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July, 2021 Desktop View

This month, I thought it appropriate to post some of my thoughts concerning web and security. Unless you have been unconscious for a while, you have seen so many news articles about ransomware attacks on various corporations. Since many readers work with clients (both internal and external), here are some of my thoughts regarding security. The sad thing is that most of these attack vectors are nothing new. They have been employed for some time, yet some people still fall victim.

I am focusing on what you can do as an individual. Obviously, this is a very large topic and I am just touching on some of the highlights as I see them. I look forward to your comments and encourage further discussion in our member Slack channels where we can focus on more specific items).

Passwords

  • Passwords should be long and complex. If in doubt, length wins over complexity. Consider using passphrases.
  • Passwords should be changed on a regular basis. You decide on what is comfortable for you.
  • Passwords should never be reused on more than one site. Never. There is no reason why you need to do this.
  • If you can’t recall passwords, use a password vault. There are a number of alternatives. Just make certain it is secure and your passwords are updated in the vault as you change them.
  • Passwords should never be shared with others. Never. If there is some unusual situation where another must access your information, change your password, give that party the new one, then change the password again once the need for their access has passed. Frankly, I can not think of any situation where this is warranted, but…

email

  • Never open links included in email messages. If you receive a link to a website (such as a banking site), open a browser and type the URL. It is so easy to spoof website addresses these days. That is why you should manually enter any site URL where you are required to authenticate.
  • Unless you are expecting an attachment from someone, never open email attachments. Never. This is where most malware gets started. I recommend using some form of online storage (which is virus checked) if you must share documents these days.

2FA

  • Whenever possible employ two factor authentication as part of your login. In a nutshell, there are three ways to prove you are who you say you are – something you know (like a password), something you posess (like an authentication app), and something you are (like facial recognition or fingerprints). I recommend using the first two in combination since it is very difficult to change your bio-metrics.

Phone calls

  • I recommend activating the feature found on modern mobile devices which only allow for incoming calls from those in your list of contacts. Anyone else must leave a voice message. Most scammers rely on a sense of urgency to get you to take an action you would typically not do (for example, say “yes” or share a password. Review the voice message and only call back if you are certain you need to speak with the individual leaving the message. Most scammers will likely not even leave a voice message. I assure you, the sheriff’s department will never call you to let you know they are coming to arrest you. It is best to delete similar junk.

Final thoughts

I know this list is not complete, and should be obvious to readers. However, it never hurts to review the basics periodically. Always apply a healthy dose of skepticism when anyone contacts you and asks you to take action. The more immediate their request, the greater the likelihood it is a scam.

June, 2021 Desktop View

As we begin another month, here are my thoughts regarding what is happening in our industry.

This month, my thoughts center around longevity. Hope you find this information useful. In case you are curious, I built my first web page in 1992 (yes, 29 years ago). It no longer exists, nor does the company where I built it at.

I am already looking forward to your comments.

Ageism

My colleague and friend, Tom Green, recently posted an article on LinkedIn.com about this last acceptable prejudice.After you review the article, let’s start a discussion in our Slack #general channel about this topic. What are your experiences? Does Tom’s article resonate with you? Why or why not?

CSS

Eric Meyer reflects on 25 years of CSS. Has it really been that long? If you have a moment, please post a comment reflecting on your first use of CSS. Consider a discussion in our Slack channel as well. What are your thoughts on the past 25 years of CSS.

WordPress

Speaking of longevity, WordPress turned 18 in May. Isobel Weston has a great overview article at NameCheap. From a simple blogging platform to a technology which powers nearly 41% of the WWW these days. And it only took 18 years to get to this point. Makes me wonder what the next 18 years hold for this technology.

Annual Web Competition with SkillsUSA

Speaking of longevity, this year marks the 19th year for our national web competition held in conjunction with SkillsUSA. Our first year (2004) was a demonstration contest. This year will mark our first large scale virtual competition. We did a smaller competition in 2020 as the pandemic raged. This year, we have over 20 teams competing at secondary and post-secondary levels. Winners will be announced near the end of June at the above site.

