According to technology experts eM+C, more Web content is being consumed via mobile devices than ever before. Consumers no longer want to wait for information. They want it in the car, in line for morning coffee, on the sidelines at soccer practices and between classes. The popularization of tablets and smartphones has transferred the online experience from the desktop and laptop to the pocket, purse and backpack.
The result is a world in which mobile is quickly becoming the most important medium for information transfer. It’s essential that any business reliant upon its Web presence adapt quickly and effectively.
RREIN brokers are among the most advanced in the real estate industry in implementing a mobile strategy into their business models. “During the recent boom, when so many companies were too busy selling real estate to keep up with what was new, we were researching and investing in new technologies that were in place and ready for our agents to use when the market began changing,” says Tom Skiffington, president and CEO of Pennsylvania’s RE/MAX 440 and RE/MAX Central. “We were among the first to maximize the use of iPads, iPhones and other communication devices that are now becoming mainstream. We implemented a property information text system and a mobile site for all of our listings—and a host of other functions, like QR codes, that make it possible for people to conduct business efficiently from wherever they happen to be.”
From Will Morgenweck, director of product management at DotNetNuke Corp., a Web content management system for Microsoft, here are five ways to ensure that your mobile site meets that standard of quality that so many smartphone-wielding consumers demand:
1. Optimize content based on screen size, not specific devices. Make sure your content management system allows you to deliver content based upon screen resolution, not just specific devices. Being able to detect screen resolution is often more important than detecting a particular device. In order to provide users with the best experience possible, you need to know how much screen real estate you’ve got available. Identify the most common screen resolutions and create content that will fit well on most phones and tablets.
2. Provide easy access to your full website. Even if your mobile site includes all the same content, some users will still want to view your full website. Always redirect users to your mobile site if possible, but it shouldn’t be a requirement. Some of the latest mobile browsers can handle full websites fairly well. If the user wishes to scroll and zoom around your full website, then allow them to make that choice. Make sure your full website also makes it easy for mobile users to navigate back to the mobile site.
3. Don’t forget about tablets. Tablets are quickly becoming one of the most popular devices to browse the Web with. They possess the advantage of a larger screen, but tablets still require touch input rather than a mouse. This means that while you can provide content that’s identical to your full site, you still have to make sure navigation is optimized for touch input.
4. Mobile-optimized navigation. In most cases, the navigation structure on a website isn’t going to work well on a mobile site. The navigation experience on your mobile site needs to be optimized for touch input. The design and layout of your menu should also be optimized for viewing on a small screen. There’s nothing wrong with the front page of your mobile site being nothing more than navigation links. Test the navigation of your site on an actual device, not an emulator. An emulator still requires you to interact with your site using a mouse, which is much different than holding a device in your hand and trying to click on a link. The Jordan Baris REALTORS® mobile site (Baris.mccid.com) does just this with key categories—“Easy Property Search,” “View Nearby Properties,” “Mortage Calculator,” etc.—made easily accessible on the mobile home page.
5. Take advantage of device capabilities. Mobile devices offer several capabilities that you won’t find on the typical desktop browser. Most mobile browsers make it easy to access the current geographic location of the user. Use this capability to make it easy for users to get directions to your nearest location. The RE/MAX 440 – RE/MAX Central mobile site (remaxcentral.mccid.com) allows users to locate nearby properties based on their current location with its “GPS Search” mobile menu option. While some mobile browsers will automatically detect phone numbers and email addresses, you should still make sure to create clickable links whenever possible. Smartphones make it easy to click to call, click to text and locate addresses on a map. Leverage the capabilities of the device to create a better experience for the user.