With more and more people searching real estate listings online, the quality of your net presence makes a vital statement. What message do real estate professionals deliver when their website is not responsive?
Google recommended Responsive Web Design is the most common method of achieving mobile-friendly web pages configured to look great on the small screens of smartphones and other mobile devices. Responsive uses computer code that responds differently to different screen sizes, but ensures page displays remain similar and readable on any mobile device.
Asking buyers and sellers to use non-responsive real estate websites is equivalent to real estate professionals choosing to sell unstaged, even handyman-style properties instead of professionally-staged homes. It's like expecting buyers to trust that professionals are net savvy enough to successfully search the internet for buyers' dream homes when the professionals' own net presence is stuck in the unresponsive "desktop dark ages."
In April 2015, Google announced search changes that favor mobile devices. With this and subsequent edicts, responsive switched from a target-driven alternative to a business essential. Smartphone internet use and mobile computing continues to dominate.
The internet is increasingly being defined by the rising mass of mobile computing devices. Mobile phones have replaced desktop and laptop computers on many levels—from what people are buying, to what they use to search the net. Websites and blogs that do not cater to small-screen mobile devices, particularly smartphones and other hand-helds, are increasingly ignored. Significant internet usage continues to shift away from non-responsive sites and blogs.
Websites designed and coded for these larger screens do not automatically make a graceful transition to small screens. Your beautifully-designed non-responsive website can look hideous on a smartphone. Potential viewers must do so much pinching, scrolling, zooming, and squinting at tiny fonts they may give up and click on a competitor's website, which is designed to look great on screens of any size.
To go responsive or not? The time, expertise, and expense required for transition to responsive may be daunting for some site owners. Here are key factors to consider:
- Prioritize. Traffic, lead generation, and e-commerce are among the key reasons for investing time and money to go responsive. For example, suppose you have a blog and a website, and your blog draws significantly more target traffic. Start with the blog and overhaul the website later. Expanding the blog and phasing out the website may be an alternative.
- Allocation of time and resources. Create an efficient sequence for continuous updating and modernizing (just as you suggest sellers do with their assets). Responsive design may be the latest overhaul, but it will not be the last that technology dictates.
- Analyze Don't Just Assume. Switching to mobile friendly may not instantly create dramatic shifts in traffic or usage statistics since so many factors are involved. Reduced bounce rates may indicate phone users find it easier to stay and read, but relevant marketing and promotion are necessary to generate a flood of new business. Determine what your selected target markets expect from your online presence before you plunge into redesign.
- Relevant Content Rules. If content is not top-notch and video excellent, mobile-friendly design alone will not be enough to increase traffic and usage.
Is your website or blog (or the competition's) responsive? Check the following three simple tests to determine whether your web design is responsive or not:
Test #1. Visit your website or blog on your desktop or laptop. Using your browser, go to the responsive test mode. For example, on Mozilla's Firefox, click on Tools on the navigation bar (top left); then, click on Web Developer. Then, click on Responsive Design View. (If you prefer to use keys, the shortcut is pushing Control+Shift+M.) On the right-side of your screen, a vertical double bar or arrow appears. Click on it and move the right vertical border toward the left. You can approximate smartphone, tablet, and other handheld-device screens. If the design is responsive, the website page will remain readable and lovely to look at. If not, a jumbled mess may appear. Google also has a Mobile-Friendly Test.
Test #2. Using your mobile device, go to your website or blog. If the web pages are responsive...well, you know the drill.
Test #3. Ask mobile-addicted prospects and clients what they think of your website or blog. If you hear complaints about what a pain it is, the site is non-responsive. "No complaints" may be worse since it may mean users have bounced off to competitors.
If you present yourself as a tech-savvy professional or a social-media natural intent on engaging prospects and clients on their terms, transforming your website and blog into mobile-friendly territory is essential. Take time to decide the best strategy that is compatible with your short- and long-tem goals:
- Nowhere Fast: Those who find little or no business comes to them over the internet may decide there is no need to redesign. (There may be a very good business case for going responsive and optimizing the site to gain traffic, leads, and referrals, but that's another article, for another time.)
- Halfway There: Blogs are not automatically responsive. For instance, popular WordPress (WP) accounts for almost 25% of internet activity and powers many blogs. Earlier WP blog templates or themes were not responsive. Even now, new bloggers do not have to choose responsive themes. Transforming non-responsive WordPress blogs and websites may merely involve switching to a responsive theme.
- All the Way: The process of transforming a website to responsive is not as simple as switching templates. Coding changes are just the beginning. Design—including layout, fonts, images, and site navigation—will need modification to optimize smaller reading "windows." Then, there's Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to consider. Although this may be an opportune time for a full-site overhaul of content, navigation, and all related marketing elements, a phased-in re-do or scaled-down site are other alternatives. Big job with a big budget. If the website drives your business, delay will be even more expensive. In some cases, recreating the site as a responsive WP site may be faster and less expensive. Google suggests other ways to optimize for mobile search.
Are you responsive? We've been talking about communicating your value and intentions using technology. "Responsive" means much more. In both the technical and relationship sense of the word, how you manage interfaces like websites—between what you offer and what target prospects and clients value and need—is a measure of your relevance and responsiveness to them.
Resource: What's Your Point?