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How clever is your website?

Anyone can use an iPad or a mobile phone – but can they access your website on it? Marc Da Silva reports.

PROPERTYdrum

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Have you ever looked at your own estate agency website on your mobile? Do you find it easy to use? If not, then neither will your customers when they browse on their mobile phones.

The mobile web is growing up, attracting a rapidly growing number of users in the process. The problem for property firms that have not yet adjusted is that non-mobile user friendly websites are likely to deter many customers from browsing online, losing potential business in the process, because ‘thumb-friendly’ mobile websites are an entirely different beast to traditional websites.

“Users are fickle, if the information they require is not presented in a way that works on the device they are using they quickly go to a different website that does,” said Troy Stanley, Technical Director at Resource Techniques.

With the vast bulk of house hunters now starting their search online, it is critical for your business that your website is mobile friendly, especially as many people now use their mobile phone as the primary device for accessing the internet.

“We have seen the trend to mobile use of our estate agents websites rocket,” Stanley added. “Traditional websites are built to display on your PC, with large screens. When we talk about mobile websites, we’re talking about a website that is intelligent and knows what device the user is using to access it, in which case the website will display the correct version of the page to suit the device that is being used.”

If the info that they want isn’t presented to work on their device fickle users quickly go away!” Troy Stanley, Resource Techniques

troy_stanley_resource_technStanley reports that websites which are optimised for mobile use are likely to see mobile traffic volume increase to “in excess of 40 per cent of the total site traffic”.

Web traffic to the newspaper website, Metro, for instance, recorded a 27 per cent increase in unique browsers in March 2013, followed by a second sharp rise in April of 26 per cent to more than 9.8 million readers. This increase was thanks partly to the introduction of a ‘mobile-first’ strategy last November when it re-launched its website with a responsive design and ‘swipeable’ articles.

Consequently, the news outlet announced that the commuter title’s monthly mobile traffic reached a record of more than four million users in April, with mobile representing just over 42 per cent of overall traffic.

Searching for property on mobile devices

In the same way that ‘swipeable’ articles works for the news industry, swipeable property images and details are ideal for those actively searching property listings online using a mobile phone device, such as a Smartphone.

“Because the mobile site is simplified and designed for small screens, it means that property results and details are easy to view and look good,” said Nick Hubbard of Estates IT.

Although the website is simplified for the small screen, the user always has the option to go to your main website. This could potentially help to reduce your site’s bounce rate as it would be much easier to use when compatible with mobile phones, according to Hubbard, who also highlighted the benefits of “better synergy” with other marketing tools, such as QR codes.

He added, “If a potential customer is scanning a window card with their mobile [through a QR code], it would work far better to go through to a set of mobile website details than standard details on your site that might not work on a mobile.” Hubbard also pointed to other benefits that mobile websites can offer.

Aside from impressing landlords and vendors, “potentially helping you win more instructions”, Hubbard also states that crucially, “mobile-friendly websites receive higher mobile search engine rankings.”

SEO

Aside from thinking about the reader through TAO (Target Audience Optimisation), it is also crucial that your property website is modified to interact with search engines, most notably Google, by also focusing on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation); a crucial part of successful internet marketing.

SEO is currently all the rage. Even within small property firms, there seems to be an increasing interest in SEO as indicated by the continuing growth in usage of free SEO analyses tools. After all, who would not want free, targeted traffic to their website in order to attract more clients to grow their business?

Mobile web traffic

mobile_friendlyMobile traffic can contribute significantly to the overall number of your website’s users, as illustrated by the growing success of Rightmove, a one stop shop for property hunters with tens of thousands of property listings available to trawl through.

Rightmove.co.uk is now Britain’s sixth busiest website, thanks partly to its mobilefriendly property website, illustrated by the significant contribution that mobile web users make to overall traffic levels.

The property portal attracted record search activity in April 2013, up more than 20 per cent year-on-year to 1.25 billion page views, according to Rightmove spokesman Miles Shipside.

He commented, “Nearly 400 million of those pages were viewed on mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets, a clear sign that home movers are fully embracing the benefits of being able to search anytime, anyplace, anywhere and access listings the minute they are added.”