I am curious – now that you have read this far, what information would you like to see next month? Please tell us via the comments.

May, 2021 Desktop View

Note from Mark. I plan to periodically provide article summaries and insights. I am hoping this will happen once each month. Hope is the operative word. Here are my thoughts as we begin May, 2021. I welcome your comments about additional topics you would find helpful as well as your thoughts about these articles. I found them most interesting/ thought provoking.

Accessibility

Using Modern CSS to Improve Accessibility. This article by Stephanie Eckles provides a quick overview of what it means to have an accessible website. Stephanie then covers using some of the newer CSS to enhance accessibility. This includes use of outline-offset to position the outline away from the element. The focus-visible pseudo-class will display an outline only when the user agent determines it needs to be visible. There is so much more in this article, I encourage you to set aside time to read it in its entirety and digest how these CSS features can be used to solve real world accessibility issues.

A.I.

GPT-3 is a language supermodel which is quietly ushering in the A.I. revolution. This article by Luke Dormehl explains why this text generating algorithm makes a difference. The main difference with prior algorithms is that limited training is required. In the past, significant input was required for A.I. to “learn.” This no longer seems to be needed. Think. About. That. Here is a key quote from the article (it certainly resonated with me).

“Machine learning has been transformative in all sorts of ways over the past couple of decades. But machine learning requires a large number of training examples to be able to output correct answers. GPT-3, on the other hand, has a “few shot ability” that allows it to be taught to do something with only a small handful of examples.”

Ok, Mark, what does all this A.I. have to do with Web design and development? One example mentioned in the article is a layout generator which”renders a functional layout by generating JavaScript code from a simple text description.” Another example is a GPT-3 based search engine. I think you will find this article most interesting and informative. Our industry is changing and A.I. is going to have a major impact. Plan accordingly.

FLoC

Federated Learning of Cohorts is Google’s replacement for tracking cookies. Our advisory board member, Deborah Edwards-Orono, has a great article about this effort and her concerns. Simply put, FLoc is included by default in the new version of the Chrome browser [see our recent post on the popularity of this browser] and collects your recent browser activity. It takes that activity and labels it then shares the “cohort” with other websites and advertisers. The main concern with this approach is privacy. She also discusses a new WordPress plugin Disable FLoC which is easy to install and has no configuration settings, it just  does what it claims to do. If you would like to learn more about the implications of FLoC, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a solid overview as well.

For those not using WordPress, Marko Saric has an overview article at Plausible which also includes the snippet of code you can add to your .htaccess file to disable FLoC as well.

Future of the WWW

Professor Sir Tim Berners’Lee (inventor ot the WWW) thinks his creation is out of control. In this interview, he explains his plans to save it.The big issue these days is privacy. He proposes Solid (a new system to decentralize the Web). His core idea is PODS (Personal Online Data Stores) which each person has control over. The fundamental change is that anyone wanting to use your information must ask for your permission. After you review the interview, I would be keen to learn your thoughts about this approach. Comments are open.

Hardware

Gizmodo recently discussed the fact that Verizon is recalling 2.5 million of its hotspots because they are literally too hot. There have been 15 reports of the devices overheating (6 instances of fire damage). Review the article to see if  you have one of these hotspots (various models sold between April, 2017 and March, 2021).

WordPress

Easy WP Guide has been released for WordPress 5.7 (most current version). No discussion of PHP or the technical details, just a comprehensive guide to help you edit the content of your site. This is a free download. Web Professionals who build sites using this technology may wish to share this document with their clients (if you haven’t already). You can purchase the guide which allows you to brand it as you wish.

For those developers using Elementor as part of their WordPress installations, you may wish to review the recent Wordfence post discussing recent vulnerabilities with Elementor.  For those who are not aware, Elementor is installed on over 3.5 million WordPress sites. The Wordfence team found over 100 vulnerable endpoints.

Final thoughts

Hopefully, you found these articles and insights helpful. What else would you like to see in future articles? What did you think about these? I look forward to reading your comments.

