Our aim with Homeflow Mobile, in common with our approach to all our products, is to build better solutions.
That means better usability, faster speed, simpler / cleaner design, better thinking, and more powerful functionality. Wherever you look, our focus is always on higher quality. And whilst the end result is super simple looking and easy to use (that being half the point), there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes to bring that quality difference into action. And it’s important stuff. A better quality solution will be used 2 or 3 times more than a lower quality one, and that translates directly into the volume of enquiries you get – which, if you play your cards right, translates into instructions.
So, here we go, doing mobile better…
We’re going to cover lots of detailed (and some really quite advanced) features in this full round up. But everything should start with the basics. Without nailing a really impressive looking, branded, clean, simple environment, that works seamlessly with your existing site, whoever built it, no amount of powerful functionality matters.
(1) Impressive design
You know that first impressions count, especially with vendors, and your mobile site is no exception. So, with Homeflow Mobile you we can customise the colours and fonts to match your brand seamlessly. We can add your logos, change background colours, change menus, add icons, images. In fact the system offers you full control over the CSS, so with a bit of work we (or you) can have the site looking exactly how you want it.
(2) Optimised for thumbs
Mobile sites need to be significantly different from desktop websites, as users are typically navigating with a thumb not a mouse. We’ve focused on the usability – through extensive user testing – to ensure it works nicely and reduces the experience to be ultra-simple.
(3) Fast contact info
Given that the second biggest use case of mobile is simply getting a phone number in a hurry on the move, you need to be able to get to contact details in no more than one click. Homeflow mobile sites can be set up to do that, whether you’re a one branch independent, or a 30 branch network in need of branch selection first.
(4) Works with your existing site
One of the most common questions we get is whether this will work with your existing site. The answer is always yes. All you need to do is ask your web developers to add one line of code, anywhere within the web page. Once we’ve got the site all configured and ready for you, it normally takes no more than 10 minutes to go live. So long as your existing desktop site has clean, identifiable property detail URLs (which is the case for most agent sites) we’ll be able to get two way redirection working too, all from our side.
Flexible Ongoing Control
Homeflow Mobile Sites have a very flexible admin system, enabling you to change the look, or create additional content, and change menus as you require. You can do this before going live, or at any time thereafter. See more below…
(4) Navigation management
With a simple drag and drop, WYSIWYG style editor, you can add, change, switch the order, or remove any items from your navigation, at any time. Special promotion for vendors this month? No problem, add it in. New branch opening? Promote it. No charges. No need to even call us. Though if you need a hand our support team are on hand to help you, at any time, as much as you want.
(5) Content management
Articles need to be different on your mobile website. One of the advantages of a dedicated mobile solution over responsive design (which has other advantages), is that you have complete control to write shorter, and specific articles, dedicated for reading on a mobile only. That might be easy driving directions to your office. Or a help guide to your mobile site. Or it could be a shorter vendor guides with simple click-to-call buttons, to help trap more instructions, more effectively.
Like it or loath it, usage of your mobile site is disproportionately weighted to applicants, not vendors and landlords. And the main entry point for those applicants is email alerts. The third most common entry point is also general search (either looking for a specific property from the street, or killing time on their search in general). Mobile has always been a bit of an awkward experience. But it’s crossing the chasm into mainstream usage right now, as connections get ever more pervasive, and phones are becoming full on properly usable browsing devices. So, we’ve gone all out to create a genuinely usable search experience, which flips your mobile site from being a simple adaption, into a genuinely useful tool. Here’s what goes into the guts of making that experience better.
(6) App like behaviour
Our mobile sites are fast and specifically designed to feel like an “app” – which means a series of glitzy feel-good features like swiping photos, list-memory, get more results, last visited, and get-current-location (all explained in more detail below), and an ability to work whilst “only calling data”, not whole page loads, which makes a world of difference.
(7) Get current location
Modern smartphones all have GPS location capability built in. We make it easy for people to stand right outside a property, click one button, and find the details of the house, to get a quick look up on price, or to check the interior photos. And from there it’s one click to call, with call recording built in too. That’s takes care of the third most common use case of mobile nicely.
(8) Remember position in list
One of the advantages of building the site as a true application, rather than the page-by-page model of the first generation of mobile websites, is that we can build in some clever interaction logic between pages. So when you click back to the results, having dipped into an individual property, our applications will load the results instantly (they’re still in memory, no page loads remember), but then instigate “soft-scroll” gently zooming the user down to where they were last down to in reading the results list.
(9) Last visited / Visited
A mobile site is fiddly enough, so we’ve focused on making the usability just a little bit nicer, using tiny labels to mark which properties you’ve visited, and which one you last visited. Nobody is going to buy a house with you as a result of this feature, but the addition of this kind of insane attention to detail across the whole application is what really makes you stand out. It’s a level of overall polish, that comes together in concert, and sets your brand apart, above your competitors in a sub-conscious kind of way. Be better.
