Shifts in mobile technology are driving fundamental changes in terms of how real estate will be conducted in the future. What can you do as an individual agent to be prepared to cope with this onslaught of change?

At Real Estate Connect last month, Brian Boero, partner at 1000Watt Consulting, likened where we are with mobile to where the Web was in 1997. We’re aware of it as a tool. We know the impact it will have on our business will be huge, even though very few people have figured out how to integrate mobile into their marketing strategy. In fact, 23 percent of the traffic to brokerage sites originates on a mobile device.

Although most brokerages have a website, very few have optimized their sites for maximum functionality on mobile devices.

If you have your own website and want to provide a great mobile experience to potential clients, take the following steps to make your website more mobile-friendly.

1. How does your current website stack up?
According to Google, “80 percent of customers abandon a mobile site if they have a bad user experience.” To avoid having this happen to you, Google has created an initiative called HowtoGoMo.com. Plug in your website address to see how well your website or blog displays on mobile devices.

The next step in evaluating your website is to answer the following questions from the HowtoGoMo.com site:

“1. Do you see broken images or missing content?

2. Can you read the text without zooming or scrolling side to side?

3. Can links and buttons be clicked with a thumb?

4. Are navigation buttons obvious?

5. Is search functionality easily accessible?”

2. Your old website model will bomb on mobile
Although almost all of the current research suggests that making people register on your website to access MLS information is a poor idea, many agents and brokerages cling to this outdated approach.

When it comes to creating an effective mobile website for your business, the first step is to determine exactly what your mobile users want when they visit your site. Make it easy to find and simple to use.

Paragraph after paragraph of content, slow-loading Flash applications, or large pictures on the top of your home page simply don’t work well on mobile devices. Furthermore, requiring passwords or sign-ins will also cause you to lose Web visitors. This is one of the reasons that apps are so popular: They take the user right to what he wants with no hassle.

3. Make your design simple and elegant
For example, I recently visited a luxury real estate website where it took six clicks on my iPhone to get to where I could view properties. In contrast, a well-designed mobile site would have a “Search for Listings” button at the top of the page that would take me right into the search function.

4. Get on the dot-mobi bus
As an individual agent, you probably don’t have the resources to design your own mobile app. What you can do, however, is to reserve your website with either a dot-mobi address or with your current Web address plus some reference to mobile. For example: ABCRealEstate.mobi or ABCRealEstate.com/mobile.

Register the domain with GoDaddy.com or another accredited domain-name registrar. In the case where you have a dot-mobi site, you can build a simple home page with the primary links.

If you don’t want to pay for a separate domain page, you can have your Web designer set this page up as a back page on your main website. When a mobile user clicks on a mobile Web address, it takes the user to a page optimized for mobile. The only issue with this approach is that most people will enter the dot-com address and end up on the main page of your website rather than the page optimized for mobile.

Once you have reserved the name, decide on the four most important features that you want your mobile website to include. In most cases it will be, “Search for Listings,” “Recent Sales,” “Community and School Information,” and your contact information. Each of these buttons should take your mobile visitor directly to the function in a single click.

For example, if someone clicks on “Search for Listings,” it should take them directly to your MLS IDX feed.

5. Be clear about your “why”
The most important element of your design will be determined by your purpose for creating a mobile website in the first place. Exactly what is your goal? Do you want the site to generate phone calls? If so, determine what makes your current website users contact you by phone. Make this feature a prime focus for your mobile site. Furthermore, if your goal is to generate phone calls, you will need your phone number set up on your site where it allows a smartphone user to tap on the number and dial your phone.

6. Quick fix for your current website
If all of this sounds too overwhelming, here’s a quick fix for your current website: Display the top four features that mobile users of your site would search at the top of your current page in large, clear font with big buttons. For the balance of your site, use headlines and bullets to keep your users engaged.

Mobile is here to stay; the sooner you address this issue, the greater advantage you will have against your competitors who will be stuck trying to figure out where their business went.

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