The latest buzz around IDX has been the several hundreds of implementation options when it comes to providing IDX data on a Web site. The possibilities and choices are endless, but they are all built around two very distinctly different implementations. If you are to have a successful IDX web site that generates qualified leads and makes you money, you must be sure you try to avoid one of the most common of them if at all possible- "Visible Frames".
There are two types of 'framing' in the Web world.
- "Visible Frames" (or fixed navigation)
- "Smart Frames" (or seamless integration).
To detect a site that is using Visible Frames, remember one rule of thumb- if you "see" the frames -i.e. numerous scroll bars and/or fixed graphics on a page, then the site is using "Visible Frames". Web development companies have told many people that using visible framing is a way to keep or trap your visitors, and offer "loads of content" on your site. A common practice is to sell you what you think is hundreds of pages of content when in reality, all they are doing is "visibly framing" information off of someone else's site. What's the problem with that, you ask? The problem is that if the user was to try to contact you from that site, the lead could go to someone else's mail box (the site you're framing), leaving you completely empty handed and your visitor none the wiser.
That very reason is why using visible frames with IDX is a mistake. The whole point in offering IDX on your site is to generate leads and make your web site the ultimate 'one stop shop' for real estate in your area. Why would you want to trust someone else to give you leads from their web site? Using visible frames is not only a mistake in your most basic web site, but is especially a mistake when you're using IDX.
- The site you're framing will most likely get the lead - not you.
- Frames make printing very difficult because the amount of printable screen space depends on the printer- only one portion of the site may be printed.
- Sites with frames are not as easily accessed in search engines.
- Visually they are unpleasant and compete with the content of your site.
- They don't ever truly prevent a user from leaving your site.
- The IDX data (search screen, results and data) doesn't match your web site.
- No customization- you're stuck with the look and functionality of the site you're framing.
- Anyone with their monitor resolution set lower than 800 x 600 may see between 4-8 scroll bars all over their screen!
- Frames make browsing web sites very difficult for handicapped users.
When you decide to implement IDX on your web site, choose the second, more effective option, "Smart or Seamless Frames". Smart Frames ensure that you are complying with IDX rules by framing your Broker's IDX data, however the user will never see the actual frames (or scroll bars). Using smart frames, you have more control over the look and feel of your home search engine because you are actually framing the data not someone else's web site. To the user, the data truly appears as if it is coming directly from your site, (which gives you a more solid web presence) and it ensures that the leads go directly to you when someone requests more information on a property. You are still complying with BR rules, but you have control over how that data 'appears' to the user, how leads are disseminated, AND your web site has one, unified look and feel.
With "Smart Framing" you can have:
- Leads that are guaranteed to go directly to you
- Better search engine results
- Easier printing capabilities (important for listing details sheets).
- A captive audience- your visitor doesn't need to travel to anyone else's site to get the information they need.
- More control over the look and feel of your web site.
- As a Broker, you can control the search engine, results and details page design with your company's branding.
- A friendlier, more usable site that is visually more appealing and more likely to generate leads and return visitors.
Typically your more sophisticated, database-savvy web development companies will be able to provide you with a web site that uses smart frames. When you decide to integrate IDX into your site, make sure you call around and do some research into the companies that provide IDX web sites. Ask them whether they use visible frames or smart frames. If they can't offer you a smart framed, seamlessly integrated solution, then just say "no!"