(10) Load more results / infinite scroll
When you get to the bottom of the first list of results, you might want more, but you definitely don’t want a whole new page load (that’s slow in the signal coverage of the average golf course in the UK). Homeflow sites, present a simple “More results” button, and clicking that loads only data, not a whole new page. You’re househunter will have browsed down through 30 properties, before their golf partner is even out of the rough.
(11) Powerful Filtering
Homeflow sites offer simple one click access to filter your results from any page of search results. You can flip between true polygon search, and centre-point and radius. You can change your radius and filter for beds, prices. This keeps the basic search forms super clean and simple. And that has the advantage of engaging your users in some of the more aspirational properties, before they settle down into their more rigid search criteria, where they won’t get as much choice – which gives you the advantage of setting a strong first impression.
Besides regular list based search results, it is now possible to make mobile mapping work really nicely on a mobile phone. We even offer functionality similar to map results presentation in Rightmove’s native app (which seems to be the best implementation in the UK at the moment), but we do it via the browser not in a native application obviously! That means users can search on a map, pan, zoom and swipe through properties at the bottom of a page really simply.
Ask our sales team to set you up a free demonstration site for your agency so you can try yours first hand.
(13) Polygon search / Mongo results
All of our search results benefit from the same power of our true polygon based search engine as our desktop sites, rather than the tired old centre-point and radius method (which we also offer). They also benefit from serving the results sets from our Mongo DB cluster – in plain English – you get blazing fast response times. Given mobile sites already suffer the speed disadvantage of very narrowband connections when not in a 3G coverage area, you need to deploy every advantage you can to get really fast results, as ironically mobile phone users are by their very nature more impatient, and sometimes on the move.
Why should mobile search be a second class citizen? Demand better
Once you get the user down into the details. And remember, many of them will be entering here direct from emails (I think we laboured this enough, right?) it’s all about converting them into making an enquiry. To do that you want to give them clean photos, floorplans, descriptions, branch details. Nice mapping, streetview even for a little extra pizazz. And most importantly you’re going to want extremely clear, nice big action buttons, click to call (counted and recorded ideally), and email (all logged into CRM, so you can give a nice branded auto-response email too).
(14) Photo swiping and general cleverness
Homeflow mobile sites allow easy thumb swiping between property images. It’s so natural, as your thumb falls naturally over the main image. What’s more we intelligently load “retina ready” high res photos for iPhone 5 users. And to optimise for speed, we’ll wait till the page has fully loaded (remember we’re only calling data) and then we’ll start loading the next 3 images in the background ready. If you swipe right a couple, the in page application will set about it’s work loading images 4 and 5 ahead of you. Unless you go crazy swiping, you’ll get the general feeling of a super responsive native app, without all the baggage associated with that approach.
Oh, and for bonus points: when you look at your demo site, flip your phone onto it’s side, if you have phone rotation set (as most iPhones and Androids will) we pop a full screen landscape photo gallery to swipe through.
(15) Save properties
Now that users are enjoying the search experience (given all the effort that’s gone into making it better than the average mobile experience), they’re going to want to stick around and actually start using it. It moves from being a novelty, into a useful tool, which of course creates an experience which helps define your brand and let’s you standout above the rest. And if it’s going to be a tool, then you’re going to want to allow users to bookmark properties, just like they do on desktop. And you’ll want to be able to sync that back to your CRM and main desktop website (which you can do if you’re using Homeflow for desktop too).
Google Streetview works a treat on phones these days. It adds real sizzle to your site, giving memorable bragging rights in a quick vendor demo. We’ve integrated it right into the mapping function of the property details pages, with a nice obvious toggle button to flip between the views neatly.
(17) Beautiful lead emails
Don’t stop at a nice mobile experience whilst the user is on your site. Homeflow mobile will generate beautiful emails, to users behind the scenes. When they make enquiries, we’ll send them an HTML email, all branded with your logo and colours, including similar properties from your books, and staff profiles. We’ll also track all the enquiries in an admin dashboard for you. Just as we do on desktop. Mobile doesn’t stop at mobile, it goes deep behind the scenes too, and everyone forgets how important that email integration is for your brand experience.
(18) Click-to-call / Records all calls
Mobile sites generate more phone calls than desktop sites (obviously, it is a phone after all!). Homeflow sites have click to call buttons, right where your thumb falls on the screen on a property details page. We also (optionally) allow you to count, track, record and playback all calls. Great for training. Great for stacking up information on applicants to review.
