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The Rise Of The SmartPhones From 2011 to 2016

Published: 31/10/2016
By: larry

riseofsmartphonesThere is a trend going on that many professionals with a web presence don't understand. I've just started to get my head around it in the last few weeks. Here's what it going on:

  1. Mobile device (SmartPhones and Tablets) usage on the Internet is rapidly increasing.
  2. Desktop/laptop usage is decreasing.
  3. In real estate related professions SmartPhone usage is about three times higher than tablets. This was a huge surprise to me. This is probably because all SmartPhones are cellular connected and have been getting bigger in recent years.

I see this trend in PFRE blog statistics:

  1. In January of 2011, there were only 1558 mobile sessions on PFRE but in January of 2016, there were 17,847 mobile sessions. 11.5 times increase.
  2. In the last 30 days Google Analytics shows the following breakdown of PFRE sessions:
    • Desktop: 65.87%
    • SmartPhone: 25.86% <--- This one is a surprise to me!
    • Tablet: 8.27%

What is more, I would argue that real estate agents have far less reason to use desktops and laptops than real estate photographers. I see this directly while spending time with agents in the last few years. They all used SmartPhones or cellular connected tablets. Agents spend less time sitting at a desk than real estate photographers. I predict that that within a few years desktops and laptops will be in the minority. Google claims that right now only 14% of people only use a desktop device.

The key message of this trend towards mobile devices is you MUST design your websites to work well for both mobile and laptop devices! And the emphasis should be on SmartPhones.

Just a couple of weeks ago a PFRE reader proudly pointed out his newly developed real estate website to me but I sadly had to tell him that it worked on my iPhone and iPad Pro but it didn't look good. The images were being cropped off of both sides.

Yes, and by the way, I'm working already to redesign the PFRE blog so that it works better for all you mobile device users. The PFRE blog currently works with mobile devices but it could be much better! You can test any website for mobile friendliness with Google's mobile-friendly test. This test says PFRE is not mobile friendly so we are working to fix that!

6 comments on “The Rise Of The SmartPhones From 2011 to 2016”

  1. Most of my RE clients use laptops or desktops when in the office. But as you say they are not in the office that much so then use their phones. I always know when they are responding to email from their phones because they only answer one of multiple questions. Too much trouble one or two finger typing. They could just use their phone as a hot spot for their tablet but probably don't know how to do that.

    Many or even most don't bother to keep their websites up to date. They have to pay someone to do it for them. That means they would constantly have to send emails to the web designer with all the information and photos necessary which they can't do with their cell phones. Too much time and trouble. Easier just to text the URL of the virtual tours with Tourbuzz I send them. Copy paste.

    And none of them have websites that work on mobile devices. I moved over to for my own site almost a year ago for exactly this reason; they have an auto redesign to reshape the site to fit on a cell phone but you still have to view the site on the phone/tablet editor and play with the images and text blocks a bit to get it to look OK. That reminds me. The drag and drop home page slide show widget looks fine on everything but a cell phone. I have to remember to change it on top of everything else I have to remember to do.

    And we and our clients have to remember that it is more than likely that both sellers and buyers will be looking at the property sites on their cell phones so our images with be postage stamp sized. Do they all look good at that size. Do we need to provide some close ups into the mix?

    We live in an interesting time where for many years now consumer designed devices have taken over from devices designed for business. So business is having to reconfigure how their employees work flow works. For some years, their young employees arrive for work with a work flow designed around 24/7 access working from anywhere but from their work place. Makes for a very flexible mind set but imagine the nightmare it makes for the security guys in IT who have to make sure Hillary's . . . opps . . . their employees emails and texts that contain confidential information is secured against unintentional leaking.

    Probably not such a concern in our business but how then do agents and realtors keep track of their text content, their email content and their computer stored data for any one property? Perhaps a Journal App like Evernote? But that still means copy/paste from one app into it. On the other hand they/we can store everything there from text to photos, from floor plans to PDFs and access it from their/our cell phone, tablet and computer. These new devices can quickly make life complicated. So perhaps there are solutions to tie all the communication channels into one storage center where all data can be kept in one easily accessible data file whether we are in the office or in the field.

