Three Ways a Mobile Responsive Website Beats a Separate Mobile Site

Written by Tom Fernandez. Posted in Real Estate Websites, WordPress

responsive real estate website design

Awesome post here by Josh Byers on copyblogger.com that breaks down the three ways a mobile responsive website is better than a separate mobile website.

Since the latter part of last year we’ve committed to building all of our new client websites on a mobile responsive framework for WordPress. It’s the new normal for us and it’s becoming the new normal for the rest of the professional website development community as well.

The new normal

Mobile responsive design continues to charge forward stronger than ever.

In fact, Mashable has called 2013 “The Year of Responsive Web Design.”

Yet, for all its accolades — and despite the backing of industry heavyweights — there are some who remain unconvinced that mobile responsive design is the way to go. These folks argue that your website should have a completely separate mobile presence.

I think differently. I want you to believe in mobile responsive design.

I want you to embrace it like the internet has embraced funny cats.

I want to give to you three reasons why you should choose a mobile responsive website design over a separate mobile site.

1. Mobile responsive design is better for SEO

Writers and web developers know that when Google suggests a certain course of action, it’s usually a smart idea to follow if you care about search rankings. In an attempt to bring clarity to web developers, Google has specifically said that responsive design “is Google’s recommended configuration.

I’m not really sure what other arguments I need to make at this point, but for the stubborn we’ll press on.

If you employ responsive design, you’ll have more equity in your back-links. There have been a number of times I’ve wanted to share a link from my phone, but when copying and pasting that link in an email, Twitter, or Facebook, the link copied is the link to the mobile site.

Everyone that clicks on this link in full size browser is going to be taken to the mobile site, and if they’re not redirected, they’re treated to content that looks horrible and is not optimized for their screen.

Nobody wants to see a mobile site on their desktop, so they bounce. If you design your site responsively, every link that’s shared is a link to your full site and mobile site. There is no confusion or crossover between the two.

Google says:

… a single URL for the content helps Google’s algorithms assign the indexing properties for the content.

For a mobile site (actually for every site), SEO and user experience are blood brothers. If your site is unpleasant to use and the user can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll make a quick exit.

This causes your bounce rate to grow, which tells Google your site probably doesn’t have what that person was searching for. Congratulations, you’ve just been knocked down in the rankings for the term that user searched for.

This can be avoided by having a mobile site that looks great and functions extremely well … and has all the content of your full size browser version.

For all that is good and right, please do not use a plugin that “converts” your site to a mobile site. There was a time and place for that, but that time has passed. There are few things in this world more ugly and jarring than visiting a site on my phone and having it redirect to the bland mobile version.

Lastly, we all know that load time is a factor when Google ranks sites.

When your site has to re-direct to a mobile url, this increases the load time. A responsive site has no such redirection.

2. Mobile responsive design is easier to maintain

For sites that create a lot of content, it can be a real headache to make sure that all of it is transferred properly to multiple web properties.

Ultimately, you have to spend more time, or you’re paying someone else to spend time copying and formatting content to multiple places. If your site is designed responsively, when you’re finished creating content, you’re finished.

With a responsive design, your site is also future-proof. Many mobile-only sites have to be constantly tweaked when a popular new device comes on the market. Mobile responsive design ensures that your site will be optimized … no matter what the screen size of the device.

3. Mobile responsive design delivers a better reading experience

There are some that will argue this is dead wrong, but if you develop with a mobile first philosophy, their argument goes out the window.

Some content producers think they should curate content by device — only publishing the content that they believe appeals to mobile users, or removing content that’s not “important” enough for mobile. This is a mistake.
Brad Frost, a leading voice in the mobile responsive movement, says:

Mobile users will do anything & everything that desktop users will do provided it’s presented in a usable way. Assuming people on mobile “won’t do that” is a losing proposition. Don’t penalize users with missing content & features just because they are on a full screen.

To be fair, there’s one thing mobile sites have that responsive sites don’t … the “view full site” link.
The reason this link exists is because of the inherent problems with a mobile site. Users want all the content, presented in a way that’s accessible.

The reality of the situation …

If you’re not designing and developing your entire site with mobile users in mind, it doesn’t really matter if you employ a responsive design, or have a separate mobile site.

Data consistently show that mobile devices, mobile usage, and mobile purchases continue to rise at an enormous rate. This data also suggests that mobile internet usage will exceed desktop internet usage by the end of 2013 or begining of 2014.