Best always,
Mark DuBois, Executive Director
Web Professionals (a.k.a. World Organization of Webmasters)

Successful 16th Annual Web Contest

Successful 16th Annual Web Contest

We believe 2019 saw our most successful web design and development competition ever. We held this in Louisville, KY, during the last week of June. Our competition is one of 103 individual competitions at SkillsUSA Nationals. Competitors must win first place in their respective states for the opportunity to compete nationally. We also choose one winner from these competitions to represent the US at WorldSkills. That competition is held every two years (and the next will happen this August in Kazan, Russia).

Our on site team

We are so appreciative of the massive efforts by so many members of Web Professionals to make this competition a reality. We have our team on site for almost an entire week. They conduct the interviews of competitors (and these mimic real interviews as many of the individuals conducting the interviews hire web professionals as part o their daily jobs. They also review the process each team follows as they provide solutions to the business problems posed in our competition work order. They also make certain the server and network environment is running smoothly and that all tams can access their individual server, cloud storage, and editor. This can be a particular challenge when some teams bring school computers which have been so locked down one can not even access the Windows Control Panel. Our team also develops the competition project/ work order and configures the environment before the competition. We are so thankful for all the help and could not do it without you.

Our onsite team of Web Professionals who make certain the competition runs smoothly. All are standing in front of our contest banner and promotional banners.
Our onsite team (from left to right) – Grant, Steve, Mark, Jonathan, Jeff, James, and David.

Our judges

We run two separate competitions (Wednesday is for high school students). We had 52 individuals competing this year. Our Thursday competition is for college students. We had 20 individuals competing this year. When the competition ends each day, we transfer all the work by each team to a secure location on one of our web servers. Judges from other states can then review the work of each team. Our judges are practicing web professionals and we have more than one judge review the work of each team. Each judge focuses on a specific area (such as accessibility). All scores are collected and finalized by the following morning. We could not achieve all this without our off site judges. If you are reading this and would like to help (or would like more information), please contact us. We can always use more judges.

If you are interested in overall comments from our judges, we provided a summary for competitors to review on our separate Web Design Contest site.

The competition environment

For those who would like to learn more about the environment we utilize, we prepared a couple of articles on our Web Design Contest site. These are listed below.

  • An overview of the server environment covers the fundamentals of how the server is configured using containers so that the work of each team is separated and secure.
  • An overview of the network environment covers the fundamentals of how competitors access the local resources. Given the logistics of where the event is held, it is simply not feasible (nor cost effective) to offer actual Internet access to competitors.

Training

Before the competition begins, we offer training to competitors and their advisors the day before (Tuesday). This is our opportunity to make certain everyone has a solid understanding of current industry best practices as they relate to web design and development. It also gives competitors and their advisors the opportunity to ask questions and develop a better understanding of what the competition is all about. In the photo below, Jonathan is discussing process best practices.

Jonathan discussing the overall process practices for web design and development to roughly 100 competitors and their advisors.
Jonathan provided an overview of process best practices to competitors and their advisors.

WorldSkills Competitor

We also had our WorldSkills Web Design and Development competitor (Matt Vreman) speak to competitors and their advisors before the competition began. He discussed his background (he won gold at one of our prior competitions). Matt reviewed his progress as he prepares to compete in Kazan, Russia in August, 2019. I will be accompanying him as his advisor in that competition (each country is allowed to bring in one expert to help their competitor). There will be roughly 50 countries competing in Russia in web design and development.

Matthew Vreman answers questions from competitors and their advisors prior to the start of our competition.
Matthew Vreman (WorldSkills competitor in web design and development) answering questions

Contest Impact

This was our 16th year running a national web design and development competition. A lot has changed in our industry over that time. We like to think that our competition has kept pace with changes in our industry. Over these years, we have had the chance to speak with roughly 2,000 competitors and their advisors/ teachers. We believe that we are making a difference in that competitors and their teachers see what current best practices are and many have adjusted their curriculum accordingly. We see these trends continuing based on the feedback received this year (particularly from advisors). We could not do this without the help of our members; they serve in many roles (including judges and on site team). However, members also provide the funding (through their annual membership dues) to help us achieve our goal of insuring that the next generation of web professionals is following current industry best practices. We couldn’t do this without your support. If you are reading this and have not yet become a member, we encourage you to support us in this endeavor.

