Fully Responsive Real Estate Site – Right or wrong, it’s done!

Hi Guys:

It’s been a while since we’ve had the time to blog.  Sorry for the absence, but now we’re back.

One of the reasons we were gone for so long was because we needed to make some changes.  Some big changes, the biggest of which was the main tool we use to develop our sites.  We’ve been using Headway for a long time, and loving it.  It’s been the base of all the custom Real Estate websites we’ve done, and frankly, I don’t think we’d be where we are without them, their support and their fantastic product.  But all good things…

Because of how Headway chose to approach their update to 3X, and the simple fact that many more WordPress standard functions still aren’t natively supported yet, we’ve had to seek higher ground, even if only temporary, and the cost of that switch can be seen in the lack of regularly released new work.  To make matters ‘more interesting’ one of our primary IDX providers, IDX Broker, also saw fit to roll out their beta of IDX Broker Platinum to the world, tossing yet another wrench into our beloved works, but this has all turned into the perfect storm for us and our clients.

Okay, enough of that.  Let’s talk Responsive

LiveUptownNow.com Preview

As some of you may already know, we just released our newest project:  LiveUptownNow.com for a sweetheart of a man, Scott Hartis.  In the past, we’ve almost always used 3rd party tools to create mobile friendly websites, or relied upon our IDX providers to handle mobile search.  But we’ve always felt that we lost something in the mobile translation, and in some cases sacrificed the strength of a brand by handing over the mobile experience to ‘another’.  So we set out to resolve this by finding a way to provide a consistent experience across all platforms without increasing costs/time, maintenance for us or our clients, or server/bandwidth (performance) loads.  Responsive was the obvious choice until we started digging.

The guys at WP Touch recently published an article that does a fair job of illustrated some of the differences and up front costs of a responsive site.

Weighing Options: WPTouch, Responsive Design and Your Mobile Strategy

While I think some of the points are a little blown out of proportion, there is validity to every line.  We didn’t find many voices that synced up with theirs, but lets face it.  We’re all a bit bigoted, and I commend the guys at Brave New Code for taking a reasonably open stance on the issue given what they do.

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 (as above)

 

Disclaimer: We are ‘Developers’ with IDX Broker.   This gives us greatly enhanced access to our client’s accounts and the ability to provide far better, more focused support.  It also means IDX Broker sends us checks for having done so.  While we insist this doesn’t influence our ability to look at their product objectively, we also feel you should be aware of this fact.  Our opinions are not for sale. :-)

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3 Responses to Fully Responsive Real Estate Site – Right or wrong, it’s done!
  1. Patti Irwin
    July 25, 2012 | 6:18 pm

    I should have said the website liveuptownnow.com….is fantastic!! The post is good too! :)

    • Jon Hardison
      July 25, 2012 | 6:24 pm

      Thank so much Patti! Yeah, we’er pretty happy with it. Have another on the way (almost done) and many more coming. It’s really nice to be able to have sites feel the same on all devices. :-)
      Now to see if consumers agree…

  2. Patti Irwin
    July 25, 2012 | 6:16 pm

    this looks fantastic..is this the new IDX Platinum?? I can’t wait until it’s my turn :)