Mobile Responsive Web Design for Real Estate Matters:

  • 89% of home shoppers used a mobile search engine during their home researching process
  • Real Estate related searches on Google.com have grown 253% over the last 4 years
  • The 25-34 year old age group is the largest group of Smart phone owners and new home buyers

Mobile Responsive IDX

Even if your WordPress website is mobile responsive that doesn’t necessarily mean the pages of your website that display IDX data will be. This depends on how the IDX system is implemented into your site. The pages of your site that use iframes to display IDX data will most likely NOT respond in size to the mobile device accessing it.

Some WordPress IDX solutions, such as dsIDXpress, when integrated into a good mobile responsive theme (click here to see an example) will be mobile responsive. This is an added benefit of having an integrated WordPress IDX solution.
To be successful on the web you must begin your process with a philosophy that puts mobile first.

Mobile responsive design is then the natural outflow of this process.

If you’re an agent with additional questions on mobile -vs-mobile responsive website design or want to see a demonstration of the differences, get in touch with us or leave a comment below.

Responsive WordPress Websites & IDX For Real Estate Agents

Written by Tom Fernandez. Posted in Real Estate Websites, WordPress

responsive wordpress realestate webdesign

In recent months there’s been a lot of noise in the WordPress development world on responsive website design. DIY Themes, developers of Thesis, and StudioPress, developers of the Genesis framework have recently added “responsive” to their feature set. The Warp WordPress theme framework, and it’s WidgetKit are now fully “responsive” too.

That’s awesome, because Warp is our framework of choice and all of our new projects will be responsive. But what exactly does “responsive” web design mean?

How is this different than mobile optimization and if your website is “responsive” than does that automatically make your IDX system pages responsive too?

Below is a portion of a good article on responsive web design for real estate websites over at Teamhardison.com that I thought I should share…


Is ‘Responsive’ it an emerging buzzword and little more?

In short, no.  It IS a buzzword, for sure!  Be prepared to spend the next year or two having everyone tell you that “you need it”, or “must have it”, or that “you’re an idiot not having it”.  Be prepared for everyone to call every display that doesn’t look completely ridiculous a “responsive” display.  Responsive will, for a time, be the buzziest of buzzes, but here’s the difference.  This has merit.  Not that others don’t…  My problem is that once the SNO (Shiny New Object) Job gets going it can be very difficult to evaluate these things objectively, keeping in mind your organizations needs and any additional costs, time and resources.

Brand consistency is important for Scott, so responsive was (in our opinions) the right choice for him, as it will be for the vast majority of our clients, which is why we’ve chosen to go responsive as a developer.  Of course, we will have clients that don’t require it at some point and for them, we may go another way such as WP Touch as we have in the past.  The point is that NO ONE SHOULD BE RUNNING OUT AND REDOING THEIR SITES SO THEY’RE RESPONSIVE WITHOUT THE NUMBERS TO JUSTIFY IT!  Please don’t fall for the impending hype.

Real Support for Responsive – Who has it?

The biggest problem for those that want to go truly responsive on their WordPress Real Estate sites is going to be IDX and how they handle mobile on their end.  Keep in mind that the majority of WordPress enabled IDX’s feed displays aren’t on pages you own or have the ability to edit, so you’re beholden to IDX Providers in many ways.

Zillow isn’t ‘Responsive’, but…:

Zillow’s Diverse Solutions product has gone in a different direction thus far, developing a mobile web app that allows site visitors using mobile phones or tablets to access listing data using a native mobile interface, but this isn’t responsive.  Again, you lose a degree of control over the experience and certainly lose brand consistency using this method.  The advantage is that it’s fast, easy, cost effective and does provide all the tools a mobile home shopper needs while still providing Agents and Brokerages all the lead capture and tools they require.  One slight disadvantage with with Zillow method is that any page containing their content will automatically recognize the use of a mobile device and effectively steal that user away from your site which can also be a problem when trying to create a consistent user experience.

IDX Broker Platinum has the best of both worlds:

IDX Broker’s new (still in beta) Platinum product essentially bridges both worlds, giving you standard displays that are flexible enough to make fully responsive for mobile visitor AND maintain control over both the experience and brand representation, AND they also have a mobile web app that works in much the same way Zillow’s does.  As a user / developer, you can use either, as IDX Broker has had the foresight to leave these choices up to you.  It is very important to remember that this product is still in development, so we have not yet seen everything it can do.

