile on RE Technology.