Best always,
Mark DuBois
Executive Director and Lead Community Evangelist

Smart Speaker Eavesdropping

Smart Speaker Eavesdropping

Perhaps you have one of those Alexa or Google Home devices (or are considering one). Ever wonder how it becomes active when you speak the “magic words” such as “Alexa?” Obviously, it is listening in order to know when you ask it something. These devices are just part of the connected Internet of Things (IoT) we encounter more and more in our daily lives. But, you do realize these smart speakers are eavesdropping all the time?

Smart speaker listening in the background (behind a house plant)
Smart speakers always seem to be listening

Sure, you can “opt out” of this listening. But you have to take an active role to do so. In some states, legislation is being considered to require companies (such as Amazon and Google) to obtain explicit consent from customers before those voice queries are recorded and stored.

Illinois has proposed legislation

In Illinois (where Web Professionals is headquartered), our State Senate passed the Keep Internet Devices Safe Act in the Senate on April 10. The measure is now before the Rules Committee in the Illinois House. In a nutshell, this legislation (if it becomes law) directs that the user must first agree (in writing) to specified criteria. The exact wording – “Provides that no private entity may turn on or enable, cause to be turned on or enabled, or otherwise use a digital device’s microphone to listen for or collect information, including spoken words or other audible or inaudible sounds, unless a user first agrees to a written policy meeting specified criteria.”

California has proposed legislation

In California similar legislation was proposed earlier this year (February 22). This is also making its way through the legislative process. This proposal also bans smart speaker vendors from sharing this information with third parties without consumer consent (opt-in).

Does eavesdropping matter?

Is this a “big deal?” Bloomberg reported that thousands of Amazon employees listen to Alexa recordings. Of course, this is to help the technology better understand what we are speaking. However, employees (or contractors) may also overhear potentially criminal activity or words the speaker may prefer remain private. As we learned from the Bloomberg article linked above, some words (such as French “avec sa”) may be interpreted as “alexa” by the listening device. Personally, I have observed words emanating from my television causing the lighted ring on my Alexa device to indicate it is listening (and it often tries to respond appropriately).

We support these initiatives

As many readers are aware, legislation continually plays “catch up” with technology. The smart speaker example is the latest of these issues. Obviously, legislators in Illinois and California are paying attention. In the broader scheme of things, we at Web Professionals believe privacy matters. We support these legislative initiatives.

If you would like to learn more (especially about the California initiative, PC Mag has a great overview article. We are curious about your thoughts on these initiatives. As always, we look forward to your comments.

Introduction to Digital Asset Management

Introduction to Digital Asset Management

Any professional who works at creating, managing, or marketing a website understands how important digital assets are in their work. Digital assets are electronically stored data that come with the right to use, bring value to their owners, and are uniquely identifiable. Examples of digital assets include audio files, PDF white papers, graphics, photos, HTML documents, and presentations.

Individual viewing computer monitor with a title overlay of digital asset management

Web professionals can use these assets to help educate people on a topic, improve a company or organization’s digital presence, and market products or services online. However, as the number of stored digital assets grows at an organization, it becomes time-consuming and difficult for different web professionals to manage and retrieve assets.

A digital asset management (DAM) solution is a type of software that helps web professionals properly store, update, index, and retrieve their digital assets. The demand for dedicated DAM tools is expected to surge over the coming years, and recent research predicted the global DAM market to reach $8.1 billion by 2024.

Read on to find out the types of DAM available, the service models you can implement when using DAM systems, and some specific use cases of DAM software for web professionals. You will also get some tips and best practices for getting the most out of any DAM solution.

Types of Tools

There are three main types of Digital Asset Management tools; however, many enterprise solutions can be classified and used as any single one or as all of these types simultaneously.

  • Library asset management focuses on building an organized digital library of infrequently changing assets for easy storage and retrieval.
  • Production asset management meets the needs of web professionals who need to collaborate on, control and use digital assets that are frequently updated and revised.
  • Brand asset management entails using and reusing marketing materials, logos, and other assets that help to build brand identity.

