To app or not to app…

Michael Saunders & Company, the leading brokerage on Florida’s gulf coast, released a mobile web app this week. We covered it greater detail in this week’s Spotlight email newsletter.

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We worked closely with Michael Saunders’ internal team and their developer Aumnia to architect and design a highly usable mobile interface for their real estate search platform.

It was a challenging process, but one that led to a satisfying result. Going native In early discussions around the experience, we debated vigorously the merits of building a native app.

On the upside: native apps (those explicitly written for specific devices) carry a certain cachet. And so far consumers have overwhelmingly embraced them. The big real estate portals –, Trulia and Zillow – have all built them to great success.

However, iOS developers don’t come cheap and timelines are extremely drawn out due to high demand. The recent explosion of Android handsets makes it necessary to build for that platform as well. Blackberries are still used by many, so that platform needs consideration as well.

Staring down the barrel of having to build three native apps was a frightening prospect.

We opted to go web.

The mobile web is delicate Building a mobile website solves one problem. The app is instantly accessible on multiple devices, across multiple platforms. The experience stays consistent regardless of handset or carrier.

The flipside to this openness is that the experience becomes somewhat constrained. There are certain frameworks (jQuery mobile, for example) that exist to bring native-like interaction to a mobile website but even these shortcuts leave much on the table.

Ultimately, It’s an imperfect choice. But in this case, it was the right choice. And the experience, while not as finely wrought as what a native app can deliver, still effectively and elegantly addresses a pressing need. The Michael Saunders & Company experience has been extended and users can get from this app what we know they want: properties – all of them – with as little noise as possible.

It’s great to see forward looking brokers like Michael Saunders & Company embrace the challenges and tough choices around mobile and move forward regardless. Being paralyzed by indecision in the face of massive mobile revolution is far wrose. We hope many more will follow their leadership.

We would love to hear what you think of the app.