Mobile Responsive Design For Real Estate Websites Is A Mistake


UPDATE: This post contains insight and opinion based on the observation of early attempts at responsive design in the real estate website industry.

Improvements in the approach have allowed for unique configurations of a site’s design at different screen resolutions.

So now you can have a different layout optimized for each device size.

This gives you the opportunity to give your best impression to each and every user, regardless of the device they are viewing your site.

It’s hard to ignore. The buzz this year has been all about the push for Responsive Designs.

The sales pitch is “You need to make your site display properly on a mobile device.”

Well I think it is crappy advice. Especially for real estate agent websites.

Consider what the audience is looking for when they punch up your site on their mobile and we’ll see how Responsive Design fails to match this.

When your audience is on their phone, they have only a few common actions in mind.

1. Contact you. Email/Text/Call.
2. See/Search Properties in the area.
3. Vet you.

They are not (initially) looking to: 

1. Read your blog
2. See all your blog categories
3. Read about all your neighborhoods
4. Read about the buying/selling processes
5. Search your site
6. Subscribe to your feeds/newsletters/updates
7. Compare schools
8. Fill out dream home request form
9. See all the crap in your sidebar
10. Etc.

What you might be able to convince them to do:

1. Recognize your branding
2. See that you have taken their needs into consideration with the mobile experience.
3. Glance at a blog article or two.
4. Sign in to an IDX account to save/manage viewed listings.
5. Save your site as an icon/app to their home screen.
6. Provide you their address for a home evaluation (probably not).

So Where Does The Responsive Design Go Wrong?

By taking a website that was built for a full screen experience and reconfiguring it all to fit onto a mobile device you cause two undesirable and detrimental effects.

A responsive website is one that uses different style sheets to reconfigure a website’s content into a more optimal layout based on the browser resolution. In English: it reorganizes all of your content to fit the screen size.

Your current website is (meant to be) a huge content resource of listings, blogs, neighborhood info, and the like. It is designed to be experienced on a full-sized monitor. The header, the navigation menus, the calls to action, the blog content, the sidebar content, the quick search, the footer… it was designed for a full screen experience.

Responsive designs only satisfy one issue when it comes to mobile: They make the content easier to see. However, taking a website that was built for a full screen experience and reconfiguring IT ALL to fit onto a mobile device causes two undesirable and detrimental effects.

1. Because there is a lot to include into a narrow display, you end up with a very, very long website to scroll through.

2. You fail to immediately provide the visitor with what they are looking for because you have cluttered the experience with everything else.


So What’s The Solution, If Not Responsive Design?

You need to start from scratch.

You need to rethink your approach.

You need to provide an experience that gives your mobile visitors what they came for.

Create an experience that displays only the most important elements of your website in an intuitive manner, for mobile visitors.

You Need A Mobile Web App.

What is a Mobile Web App?

It is a website designed to elegantly take advantage of a touch screen experience.

It has all the slick features of a mobile (native) app, and all the accessibility of a website.

By using a web app, you can create an experience that displays only the most important elements of your website in an intuitive manner, for mobile visitors.

Here are a few web app design advantages:

Anchored/Hover Calls-To-Action (e.g. Home, IDX Search, Save App, Call Me, Text Me)
Slide-Out Menus (Elegantly hiding less crucial navigation)
Featured Content Sliders (Select pages and/or posts that you want mobile visitors to experience)
Embedded IDX Calls to Action dedicated to mobile (Search, Featured Props, Login)
Save App to Home Screen

Where Can You Get A Mobile Web App?

Stay tuned! We are launching the first of its kind for real estate on Aug 1st.