Software Service Models

There are two main service models for implementing Digital Asset Management:

  • On-premise DAM solutions are installed locally on an organization’s servers. Everything is kept in-house and users typically access assets via the internal corporate network.
  • Cloud DAM solutions are hosted on external web servers and the software is accessed through a web browser via an Internet connection.

On-premise DAM systems are better suited for web professionals whose roles involve stringent data security obligations, such as people working in government departments and highly regulated industries. A cloud DAM is a cheaper, more flexible solution that can also facilitate the needs of distributed teams and remote workers.

Benefits of DAM for Web Professionals

Web professionals work in a wide range of roles, but here are some general benefits of DAM software for all web professionals:

  • DAM software reduces time spent looking for assets, improves workflows, and facilitates quick repurposing of digital assets. The result is greater productivity.
  • By building a central repository of digital assets and using versioning controls, DAM provides asset consistency and facilitates collaboration for web professionals.
  • DAM software tracks the usage rights associated with assets, which can help reduce the risk of copyright issues from improper asset use. For example, there might be restrictions in how you use purchased stock photos.
  • Cloud and on-premise DAM software typically come with access control, meaning you can secure your most sensitive assets and make sure that the only people with access to them are those who need such access to do their jobs.

Best Practices When Using a DAM System

DAM offers many benefits for web professionals but how you use your chosen tool can make a huge difference. Here are some best practices for getting the most from DAM software.

Metadata is Critical

Metadata is information about your assets. Your DAM software is only as good as the metadata you store with each asset. There is a balance between too much metadata and too little. You need to enter the most important information about every asset you wish to catalog because metadata is what turns a piece of digital data into an easily searchable and retrievable asset.   You should also have a policy to enter metadata into the system as soon as you upload a given asset. Procrastination leads to an inefficient setup that makes it hard to find assets.

Specify Usage Terms

Assets rights issues can easily emerge when an asset has been stored without reference to its usage rights. For all rights-managed assets, it’s imperative to specify the usage terms in their metadata.

Leverage Analytics

DAM software often comes with advanced tracking and analytics features. You can use this information to your advantage, for example, marketers can identify the asset categories that bring the most ROI to your organization. You can also use the analytics to identify assets or collections of assets that are most frequently used and try to make such assets more easily discoverable.

Assign an Administrator

Particularly in large organizations, it is prudent to have a dedicated DAM administrator. This person can manage access controls for different users and ensure user roles and permissions are kept current. The administrator should also be responsible for creating and deleting users from the system.

Train Users

When you adopt a DAM system, it’s a good idea to set up a dedicated half-day of training that teaches different web professionals in your organization how to use your chosen software. If you avoid training users, they will need to learn on the job, which can lead to a lot of frustration and lost productivity.   

Conclusion

The expected growth in the DAM software market reflects the growing influence of digital assets in the daily work of various web professionals from designers to marketers to website copywriters. Cloud DAM solutions have emerged as a lower cost alternative service model for DAM, however, on-premise systems are still the standard for professionals in government departments and highly regulated sectors.

Editor’s Note: This sponsored content was provided by Gilad Maayan (Developer Community Advisor) at Agile SEO.

What Designers Should Know About Website Branding

What’s a brand?

It’s a symbol or object that communicates the company’s proposition about its products and services and differentiates it from its rivals. A brand encompasses:

  • Logos
  • Design
  • Advertising tone

Why website branding is important

Creating a strong brand for your client’s website can give them a distinct advantage over their competitors. With branding comes recognition. This leads to familiarity, which can earn a customer’s confidence and trust.

However, building this kind of loyalty may take time. A website visitor may need multiple exposures to the brand. So, put simply, by helping your clients deliver a consistent brand message, you can boost their chances of success. What is more, you will increase your opportunities of getting repeat business from them.

A website essentially serves to:

  • Sell products or services
  • Generate leads
  • Promote sales
  • Attract visitors or subscribers
  • Generate a healthy return on investment (ROI)

Through strong website branding, a company can deliver a clear message that achieves all of the above as well as building loyalty and trust from its customers.

