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3 mobile mistakes to avoid

Some real estate brokerages still making these strategic blunders

Real Estate Connect is always a whirlwind and a fantastic event jam-packed with content, conversation and inspiration. Last week in New York City, I had the pleasure to participate on a technology-focused panel moderated by Brian Boero, co-founder of 1000watt Consulting.

The panel was entitled "How 4 brokerage technologists buy, build or license their way to digital innovation." It was an intriguing conversation that examined a variety of topics such as mobile, cloud computing and software development. We even explored the concept of merging marketing and technology departments, which is a positive trend unfolding in the real estate industry these days.

However, there was one question and topic that truly resonated with me: "What technology mistakes do you hope your competitors keep making in 2013?"

My answer, of course, was mobile and the strategic mistakes that many brokers inadvertently make. I continued to ponder the question for the remainder of the conference and even on the train ride back home.

Delivering a killer mobile experience is critical. Consumers expect the mobile experience to be as good if not better than the traditional desktop experience. Let’s take a look at three basic mobile mistakes and how to avoid them:

1. Adobe Flash

I know it is 2013 and this seems like a no-brainer. However, you would be surprised at how often I still see Adobe Flash embedded in real estate-related websites. Adobe no longer develops the Flash player for mobile and has shifted its focus to HTML5. Real estate professionals should do the same.

As Danny Winokur, vice president and general manager of interactive development at Adobe, said back in November 2011, "HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively. This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms."

2. No mobile-friendly website

Should I develop a native app or a Web app first? This question was posed to the panel that I participated in at Connect and is the most popular question that I get from Realtors contemplating an optimized mobile strategy for their business. My answer is always the same. A business should have a mobile-friendly website (a "Web app") first and foremost.

What are the difference between a native app and a Web app? As I wrote in "The future of mobile apps and the mobile Web," A native app is developed in a specific programming language (Java for Android and ObjectiveC for iOS), is typically downloaded from a marketplace such as the Apple App Store, and runs on the device’s processor.

A Web app can be created using HTML5 and CSS3 and is accessed through the mobile device’s preinstalled Web browser.

Native apps are elegant, streamlined and have sparked the mobile revolution. However, every real estate brokerage should have an optimized mobile version of its website.

Visit GoMo, a helpful resource created by Google, to mobilize your website and implement best mobile practices.

3. Unsynchronized responsive design

I’ve been discussing the benefits of responsive Web design for quite some time. If you’re not familiar with the technique, it is one fluid design that adapts to the user’s screen size. Responsive Web design has captured the imagination of designers, developers and publishers. Pete Cashmore, CEO and founder of Mashable, has declared 2013 the year of responsive Web design.

However, if your organization is planning on incorporating a responsive Web design, a holistic approach is needed. Synchronizing or streamlining the responsive design with native apps is critical to the user experience. Features such as property alerts and favorites should be harmoniously integrated for the user on whichever device is being utilized.

Brokers should focus on the consumer experience. Delivering cross-platform applications and content that is streamlined across the mobile experience will differentiate your brand from the competition.

Tom Flanagan is the director of information technology at Residential Properties Ltd. in Providence, R.I. You can contact him at or @tflan on Twitter.

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