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Op/Ed

If your website isn’t mobile friendly, don’t bother

Technology has advanced rapidly and changed consumer behavior, leaving non-mobile friendly sites completely useless.

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responsive sites

Fully 60-70% of consumers access real estate information via mobile. Brokers may be wasting their money driving consumers to conventional non-mobile-friendly websites, no matter how much SEO they do. A 2013 NAR study shows that 68% of consumers already use a mobile device rather than a desktop or laptop computer to look for a new home. As far back as 2012, 61% of consumers on a tablet or phone who visit a website that isn’t mobile friendly leave the site immediately and may never come back.

Only seven out of the 59 popular real estate website solutions I evaluated had mobile offerings that were high-quality enough to appeal to consumers. If your website is not mobile-friendly, it’s time to get a new website.

What is Mobile-Friendly, Really?

A mobile-friendly site looks good on a mobile-sized screen; it may use mobile features such as touchscreen and GPS. Consumers know how to access the site’s features and navigate at a glance. Finally, a mobile site has the same visual and emotional impact as a desktop site.

There are three kinds of mobile friendly sites: responsive, adaptive, and app. 33 out of 59 vendors had mobile solutions. Out of these, 8 were responsive, 19 were adaptive, and 4 had an “app” – a program, not a web site. Two vendors offered both an adaptive solution and an app.

Responsive websites transform your existing website contents to look good on whatever size device you happen to be viewing it on. Graphics shrink, text reflows, and everything fits without becoming too small to see. The user gets the complete site experience, and you only have to maintain one site.

Adaptive websites serve up different content depending on the device with which you access them; they use different templates depending on whether you are on a 4” smartphone, a 5” high-res smartphone, or a 7” tablet. Because of this, content fits a screen more closely than with a responsive site, and the sites are more optimized for mobile performance. You access the mobile site at a different URL – for example, m.mobilerealty.com, where “m” stands for “mobile.” A drawback is that you must maintain two different sites, instead of one as with responsive sites. Combined with running your desktop site, an adaptive site can mean increased initial and ongoing cost and effort.

Apps are installed applications, like every other program on your phone — not websites. The programmer isn’t limited by how a web browser looks and works; rather, she has complete control over the appearance and functionality. The downside to an app is that it has absolutely nothing to do with your website; you have to update each, and updating an app takes a higher and more expensive level of programming than for a website. Finally, you have to get the consumer to download and install the app – an extra decision that stands in the way of the consumer getting to your content.

Quality apps require a high enough development level that they’ve been deployed mostly by nationwide organizations like realtor.com; the big fish dominate what you’ll see at your local app store. Apps for brokers and agents are just starting out. If you’re considering an app instead of a mobile website, consider whether it will have visibility compared to the nationals, whether customers will install it, and whether they will keep it on their phones. Given that consumers often check out multiple agent websites before making first contact, they may not keep all of the agents’ apps around during the decision-making process.

Broker agent apps can be a helpful addition to an existing mobile website; first the website sells the consumer on you, and then the consumer downloads your app, which gives the consumer features like GPS location and mapping, augmented reality, and so on. This one-two strategy – an app complementing a strong adaptive or responsive web presence, will become more popular over time.

What’s Next?

Look at your own website through the eyes of a mobile user. Use your phone and tablet to visit your site. Consider the mobile experience others have on your site using other devices – different Android phones, tablets, iPhones, and iPads. Don’t be shy about enlisting friends and colleagues for assistance, using a device you don’t own to view your site.

  • Does your site look right on the phone or mobile device?
  • Are text and graphics the right size and proportion?
  • Can you read your site without flipping your phone sideways to make the whole site fit?
  • Can you read all the text on your site clearly and without straining?
  • Can you press the buttons and links easily, and navigate between different parts of your site?
  • Is everything you need on the first page that comes up on your phone? If not, is there a “teaser” that makes you scroll downward?
  • Do all the features work properly (i.e., mapping)?
  • Does your site load quickly on the mobile connection?

If your site isn’t giving you a satisfying mobile experience, it may be time for you to consider adding mobile capability to your site.