To help your client develop effective website branding, follow these tips.

1.     Color creates moods

Color is more than aesthetics; it can stimulate emotions and stir people’s subconscious in relation to the company’s brand. For example:

  • Red – symbolizes energy, excitement, energy, and passion. If your client is in the entertainment business, for instance, red will work well for their brand.
  • Green – symbolizes the environment, nature, health, money or profit. If you’re working for a hospital or clinic, using a pale green background would be appropriate for their site.
  • Orange – symbolizes fun and adventure. For example, detype.com uses orange liberally on its site from the background to headings, and links. As a web design company this indicates that it’s enthusiastic and outgoing.

Before choosing a color for your client’s site, consider doing some research about its effects and appropriateness to the brand. Also, remember that each culture may view the same color differently. So, you should check the target market’s reaction to the colors used in your proposed website design.

2.     Brand personality

Injecting some personality into the website helps to zero-in or define what your client’s brand represents.  One way you could introduce personality is using a character or persona to represent the brand.  Twitter’s bird logo is a good example. People recognize the social platform’s mascot immediately.

3.     Emotional connection

Creating websites that stir visitor’s emotions can help your client’s brand messaging. As you design the site, decide what kind of feelings or emotions you want visitors to experience? For example, DeType displays attractive imagery to showcase the creative talent of its web designers.

4.     Uniformity

To make a brand memorable, you need to make the website design consistent.  So consider keeping all the site’s colours, character, and emotions consistent on every page.  Take a look at Skype’s website. Every page shows the same look, reinforcing its brand.

5.     Reusability (code and visuals)

As well as using consistent visuals and layouts, you can reuse content such as style sheets or images. As the files are in the browser’s cache, this will consequently make your site load faster.

6.     Make the logo highly visible

Considering placing the logo at the upper left corner of the site, since this is the spot where most visitors’ eyes will be drawn.  Also, consider linking the logo image to the site’s page. As for size, ensure that it is big enough to be noticeable, making it at least the second or third object visitors see on the site.

7.     Promote the benefits

Visitors won’t stay long on a site if it fails to grab their interest.  It will only take seconds for them to find out if they have come to the right place. To convince them to stay, tell them what benefits they can get from using the brand’s product or service in a few succinct words. The best location for this message is next to the logo so that people can see it immediately.

8.     Adopt and use the right tone

Even the website’s language can strengthen a brand’s appeal to your target market. For example, there are various tones and combinations of tones you can adopt:

  • Formal voice for a site catering to investors
  • Informal and fun voice for young audiences
  • Friendly voice with related industry jargon for a tech-savvy audience

Also, be mindful that some words can have different meanings, depending on the audience. Take  the word ‘engine’, for example:

A Mechanical Engineer will describe an engine as “a device which converts fuel or heat energy into mechanical energy”. A Computer programmer, however, will associate an engine as being  “software which generates source code in order to create automated processes.”

9.     Make the site stand out

Creating a website brand won’t create any impact or differential if it is the same as other competing sites. As a designer, you need to include elements that will make your client’s site unique. After all, by making the site stand out you’ll improve the brand’s chances of attracting visitors and making them return.

Conclusion

Building a strong recognizable brand, even for small business or personal websites, is a must in this digital age. This is especially important, given the short attention span of visitors and of course the sheer number of businesses that have an online presence.

Strong branding can instantly demonstrate the attractive advantages of your client’s brand, its key differences to competitors and its unique personality and character.  Getting across all of this can help clients in a big way, to not just win over customers but beat their competitors.

As you can see from the tips covered in this article, there isn’t just one single route you need to arrive at a strong brand but a range of directions. So, keep these all in mind when you embark on successfully branding your client’s site.

About the author:

Sam Sayer is the Creative Director of DeType, a creative agency based in Kettering, Northamptonshire, UK. His company specializes in web design, branding, motion, UX, and online design.

