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Kudos to a microsite that really isn’t one

February 28, 2011
at 6:43 am PST

There’s a great article on Search Engine Land that gives an overview of our ūmi home telepresence area, and, probably unintentionally, underscores the strategy we followed in our new design system:  Create a system that’s flexible enough to create “microsites that aren’t really microsites.”

For those who don’t know, a microsite is a separate small web site that companies set up to focus on a specific topic or promotion. For instance, a soft drink company might set up a microsite around a specific promotion it is doing around a sporting event.  The advantage of a microsite is that it is very focused, so there are no distractions from a bigger corporate web site. It focuses on a single topic and place.

But there are usually big disadvantges, including these:

  • Microsites usually aren’t connected at all to the main company site, which means that users who need more information can be lost. Or, if they go to more supporting information from the corporate site, they’re off into a different navigational space and may never be able to find their way back.
  • Microsites often have a completely different domain from the main company site, which means search engines often don’t associate them with the parent company, and that can hurt their ranking when people search on Google, Bing or the other search engines.
  • Microsites can be expensive to create and maintain, since they usually involve inventing a completely different design system and then maintaining separate templates, content and infrastructure.

So, when we set out to create a new design system for Cisco’s web and mobile sites, we had an express goal of supporting something that would have all of the advantages of a microsite, but with none of the disadvantages.  I was heartened to read Search Engine Land review, which thinks we’ve succeeded:

From a user experience perspective, it is a stand-alone property. And that’s important here because people interested in Umi—a high-definition video conference system that hooks up to your TV and broadband Internet connection, for spread out families and long distance relationships—are intrigued by a very specific solution.

They’re probably not weighing a decision, “Should I buy this or maybe check out a new firewall?” So Cisco has eliminated almost all non-Umi distractions.

The basic templates we use for everything from ūmi home telepresence, to home networking, to Borderless Networks are similar, which means not only a consistent experience for our visitors, but also a lot less reinventing of the wheel for us.  But, since the templates can support a “walled garden” idea such as the one we’ve adopted for ūmi home telepresence, we can have the advantage of a microsite too.

One way we tie everything together — while still allowing it to be separate when needed — is with the simple idea of hover navigation over the logo. And, regional navigation along the top bar (for instance, for the home-focused site area) helps visitors navigate to related products. You can see related implementations of the same navigational model on Cisco.com, our blog site, and you’ll be seeing it on many other of our site areas over time.

Enjoy!

P.S. Here are some pictures of the ūmi site.

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