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Mobile Friendly Real Estate Website Options and Pitfalls - Part 2

March 27 2012

This post is a continuation of Part 1 of an article published yesterday. When we left off the article yesterday, Jim Cronin was laying out the options for a mobile-friendly experience. We continue this list of options below:

Layout Altering Plugins for IDX/MLS Content:

Instead of losing the IDX functions, you lose all your content, and the site, when viewed on a mobile device is simply a portal for property searching. All of the below require an approved and paid IDX subscription.

These plugins offer similar features; searching, location based avails, contact agent, favorite listings, etc.

iHomefinder Optima IDX MobileiHomefinder Optima IDX Mobile

dsSearchAgent MobiledsSearchAgent Mobile

IDXBroker MobileIDXBroker Mobile

Pros:

  • Mobile IDX is awesome!
  • Lead generation
  • Easy to implement
  • Fast loading
  • Easy to read content
  • Cheap (as long as you already have a compatible IDX)

Cons:

  • No posts, no pages!
  • You end up with a site that is hardly similar to your actual site.

Mobile Version/Makeovers of Your Website

Sticking with the idea that the website can detect that a mobile device is being used to access the site, these services offer much more full featured, robust renditions of your site. The main difference from the Plugin options above is that these can be applied to non-WordPress websites. However, in order to make your site at all user-friendly it looks as though you’ll need to cough up some developer fees and get it done right.

In addition, you will not have the ability to include the IDX as part of the design – it will either need to link off to the actual website, or linked to a separately hosted version of the IDX plugins above.

DudaMobileDudaMobile ($0 to $500) offers both do-it-yourself and professionally supported mobile versions of your website.

MobifyMobify (Free, then paid versions start at a whopping $249/month) offers both do-it-yourself and professionally supported mobile versions of your website.

GoMobiGoMobi (free trial and $8/month, build fee $295) – There are a number of resellers of this service, and it basically makes a cute, easy to use version of your websites main navigation.

Google: Of course they have their hand in this market as well: Howtogomo.com (complete with testing your site and links to mobile design services)

Pros:

  • Good branding
  • Include calls-to-action
  • Include content
  • You end up with a site that is somewhat similar to your actual site.

Cons:

  • You’ll need a workaround for IDX integration, but it can be done.
  • Doing it right is not cheap
  • Now you have 2 sites to worry about keeping up.

One thing to keep in mind is that with a separate mobile site, the device detection can be unreliable as new devices are released. It will inevitably fail at times.

Responsive/Scalable Web Design

Imagine not having to worry about any of the above, and just having a site that reorganizes its layout according to the resolution of the browsers that load it.

One of my favorite examples of responsive web design is the Boston GlobeBoston Globe. In order to see if in action you can pull it up on multiple devices, or open it in a standard browsers, then slowly resize the window (click/grab an edge and drag it inward) to watch it respond to the new resolution. As the screen gets smaller, the content reacts accordingly. It’s magic!

Each site has multiple layouts with alternate headers, navigation, columns, footers, etc. The appropriate layout is displayed depending on thedevice resolutiondevice resolution that accesses the site.

Here is a brilliant article on How To Design A Mobile Responsive WebsiteHow To Design A Mobile Responsive Website.

Here are two more for the geeks in the room.

Media QueriesMedia Queries

Responsive Design PlanningResponsive Design Planning

There is still a MAJOR challenge, however. That IDX solution that you have embedded/framed into your website is not built on a responsive stylesheet. So, once a mobile user clicks on your IDX features, the site will not render properly.

Imagine having a site that reorganizes its layout according to the resolution of the browsers that load it.

Solutions:

  1. Use and IDX provider that allows their content to conform to a scalable/responsive stylesheet.
  2. Use a mobile device detector that will send any click of an IDX feature to the mobile friendly IDX as described above. So, the site is scalable up until someone clicks on an IDX link, and then it activates the mobile plugin, away from the website.

Pros:

  • A single site that is compatible with all devices for the foreseeable future.
  • You lose no branding
  • You lose no content
  • You lose no calls-to-action
  • You lose no lead generation

Cons:

  • You’ll need a workaround for IDX integration, but it can be done.
  • Doing it right is not cheap because you will have to invest in multiple layouts and stylesheets.

To App or not to App.

Many of the requests we get for a mobile friendly version of a website is a request to turn their site into a mobile app; something available for download at an app store. To prevent this article from getting out of control, I will limit my editorial comments on this option and simply link to some popular app building services.

MobileAppLoaderMobileAppLoader for Real Estate ($100 – $200 set up + a monthly)

WiziAppWiziApp ($20-50/month)

Pros:

"Oooh I have a real estate app!"

Cons:

Finding an audience that even cares.

There are a lot of options when it comes to building a mobile app for your real estate business. Today’s article was strictly concerned with how to best present your real estate website/blogsite on a mobile device. I will be sure to follow up with an article specifically focused on mobile apps for the real estate agent.

In the meantime, here are a few links for your enjoyment: 

Tablet Specific Websites

In my research I failed to find Tablet Specific web design for real estate. The only example I have seen that was even mentioned alongside real estate was OnSwipeOnSwipe (their CEO spoke at a recent InmanNext event). Unfortunately, unless you are only using your blogsite as a blog, and not a way to showcase pages and listings you’ll find little use for it.

At this point, it looks to be nothing more than a glorified WP-Touch plugin for tablets.

I still don’t see a need to rush this trend given that browsing the web (as is) on a tablet is already incredibly rewarding. I’m sure there are all sorts of creative applications that I haven’t fully considered (Facebook integration, picture galleries, neighborhood profiles, etc.) but this is an article about how to make your current real estate website/blogsite as mobile friendly as possible.

We Can Help!

If you want to learn more about responsive/scalable web design for real estate, just contact usjust contact us – we are at your service!

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.