The only problem for responsive displays on mobile devices that IDX Broker has at this moment is that mobile-like services such as location services aren’t available via their desktop services.  So while the displays look great on a mobile device, and searching remains easy, it’s lacking the more automated mobile feel of their mobile web app.  But if I’ve learned anything at all about IDX Broker in the past few weeks it is that they have no fear of taking a new approach and I have a distinct feeling this won’t be an issue for long.

More great reads on the Responsive web design issue:

Smashing Magazine: Responsive Web Design: What is it and how to use it

Smashing Magazine: Why We Shouldn’t Make Separate Mobile Websites

Why Google loves responsive design (and you should too)

Weighing Options: WPTouch, Responsive Design and Your Mobile Strategy


Depending on the IDX system you have or are considering purchasing there are some detailed questions to ask.

My take on “responsive” is similar to what’s been expressed above. It’s not necessarily a “must have” at this time but my guess is that it will become more important in the not too distant future. As mobile internet use continues to grow exponentially year over year it’s always a good to be ahead of the curve.

How To Weave IDX Info And Page Specific Calls To Action

Written by Tom Fernandez. Posted in IDX Systems, WordPress

Calls to action exampleYou know that saying “the devil is in the details” well it seems appropriate for this post as we take a closer look at some subtleties that often make the difference between a good -vs- average real estate website.

This post highlights a very important aspect of creating page specific content in your WordPress sidebars to generate leads and increase your SEO.

Below is an excerpt here from a post on the Diverse Solutions Blog that goes into more detail…

Page Specific Calls To Action

The last major takeaway from Jesse’s site is his effective use of the right-hand column to generate leads. Apart from his homepage, each section of Jesse’s site has page-specific lead capture tools and widgets content in the right-hand column.

Buyers are interested in homes and finding that great deal. Jesse targets these visitors on his buyers-related pages by offering a search form and an ad-like button to jump straight to foreclosures, along with testimonials to help establish his credibility.

“Sellers” pages include a home evaluation form, a blog subscription form, and testimonials from sellers. Individual listings include his “Find a Foreclosure” ad, a listing map widget, and additional testimonials. The contact and about pages of his site follow this same pattern, with various contact options and forms in the right-hand column.

Buyers want to see homes. Sellers want to know what their home is worth. In every case, the calls to action are always specific to the page they are viewing. Jesse only shows visitors calls to actions that they will respond to based on what page they are on, and as with any other marketing, the more targeted you are, the more effective you’ll be.

You can recreate this effect by building alternate lead-capture sidebars for your site, then choose which sidebar appears on each page. You can create one sidebar to appear on property pages, another for buyer-related pages, one for seller-related pages, and one more for generic pages.

Alternatively, you can use a plugin like Widget Logic to enable or disable individual widgets from appearing on specific pages. With this method, you can specify which widgets will appear only on buyers pages, which will appear only on sellers pages, and which will appear on listing pages — without needing to create separate sidebars for each page type.

NOTE: When we develop real estate websites on the Warp Framework the Widget Logic plugin is not needed because this feature is included by default.

Here’s how it’s done with Warp:

    1. Navigate to the Widget Options page.
    2. Click on the sidebar / location to select the appropriate widget
    3. Highlight the page(s) and/or category(s) using the ctrl key on your keyboard
    4. Click save

Screenshot example:

Warp widget options

However you implement, be sure your site incorporates clear calls to action; ideally targeted for the right visitor at the right time.

Our thanks to Jesse for putting together such a great looking site that seemlessly integrates widgets and search tools from both our IDX products. Whether it’s the simplicity of colors and fonts, his above-the-fold -focused homepage, or his dense community pages, I’m sure everyone can find some inspiration from his site. If you have questions or need help implementing any of the tricks you see on his site, let us know!

As I mentioned above, page specific content is often subtle but hugely important. It’s something we focus on for our website clients and it’s something you should too. If you have any questions on how to implement page specific calls to action or IDX widgets, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Alternatively, if you’ve recently implemented a good example of page specific sidebar content please feel free to share it with us!

 

Additional related reading:

Guide to IDX Listing Email Alerts
Strategies for Combining IDX Map Search & IDX Plugin Features