Mistakes to avoid when building your real estate platform

Mistakes to avoid when building your real estate platform

There’s no doubt that the latest internet revolution is throwing a number of industries for a loop, and the real estate business is as affected as anyone else. Real estate web platforms like Zillow and Trulia provide potential renters and homeowners with a wealth of new tools for their search, offering an alternative to traditional real estate brokers and agents. But that doesn’t mean that everything is hopeless for real estate agencies. By adopting these technologies themselves and moving beyond the traditional real estate website, they can compete with these more disruptive approaches to how we shop for homes. But regardless of which areas these clients come from, it’s fertile ground for people with mobile app development experience. Here are some common mistakes you should avoid when building out a real estate platform.

Neglecting the Search Interface

When you really separate the process of real estate app development down to its component parts, it’s not that dissimilar from building a traditional marketplace shopping app. For the majority of startups trying to create a real estate app, the service itself will operate as a third party provider connecting supply to demand. It’s a model employed in countless industries today, but whether you’re operating an airfare shopping service like Expedia or a more traditional shopping app like Wish or eBay, the core objective is the same. You need to provide the users with the tools they need to identify their needs and receive accurately and appropriately filtered results.

That means that the search engine is going to serve as the core of any real estate app, and the options therein are going to be what causes it to sink or swim. Regardless of the platform, there are a few fundamental filtering options that tend to serve as the core of the real estate search experience:

The location of the property. Many buyers will come to the home shopping experience with some understanding of their ideal neighborhoods, and that means that in addition to a functional map system (which we’ll address below), a simpler way to sort homes by location is integral. This could be broken down into neighborhood names, zip codes, or both.

Listing and home types. Whether a user is looking to buy, sell, or rent their property, their needs are going to be very different. You may want to integrate the selling process using a different interface, but that will depend on how deep is a feature set you want to create for sellers.

The number of bedrooms. A single college student will have very different demands from a family of four, after all.

Pricing. This is a fundamental variable in any shopping experience, and a slider is the most effective way to make it work within your app.

Those are just the fundamentals. A number of other filters like the number of secondary rooms, available amenities, floor space, and smart home features can greatly improve the interactivity of your app. If you’re putting a particular emphasis on renting, additional filters that cover policies like pets and smoking can be of great use as well.

Choosing Only One Listing Type

The search filters only provide half of the story for shoppers, and that’s why more in-depth listings are a necessary component for any app. The two predominant visualizations in apps of these types are maps and paneled lists, and most real estate apps that want to stay competitive will make use of both, normally in conjunction with each other.

Listings allow your sellers or landlords to put their best foot forward. Photos can make a huge difference when trying to find a renter or buyer for a property, and that’s why it’s important to make these options as interactive as possible. Setting standards for resolution, size, and a format is critical here, as it creates a level of consistency with your platform, and you’ll want to make sure that your retailers have access to a simple interface that allows them to upload images easily, manage their galleries, and edit the write up for their listings. On the other end of the equation, the ability to like, bookmark, or favorite listings is a quality of life component that may seem simple but is a practical necessity for apps like these.

Maps might not offer the same dense level of information as listings, but they help the user get a good frame of reference for their prospective properties. Location is one of the biggest determinant factors in the home shopping experience, and it shouldn’t be neglected. Fortunately, the Google Maps API is easy to integrate into most platforms, and there’s a decent level of customization that can be used to create your own brand identity. Another advantage of implementing Google’s map function is that it offers a street-level view, a useful choice for customers who don’t want to rely on the listing galleries alone.

Used in conjunction with one another, these two listing formats allow the users to shop how they want, and it essentially creates two layers of immersion into the experience: a top-down view in the form of the map and a more focused perspective in the form of the paneled gallery.

Focusing Exclusively on Buyers and Renters

If you’re a third party designing a real estate app, it can be easy to look at the people trying to rent and buy a home as your direct consumer. That would be a mistake. As the endpoint in the transactional relationship, the owners and landlords will ultimately be the consumers for your product, and appealing to them should be a top priority. You should strongly consider putting a feature rich interface in for agents and independent sellers.