Your marketing strategy should incorporate SEO, website, portals, newsletters and SEO.” Laura Harris Technicweb

laura_harris_technicwebThe fact that almost one in three property searches on Rightmove are now conducted using a mobile device is “phenomenal”, according to Laura Harris, Marketing Manager at Technicweb, who added, “This statistic is only likely to increase over the next year.”

Harris believes that offering a user friendly website on both mobile and desktop browsers should be a priority for any agent wanting to connect to their market and stand out from their competitors.

“A mobile website offers several advantages and opportunities to an estate agent,” said Harris. She continued, “We’re strong advocates of developing a fully integrated marketing strategy that incorporates everything from your website and newsletters to portals and SEO. Your mobile website is an essential tool that should form a central role within your future online marketing plans.”

Upgrading your website

When you are developing your first mobile site, you may be at a loss. This is where the services of a professional web developer come in handy.

Google’s mantra is ‘mobile-first’ for development and that’s where the customer traffic is moving.

Ian Laverty, Managing Director of Intelligent Mobile Limited, says that agents generally have two options when it comes to creating a simple, easy to navigate website for mobile phones.

The first is to design a ‘responsive’ website that adapts the display of a single version of the website to the screen size of the device.

The second option, according to Laverty, is to develop a specific mobile optimised website to sit alongside your existing desktop site. This works on the premise that when you are browsing on a mobile device you do not necessarily wish to see the same type of content as you would on a desktop site. A mobile web user is only likely to search the website’s main products and services, such
as property search facility, while ignoring irrelevant pages, such as ‘About Us’.

“By not including the wider information, your site’s performance is not compromised while the user waits on information downloading that they have no intention of looking at. This is particularly true if using the phone network to browse rather than Wi-Fi,” said Laverty.

If you already have a desktop site that you are happy with, developing a single mobile optimised site will not only operate much quicker, but will usually be the cheaper option, not to mention more effective in terms of the way your customers interact with it.

Laverty continued, “Google’s current mantra and business guidance is ‘mobile-first’ for web development as that’s where the customer and web traffic is moving. Mobile optimised sites follow mobile-first. Responsive design is seen as ‘mobile afterthought’ and doesn’t optimise your customer’s experience. At best it’s the compromise approach but more often than not a poor one.”

It is also worth noting that integrating social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to your mobile website is relatively simple, not to mention beneficial, as social share buttons encourage social sharing, allowing people to post your content across social media.

What about mobile apps?

Aside from mobile optimised websites, an online community and a social media presence, apps are part of many estate agencies’ ongoing investment in its digital services.

Given that many mobile phone users personalise their phones with entertainment and social networking apps, it may be worth complimenting your mobile website with an app for your customers to download.

For tenants and landlords, an app allows them to login to their account – a value added service.” Mark Howlett Technology Blueprint

mark-howlett-propco-software“For buyers, landlords and existing tenants, an app may be a good choice: these users have a relationship with your agency, and providing an app which allows them to login to their account would be a real value-added service,” said Mark Howlett of Technology Blueprint.

He added, “Many banking sites use apps and this gives the user confidence that they are in direct contact, and that the data they are viewing is more secure.”

Housing provider Derwent Living, for example, launched a Smartphone app in August 2012, which allows customers easier access to the housing provider’s services. It hit the 1,000 downloads milestone earlier this year.

“From the feedback we’ve had, customers are finding it quick and simple to do everyday things like paying rent and reporting repairs,” said Derwent Living’s Mitch Allseybrook.

ARE YOU LOSING BUSINESS?

There are various projections about what the future may hold for mobile phone websites, but with conservative projections that 2014 will see around half of the overall UK population owning a smartphone, most people agree that demand for mobile websites is likely to rise significantly.

But whatever the future holds, the reality is that mobiles are here today, with many potential clients looking at your website on a mobile device, probably right now. But if your site is not optimised for mobile, you could be losing business, in which case you need to do more to keep your customers engaged, but it’s your call.

Contacts:

  • Estates IT www.estatesit.com
  • Intelligent Mobile www.intelligentmobile.com
  • Resource Techniques www.resourcetechniques.co.uk
  • Rightmove www.Rightmove.co.uk
  • Technicweb www.technicweb.com
  • Technology Blueprint www.technologyblueprint.co.uk
July 2, 2013

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