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:
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.