  2. Great topic!

    Most of today's photography based websites (zenfolio, photo shelter, etc.) include mobile. Weebly does as well, I haven't used WIX and haven't used WordPress in years but I'm sure many of their templates do as well. Another consideration is your email platform. I use Mailchimp for a couple of nonprofits I work with and they are also mobile enabled. If you send out newsletters or flyers, you'll want to make sure those display well on mobile devices.

  3. I build and manage 6 sites for realtors and builders and many others but the ones important to this discussion are for those builders and realtors. Larry is right when he says traffic to PFRE would be biased toward Desktop/Laptop platforms. We are photographers and use those devices. We are driven by convenience. We are at our desktops when checking mail and working. Sellers, buyers and agents are not. They are on their phones.

    I gather statistics all the time as well as tune SEO on those sites. I can tell you that a full 2/3 of the views come from mobile devices and the other 1/3 come from desktop/tablets. Why this has happened is interesting. 2 years ago phones were on average 1 year old. Networks were not fully built out to deliver LTE speeds everywhere and where they were most phones were not capable of using it. Then to top that off most sites like Zillow, Realtor dot com, Major Agency sites (Coldwell Remax etc) were not focused an mobile users.

    The following transformation of infrastructure has taken place:
    1) LTE speeds and service are now available to over 90% of the US locations
    2) The average phone now in the hands of users is capable of utilizing the LTE network and the processors are capable of processing the multi threaded operations required to display these sites.
    3) Data centers have moved to next gen hardware, backbones and SW to service cloud delivery of data.
    4) Zillow has now become the defacto go to service for anyone looking for homes. They have displaced any and all agency sites. "No one" looks for homes on realtor sites anymore.
    5) Zillow transformed their delivery to take advantage of all infrastructure improvements that support the mobile experience and they did it right.

    This all happened in the past 24 months, the way people "look" for homes has reached a tipping point.

    Now what does this have to do with us as RE photographers? Let me tell you because I tend to talk a lot, think a lot, obsess a lot and tinker with my work flow and images a lot.

    If it don't look good on da phone it ain't good! I dumbed it down a bit to reach the typical mental state a phone user is in during their phone sessions. Get to picture? Oooo pretty, I like that!

    Now keep in mind producing images that look good on a phone is not the same as producing image that look good in 8x10 prints. Surprisingly I was ahead of the curve on this and didn't even know it. Starting 3 years ago I began tweaking my workflow not only to reduce my time but to produce images that had a special look to them that stood out from the crowd in a good way when looking at a listing of search results. Oooo pretty, CLICK! I want that! That did not mean over saturated over HDR images. They were images that have a crispness and 3D quality that jumps out on the small screen as well as the large screen. Now I'm not bragging or making things up. I also interview buyers and sellers about their impressions of my work. That is what they tell me. I also ask them how they look at homes. They pull out their phones and show me. Bingo by accident I had hit the jackpot. Oooo pretty!

    I won't go into my exact process. I can tell you I'm not the best photographer here by a long shot. Many others when stacked against me will beat the technical quality of my images from a photographers point of view. However on the small screen I am, Oooo pretty. Important! Buyers and sellers are not photographers. Oooo pretty is the only thing that counts. It gets views and helps market homes.

    My advice from all of this... If you are not a web developer or part time tech geek like me, focus on Composition and Oooo Pretty specifically for the small screen. Keep in mid though, most people hold their phones in portrait mode while looking. When they find that first Oooo Pretty they will flip to landscape mode. Look at your images on the small screen. Pick one of yours from the big screen you like and then make it the best Oooo Pretty on the small screen. Then of course remember what you did and repeat. Then use it going forward and tell your clients that is what you do. That sets you apart, and it's worth it.

    Nuff said

  4. "The key message of this trend towards mobile devices is you MUST design your websites to work well for both mobile and laptop devices! And the emphasis should be on SmartPhones."

    I couldn't agree more.

    Besides having a site that displays cleanly on any device, photographers need to get found as well. SEO is a critical piece of the business success puzzle these days, and an SEO-optimized site will get you more visitors.

    WordPress and a few plugins can work. In my experience, Squarespace is a great solution for photographers and creatives. The site designs are attractive, easy to use, and mobile-ready. Regular blogging plus whatever secret sauce Squarespace uses have helped me create sites that rank well in search engines. Highly recommended.

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