Monetizing the option to place listings can be one of the best ways to keep your app in the black, but that means that you can’t lag behind the big names in the industry. A calendar constitutes the bare minimum here, and it should absolutely be a part of your infrastructure. If your agents and sellers can’t effectively share information on open houses and showings, your app could be dead on arrival. As with maps, there are a number of options that can be easily implemented via API here, from Google Calendar to Outlook.

But you should consider map functionality a bare minimum here. Many sites offer priority advertising for premium customers, and some even incorporate full-blown customer relationship management platforms directly into their interface. Exactly how far you want to dig in here is going to depend on the ambition of your app, but you should at least build your application with the opportunity for expansion into CRM territory. Marketing tools, landing page integration, and dynamic communications options like chat, voice, and email are all reasonable goals to set for your app’s development process.

In Conclusion, Pace Yourself

Real estate apps may occupy a comparatively small part of the overall software marketplace, but they can be highly lucrative. As with any development cycle, coming in with a strong proof of concept and direct goals for development. By setting a blueprint from the start and determining how your app is differentiated from the variety of other services on the market, you can carve out your own unique niche. Just don’t neglect the fundamental necessities in pursuit of the next big thing.

Editor’s note: This sponsored post was provided by Victor Osadchiy.

Victor Osadchiy
Victor Osadchiy

Victor is a creative writer who formerly worked in the Ed Tech industry. By day, he’s a writer about app development for business. By night, he’s an online gamer and a big fan of Esports. You can find more posts by Victor on the Yalantis blog

Overview of our recent visit to 3M

WebProfessionals.org is proudly training the U.S. competitor for web design and development for SkillsUSA. Matt Vreman will be competing at WorldSkills in Kazan, Russia later this year. He won the competition among individuals who have won our national web design and development contest over the past few years. WorldSkills competitions happen every two years. WebProfessionals.org has been involved in these competitions since 2013.

As part of his training, we were able to participate in a series of meetings in Minnesota last week. Matt received some mentorship from two individuals who are part of the team responsible for 3m.com (Laurie and Ashley). They provided a number of useful insights and observations which should help Matt as he continues to prepare.

We hope you enjoy this quick overview of some of the events which happened last week. If you would like to help with Matt’s training (or help with our national web design and development competition, please indicate in the comments section.

Recent 3M Visit with WorldSkills Web Competitor from Mark DuBois on Vimeo.

As the WWW turns 30, we support a contract for the web

30 years ago this week (March 11, 1989), Tim Berners-Lee submitted his proposal for an information management system. A lot has happened since that initial proposal. Without a doubt, the WWW has had a significant impact on our society. Personally, I have been learning about web technologies since 1992 (27 years). I am amazed at the scope and scale of changes I have witnessed in nearly three decades. Our organization was founded in 1997 (this April will mark 22 years for us). And, we have witnessed profound changes over that time as well.

Renew our focus on core principles

In the past 30 years, the WWW has morphed into what we know today. There are growing divides and these have been discussed in the open letter written by Sir Tim Berners-Lee on March 11, 2019.

We believe it is time for governments, companies, and citizens to formally commit to the principles outlined in the Contract for the Web. The key points outlined in this contract are cited in the bullet points below:

  • Governments should:
    • provide access to the web and Internet for everyone,
    • make certain the web and Internet is available all the time and all content is available,
    • recognize and respect the fundamental right to each individual’s privacy.
  • Companies should:
    • keep the web and Internet access affordable and accessible to everyone,
    • respect the fundamental right to each individual’s privacy (and personal data),
    • support technologies which put people first.
  • Citizens should:
    • create content and collaborate,
    • foster strong communities where everyone feels safe and welcome,
    • do their part to keep the web open and public.

We signed, did you?

As a member supported organization helping aspiring and practicing web professionals, we have always adhered to the core principles discussed in the above letter. We have signed the Contract for the Web to reaffirm our commitment. We signed as an organization and we encourage members and others reading this to sign as well.

The WWW has created many opportunities and we are at a key point in the evolution of this medium. As an organization, we support continued efforts to create the web we want. We encourage all to do their part.

Best always,
Mark DuBois
Executive Director and Community Evangelist