1000watt Blog

Writings about real estate, branding, marketing, media and technology from the principals of 1000watt.

Responsive web design is the future of real estate online

We’ve had many discussions with clients over the last 18 months about the impact mobile computing is making on their digital marketing.

We’ve covered it in-depth on this blog too: here and here.

Bottom line? Computing as we know it is undergoing a radical transformation. The PC is increasingly sitting tethered to a desk at work, and most of us consume information everywhere else on smaller, perpetually connected devices.

Real estate is clearly responding this shift. As more and more people experience online real estate on mobile devices, the challenge is how to present an experience to these visitors that is truly optimized for them?

We’re bullish on the mobile web for many reasons. App stores are cacophonous, while the browser remains ubiquitous. And new frameworks allow us to approximate the rich interactions we love in native apps.

This week, the Boston Globe showed us just how far you can take this idea.

Take a moment and visit www.bostonglobe.com - we’ll wait for you. Oh, and while you’re there, make sure you resize your browser window.

(The site is free for September – thanks to Coldwell Banker. Kudos!)

See what I’m talking about?

As your window is resized, the Globe’s content gets automatically refitted into three layouts, immediately giving you discrete yet optimized PC, tablet and mobile views.

This type of responsive web design really demonstrates the future of content display on the web.

Here, there is no need for a “mobile” version of your site (one that’s usually hosted on a separate subdomain). There’s also no need for iPhone or Android apps, either.

The site is clean and user-friendly no matter what device is being used to access it.

How many real estate websites can make that claim right now?

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15 Responses to “Responsive web design is the future of real estate online”

  1. kevinkaplan says:

    Good info Joel. Many brokers are struggling with mobile web vs apps, or both. I have been trying to see how this will play out, and your post gives me a little better glimpse directionally.

    • Marc says:

      REALLY? The designs are completely different (not that this even matters). The point of this post is about the future of content display, usability and browser optimization. I’m almost tempted to list 20 other similar sites to prove a different point – where companies are taking the Web and where real estate early adapters might chose to go.

    • Marc says:

      Actually, your point raises an interesting footnote about consistency in UI that is worth talking about. So glad you brought it up.

      Vendors have historically offered brokers and agent template sites with different themes that include placing the navigation in assorted places. Some horizontal. Some vertical. Some across the right, some across the left. Some in the header some far below the header close to the fold.

      This practice flies in the face of what designers and architects learn about where the perfect place is to for important elements that will maximize the users experience.

      Consider the automobile where, regardless of the make and model, class, or type, the dashboard (gauges and things) are identically positioned. Steering wheels are all in the same place. Gas pedal. Brake. Glove box. Gas tank. After 100 years of manufacturing, auto makers know these are the perfect places for these elements. What makes them each different are the brand elements – materials, design, colors, etc.

      This applies to Web UI. We are going to continue to see greater stabilization and consistency in things like headers, footers, navigation, and specifically search elements as site owners stop playing around or experimenting with these elements and begin complying to what they know works best for the user.

      The impact here for real estate sites is pretty profound and the secret for creating distinctions within the realm of common elements will be unique technologies and brand elements.

      Don’t mean to hijack Joel’s post but you lobbed a softball right into my sweet spot. :)

  2. AgentSteph says:

    What a timely topic. We were JUST talking about this in our WP MeetUp group this week. We have a local guy working on a template that should release on StudioPress soon. Have a look:

  3. Tom @c21tc says:

    Joel – you are right on. Sites need to have the same feel across all devices, but take advantage of each type of device’s strengths, i.e. iPad, iPhone, etc.

    I was in an Apple store recently horsing around with one of their iMacs and its ginormous flatscreen. To my surprise (and relief), my website’s search desktop filled the entire screen with property search results and mapping. The ‘wow’ factor was something I didn’t expect.

    I also found out I need to go to the Apple store more often.

  4. New Homes says:


    I love this post.

    How would something like this work if there was flash on the page? Would the smaller layouts that are triggered ommit the flash content?

    New Homes

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