Matt Cohen has been with Clareity Consulting for over 17 years, consulting for many of the real estate industry’s top Associations, MLSs, franchises, large brokerages and technology companies. Many clients look to Matt for help with system selection and negotiation. Technology providers look to Matt for assistance with product planning, software design, quality assurance, usability, and information security assessments. Matt has spoken at many industry events, has been published as an author in Stefan Swanepoel’s “Trends” report and many other publications, and has been honored by Inman News, being listed as one of the 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders.

Op/Ed

Security of client information is important, so change the process

(EDITORIAL) Too many companies have had security breaches, which is bad enough, but is the process for insuring client information safety too old to secure?

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security too old to function

While it’s clear companies seem to get hacked regularly, the steps taken to keep users safe are a joke. Companies still rely on asking personal questions in an effort to make users feel safe, but those attempts are laughable.

I wasn’t laughing earlier this week as I was setting up a few new accounts.

As anyone knows, creating accounts can be a real pain in the buttocks. But, since I’m kind of a geek, I would sometimes find the humor in choosing and answering my three security questions. (Wondering if I’d remember the answers.)

What band was your first concert?
What was your favorite dog’s name?
Where were your parents married?
What model was your first car?
Who was your childhood bff?

Cool.

I never thought much about the security questions until the last few times when I encountered a few like this:

In which city were you married?

What is the name of your eldest child?

At what time of day was your oldest child born?

How old was your father when you were born?

What?

I felt I had taken a step back in time.

Sure, these questions might be ok, if there were a lot of options, but these were four of the seven provided.

I’m not a super touchy person who gets triggered easily or angered at the drop of a hat. But, these questions made me question this process and its security.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, in this day and age, it’s quite possible you’ve never been married or had a kid. It’s also possible for some folks, they didn’t know their dad. Or, if they do, maybe they don’t want their security question asking how old he was when they were born.

But, the bigger question: Why so very personal? And, from a woman’s perspective, why so presumptive. It made me wonder: are the questions the same for a man or a woman of any age?

I can’t imagine a 22-year-old being asked about the birth of their eldest child. Or, where they were married.

These questions had to be options based on my age and gender.

I chose the questions I could answer like, where was my elementary school located.

But, I didn’t feel safer for answering. Somehow I felt like the company asking them was 1) Prying to gather personal data 2) Not concerned about safety 3) Was sexist.

As many others have argued, it’s time to shut this process down, if only for the fact that it doesn’t make us safer online. This is a practice that should be relegated to the past, just like the presumptive questions being asked.

Seems no matter where you look online, banks, retailers and even medical providers are hacked. Our information is floating in space on the interwebs.

Obviously, security is a top concern. Who wants to sign up for a service only to find out later, “OOPS, our bad, your information was hacked. Here, we will give you free credit monitoring for a month.”

Doesn’t cut it.

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Op/Ed

How we can prepare to slowly start going back into our offices

(EDITORIAL) At some point a supervisor, or manager may tell you to come back into the office. Are you dreading that call? If so, what can you do to prepare for it?

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Office return

Returning to the office is an inevitability for most of us. So how can we prepare to go back to work in a not-yet post-pandemic world?

Harvard Business Review (HBR) has some great feel good ideas about how you can return to the office. According to their article, you should “be a source of joy,” and “stock up on patience.” I’d love to live in a world where our situations allowed endless accommodations, but this is real life and as independent contractors, any broker can cut any agent at any time, so we have to seriously keep up and serve clients despite this chaos.

1. Assess your own risk.

Managers will have to work with every team member to assess their own risk and vulnerability. There’s a lot of unknowns at this point, including how schools will work and whether childcare is available. People who feel more vulnerable because of other health risks may need accommodations. I would like to think that workplaces should help to make accommodations as much as possible, but I realize that for some businesses, that may not be possible. Everyone will have to consider their own situation and advocate for their own needs.

2. Prepare for change.

Humans don’t always adapt to change very well. It’s time to start thinking about how the office will change when you return. You may be more isolated due to distancing protocols. There may be schedule changes to prevent too many people in the building at one time. The office may feel unfamiliar for quite some time, which is understandable. You may also find yourself responsible for cleaning your space more often. Expect to have many different emotions as you go through the next few months.

