Rightmove has just launched an iPhone app version of its property search engine, which allows users to search for properties by location or by using the phone’s GPS.

I’ve been talking to Miles Shipside, Rightmove’s Commercial Director, about the development of the new iPhone app

How long have you had a mobile site?

We’ve had a couple incarnations of mobile sites over the last four years including an iMode site with O2 in 2005 and a partnership with Vodafone dating back two years.

What levels of traffic were you getting to the mobile site? Do many leads come via mobile?

While the majority of Rightmove traffic and leads are coming from traditional internet use, mobile users give great potential for strong engagement. Again, this is also about being where users are when they want us. We get fewer leads coming via mobile but quite strong engagement.

Do you see mobile as an important channel in the future?

We’ve seen constant growth of 16% on the iPhone in the last month, indicating that it is a strong growth area, though admittedly from a low base. As mobile internet enabled devices grow in popularity and lower in cost the importance of the channel will grow.

Have you done much research into how many of your customers use mobile internet?

We’re getting near to 80,000 unique visitors a month coming via iPhones or iPod Touches for a total of 1.5m page views. Whilst that’s a small proportion, every seller that sells, or every landlord that rents as a result of a mobile internet lead will be delighted.

Why did you decide to introduce an iPhone app?

Developing the app was a natural progression for us in always looking to extend our level of service to Rightmove.co.uk users. The app is part of a wider Property To You initiative which encompasses Twitter, Rightmove Search Widget and a location targeted newsletter called Property Deal Weekly. We feel mobile is a very important platform for the future of property search and tools like the iPhone app are here to stay.

What were the challenges in developing a usable iPhone app?

Any challenges were exciting: How do you fit so much information into such a small form factor? The iPhone, with its larger screen and fantastic interaction, made this easier, but ensuring that we made the application as intuitive as possible was important.

Making sure that users could easily filter their results, see photos and contact the agent quickly and easily was our main goal. And giving users the ability to find property around them wherever they may be was a great feature we were excited to be able to offer through the iPhone.

Do you have plans to develop apps / mobile sites for other handsets?  Will you be updating the current mobile site?

We’ll be updating the current mobile site very soon. We understand that, as more powerful handsets become more prevalent, users expect more and more from mobile sites. We’re excited about developing a mobile site that exceeds those expectations. We’ll also be monitoring feedback on the iPhone app before embarking on a ‘version 2’ and seeing if there’s a market requirement for other handsets.

What was the App Store process like? Did it take long to get approval?

It’s well-known that the approval process is a bit of a mystery but Apple were very helpful and we got word that they were very excited internally about the application,  with a view to making a feature of it in the App Store.

How long did it take to develop?

We set ourselves a very tight timeframe. As the UK’s largest property website by some distance, we were keen to be first to market with our own iPhone app. The app was built in about a month and a half and then a couple weeks in the approval process.

Have you seen a dip in demand on the Rightmove website thanks to the recession?

On the contrary, we have been recording record numbers of users on the Rightmove site recently. The week ending July 11th was our busiest ever week with 134 million page views. As potential home movers gain confidence the market has bottomed out they want an easy web site to see what’s available.