(19) All leads to CRM
With such a fast, simple, usable experience, applicants will actually use your site. It moves beyond a novelty, covering strategy, and becomes a working tool. Your pages / session jump up. And hence your enquiry volumes jump too (many of our clients get a higher volume of leads, once you include calls, from their mobile site than from their desktop site). Given all that, you’re going to want to deduplicate all the enquiries and stack them up into a single view of an applicant. We’ll email you all the enquiries, and we’ll email you links to play back your call recordings, but we’ll also assemble a single view of your applicants, aggregating all the phone calls, and all their emails, staff enquiries or branch enquiries. (If you use Homeflow for desktop, we’ll do that in one big unified view too). And depending on who you use for your software, we may well be able to pump that data back into your back office software system as a unified view too.
Here are a few of the differences that take us higher. Some of these are more technical, but they’re arguably some of the most important differences…
(20) Blazing fast speed
As you know, speed is utterly vital on a desktop site, but it’s doubly so on important mobile. The only way to really achieve this in spades is to use a “mobile web-app” – which combines the best bits of a mobile website, and a “native app”. If that sounds like double dutch, we’ve written a handy guide to explain the different approaches. All you really need to know is that we’ve gone to extraordinary lengths using specialist databases like Mongo DB, advanced caching, intelligent preloading of results an images, HTML page optimisation, and enterprise grade hosting to focus on delivering a faster experience for your users.
Going faster is the twin sister of being better.
(21) View desktop site
If you’ve done a good job adapting your site content and menus for a more impatient mobile audience, there will be some deeper content that only resides on your desktop site. And just occaisionally someone is going to want to go and find something specific they’ve seen before on your desktop site. Our one line of code to integrate your mobile solution allows for all of that exactly the same way the Rightmove mobile site does. You can toggling back to desktop view for specific content, and stick there, until you click on the clear but unobtrusive, black “return to mobile site” bar we insert above your site automatically whilst they are toggled to desktop mode. Just a little bit of polish.
(22) Intelligent two way redirection
With a surprising 43% of emails being processed on a mobile, your property email alerts are likely to be the biggest driver of usage of your mobile site. Having a mobile site that is properly integrated with your main website, “redirecting” them correctly into the specific property on mobile (rather than just dumping them back at the front door of the mobile site) is vital. Many first generation estate agent mobile sites fail at this hurdle, rendering them almost worse than no mobile site at all. But the “reverse redirect” is equally important. If I’m looking at a property on my phone, and I send that house to my wife, then she’ll quite likely be looking on her desktop computer. Many mobile sites then open up in mobile mode full screen on a desktop computer which looks terrible, rather than “redirecting” the user to the correct property back on the desktop site.
(23) Cross platform
We test the platform and optimise it to work well on: iPhone 4 and 5, Android (all major versions) and Windows phones (this even included building a whole basic fall back site on a page-by-page model, for the really old windows phones for one of our 20 branch clients, ugh).
(24) Pre caching – less page loads / Call only data
Video works surprisingly well on mobile these days – assuming you have a 3G connection, which is getting relatively widespread now, (and obviously when in the living room on the couch, bathed in beautiful wifi coverage). We say surprising, as we didn’t believe it would work, until one of our clients, who had invested properly in video, pushed us into including video capability in the mobile content management engine. Sure enough it worked a treat, so we built it into the main content management engine. So, if you’re doing video nicely, then you may well want to include it on mobile. Why not?
(26) Branch pages
We have them.
(27) Staff profiles
We have them too. All synchronised with your desktop website and Homeflow portal, staff profiles. And given it’s a people business, we can display your branch team, on your branch pages, and on the contact details pages of all your properties too. Just like on desktop, this increases your conversion efficiency to enquiries.
(28) Social media
We can integrate your social media into your navigation, your footer, and your content.
Working with Homeflow
(29) Friendly support
You’re busy selling and letting properties. So we’re here to support you. Just pop us an email, or pick up the phone anytime, and we’ll help you add articles, change menus, explain how something works. We aim to support our products with the same approach to quality as we use when building them.
(30) Ongoing Evolution
The web is constantly evolving. And no more so in the arena of mobile, which is younger and changing very quickly at the moment. In many ways, mobile is the wild west frontier of the web right now. So, just as with our desktop sites, we don’t build it and leave it. You’re licencing a product which is constantly evolving. If you joined our mobile programme when it started a couple of years ago, you wouldn’t have enjoyed call recording, or streetview, or map search, or account sychronisation. Nor even polygon search. Yet every single one of our clients gets these additions as they come along. If you opt to get in the flow, the site you buy today will likely be twice as good in two years’ time.
(31) Ready immediately
There is no delay in creating or launching your mobile site. There are no launch fees, and no lengthy submissions to an app store for approval. In many cases, we have launched a Homeflow Mobile Site for an agency the same day we have spoken to the agent about it for the very first time.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get you a free demo site built.