3. Realize that there are things out of your control

Returning to the office is going to be a transition. Focus on what you can control. Manage your stress. In an ideal world, your work would be proactive and provide honest responses to your concerns, but we all know those jobs are few and far between. Don’t expect the problems you had in your job pre-COVID to change. You’re just going to have to adapt to a post-COVID work environment. Only you can measure whether the benefits of your job outweigh the problems. Realize that there are many forces that you can’t change. Your broker or manager may not even be in control of some of those forces and has to adapt the same as you.

4. It’s not your place to change your company’s culture (unless you’re the broker)

HBR asks, “What part will you play in making (the transition back to the office) mean something extraordinary?” I’d like to posit that the transition back to the office doesn’t need to be anything special. It’s just part of the normal routine. Instead, I’d ask, “how can you deal with change while protecting your health and your family?” If your company is putting profits ahead of people, maybe it’s time to polish off that resume and look for a place with some decency.

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Op/Ed

Your career depends on you, and the mentors you select

(EDITORIAL) Moving up in your career can be dependent on your drive to be better, but improving does depend on who you choose to teach you

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career mentor

Remember when you were younger and were encouraged to join extra-curricular activities because they would “look good to colleges”? What if the same were true for your career?

While applying to a university may be a thing of the past for you, there are still benefits to having extra-curricular activities that have to do with your career. Networking is a major piece of this, as is finding mentors who will help point you in the right direction.

These out-of-office organizations or clubs differ for every industry, so for the sake of this article, I will use one example that you can then interpret and tailor towards your own career.

The Past President of the national Federal Bar Association, Maria Z. Vathis, is someone who has taken the extra-curricular route throughout her entire career, and it has paid off immensely. Working as an attorney in Chicago, Vathis joined the FBA shortly after beginning her legal career and now is the Past President of the almost 100-year old organization.

She started working her way up the ladder of the Chicago Chapter of the association, and eventually became the president of that chapter. At the same time, she was also becoming involved in the Hellenic Bar Association, and would eventually become national president of that organization, as well.

“Through these organizations, I was fortunate to find mentors and lifelong friends. I was also lucky enough to mentor others and to have opportunities to give back to the community through various outreach projects,” said Vathis. “As a young attorney, it was priceless to gain exposure to successful attorneys and judges and to observe how they conducted themselves. Those judges and attorneys were my role models – whether they knew it or not. I learned how to be a professional and how to work with different personality types through my bar association work.”

Finding people in your industry – not just in your office – can be of great help as you go through the journey of your career. They can help you in the event of a job switch, help collaborate on volunteer-based projects, and help collaborate on career-advancing projects (like writing a book, for example).

And all strong networks often start with the help of a mentor – someone who has once been in your shows and can help you handle the ropes of your new career. Most importantly, they’re someone who you can seek advice from when you’re faced with someone challenging – either good or bad.

“I have been unbelievably fortunate with my mentors, and I cherish those relationships. They are good people, and they have changed my life in positive ways. I still draw on what they taught me to help make important decisions,” said Vathis. “My career success is due in large part to the fact that my mentors took an interest in my career, had faith in my abilities, and supported me while I held various positions in the organizations. Not only is it important to continue having mentors throughout your career, but it is important to recognize that mentors come in all shapes and sizes. You never know who you will learn something from, so it’s important to remain open. Also, after you become seasoned, it is important to give back by mentoring others.”

When asked why it’s important to be part of organizations outside of the office, Vathis explained, “To build a book of business, you need to be visible to others.” She also stresses the importance of putting yourself out there for new affiliations and challenges, because you never know where it may lead.

If you’re unsure of how to start this process, try asking co-workers and other people in your professional life if they have any advice or recommendations of organizations that can help advance your career. Another simple way is to Google “networking events in my area” and see what speaks to you. In addition, never be afraid to reach out to someone with a bit more experience for some advice. Take them out to coffee and pick their brain – you never know what you may learn.

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