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I recently had the great pleasure of attending one of my favorite events of the year, the LeadingRE Annual Conference. This event always brings out the best and brightest of the independent brokerages throughout the country who are members of this network.

On the final day of the conference I was having lunch with a couple brokers and vendors and we were discussing what the hot topics at this year’s conference were, as well as other industry events we have attended this year. One topic that keeps coming up at the various events I attend and was discussed during one of the mobile sessions at this year’s LeadingRE Annual Conference is responsive design.

Responsive design is an approach to web design that allows for one code base that will conform to multiple screen sizes, small and large, desktop to mobile. As such, the idea has caught fire throughout the tech community with sites like Mashable calling 2013 the year of responsive web design. In theory, responsive design would seem ideal; it would mean you could create on site that would serve all devices alleviating the need for a dedicated mobile or tablet site. However, in practicality, it’s a double-edged sword; the premise that makes responsive design so attractive is the same as reason why it’s flawed.

While we all know size matters and you want your content to display appropriately across all devices, responsive design does not account for what content or what experience is appropriate for the user, just the size of that content that is appropriate.

Desktop and mobile users are widely different when it comes to experience and type of content they are looking for on their respective devices, especially within the real estate market. While desktop users may want to do broad searches and read market reports, mobile users want to see homes near them, get driving directions and have the ability to click-to-call or email and agent. These are things that standard responsive design simply do not account for and to customize a responsive design site would not only be time consuming, but costly, making it more efficient to have two separate sites that ensures optimal catering to the specific user group that is accessing your site from various devices.

That’s not to say responsive design doesn’t have its place and very practical applications. Email, for example, is a great use case for responsive design. A recent report from Knotice forecasts that most brands will see at least half of their commercial e-mails opened on mobile devices by the end of 2013. Responsive design also lends itself very well to content driven sites like Mashable and business-to-business applications where users are logging in from multiple devices to access account information.

In summary, responsive design, while certainly a hot topic and trend in many industries right now, not just real estate, is not as simple as it may seem, especially when consumers are involved.

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