4 web must-do’s for 2012

2011 was a big year. 2012 will surely be as exciting. As quickly as things change in technology, one thing’s for sure – they will keep changing. Here’s a few web trends that we think you ought to keep an eye on over the next twelve months:

1. Think mobile first

This week website monitoring company Royal Pingdom laid out a comprehensive view of the mobile web in numbers. One of the more staggering statistics: Cisco estimates that by 2015 mobile data traffic will grow by a factor of 26 and during that timeframe more than 5.6 billion devices will be connected to mobile networks.

We’re rocketing towards a world where a mobile device may be the only way people connect to the Web (especially in the developing world) and where the increase in the number of mobile form factors (smartphones, tablets) creates an ever expanding corps of new opportunities for website owners to present their brands to consumers.

We’re quickly moving to a place where mobile access will be a primary requirement for any brand. For companies contemplating their web presence in 2012, designing mobile first will become the norm.

2. Consider new platforms

In 2011, the Blackberry Playbook faceplanted and we’ve seen no real pure Android device emerge as a market contender. Right now, there really is no “tablet market” other than the iPad market.

By the end of 2012, however, I think this will start to change. Android forks like the Kindle Fire are selling well and will surely continue to improve over the coming months. By the end of next year, we’ll start to see the first Windows 8 tablets coming to market with the new “Metro” UI.

The real estate portals have been quick to embrace each of these new platforms, releasing a slew of apps for each. Brokers and franchisors – out of necessity – need to move a little slower, but should be looking 12 to 18 months down the road and planning their development efforts accordingly.

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think it’s safe to say that both Microsoft and Amazon are two companies that you can’t afford to ignore in this space.

3. Embrace HTML5/Responsive Web Design

One thing we know for sure is that all these new devices require distinct experiences. What works for a mouse and pointer on a desktop doesn’t necessarily work for a fat finger on a tablet. In 2012, brokers and franchisors will need to start accommodating this diversity as a matter of standard operating proceedure.

The debate over native apps versus web apps isn’t likely to die down next year. But as the mobile web steadily rolls over to greater support of HTML5, we may see the need to go native (and thereby support multiple native software environments) become less pressing.

HTML5 gives us the ability to offer native-like interactions within the context of the browser. Accordingly, I think we’re going to see more and more real estate websites designed with app-like sensibilities.

I also think we’re going to see a wider adoption of responsive web design, where websites are designed out of the gate to support and resize to multiple browser sizes (mobile, tablet, desktop). This is definitely an area we are spending a lot of our time on researching and evaluating for our clients.

4. Go simple

A trend toward simplicity has been underway subtly throughout technology over the last couple of years, from Google’s recent UI refresh to the overall Apple-fication of everything.

Technology, including the web, has always been pretty dense to navigate. It’s long been the domain of the geek and the IT department. And real estate websites are no different.

Case in point? It seems like, over the last few years, there has been a race to jam as much information as possible on a listing display page. Listing data led to the addition of sold data which led to historical market data which led to community data. And on and on. Then we added social widgets, chiclets, flags and all kinds of other shiny distractions.

The result? A typical listing display page is so loaded with information it’s sometimes hard to even find the price of the property.

It’s time to strip all that away – to focus on simplicity, speed and overall ease of use. The first three trends are what’s driving this need. Where we end up is, hopefully, a place that is much more consumer friendly.

What’s on your radar?