In the world of perpetual Beta, “final” never really is. A case is point is the recently launched, segment-savvy home page from the design team at HP.com:There were many pros and cons chronicled about this “black page” design, but I think it exhibited some nice advanced thinking around how to organize and showcase key content from a home page and make it relevant to different kinds of visitors. Dell experimented with a similar type of design (sans the black color scheme) and Laura Thomas at Dell had an interesting post about the HP home page design at the time.So here’s the twist: For the moment, for most visitors, the black is gone, and the old home page has been resurfaced:There’s a blog entry explaining the change back, but I think the lesson for all of us in the Web business is that even with unlimited A/B testing, you never know how something will play out until you put it live. And, as Nandini Nayak says there at HP: “This project will always be going on and will never be completely finished.” (This sounds exhausting, but true.)P.S. Speaking of home pages, something is smoking over at the related Voodoo site.
If you own an iPod, you have probably noticed that album covers are a little extra part of your media consumption experience: They not only show what you’re listening to, but also serve as a way to browse and select from different recordings.Over the past couple of years, we’ve developed a range of different styles for these album covers, and the inconsistency was beginning to bug us. For instance, you might easily browse into the iTunes podcast area and find a range of completely different cover styles for Cisco podcasts:Recently, we decided it was time to standardize the look, and now you see more icons (“album covers”) like these:There are a few advantages to having a real strategy around your album covers. First, a consistent approach to album art extends your brand into iTunes and to the iPod and other players. This means someone who is listening to a 20-minute podcast during a train commute (as some customers tell me they do regularly) can glance down to see the topic, title, and originating company (you). Second, if you chose colors or some other kind of theming, customers can identify different types of podcasts quickly through color and labeling.Some tips if you decide to do this for your company:
- Think about categories for the various types of podcasts you usually do. Do you want customers to be able to differentiate them in some way? In our case, we chose different colors for different topical types.
- PNGs work great, JPEGs are good, and GIFs don’t work too well. We found that when the image is a index color GIF, it comes in very dithered — it actually looks like 16 colors! When we changed it to a regular RGB image and saved it as a JPEG, it came in nice and smooth.
- Take extra time to follow common size conventions to make sure the icons look great in different expressions and sizes. We adopted a 600x600 size and PNG as the format. This assured that the album covers still look good in iTunes and other venues even in full-screen mode. (Some developers have blogged about going to 900x900, which probably makes sense for detailed album art)
We love video on Cisco.com, and our customers do too.
In analyzing site metrics, we have found that visitors who watch videos stay longer on the site, are more likely to return, and connect to meaningful successful measures such as connecting to partners or downloading white papers at double the average.
Yesterday, we updated the look of our video player slightly to make the buttons larger, softer, and more obvious.
Before update:After update:
That one-day crash course I’m teaching on B2B Web design had an unexpected highlight with participants: We did an interactive session on “design comics,” which are a quick way of plotting out web experiences and including a human touch. And then we showed how to put together PowerPoint comics based on the session, like the one below:This was a big hit, so I thought I would share the technique with our Cisco.com audience. Read More »
There was an excellent article out this week in BusinessWeek on “The [Virtual] Global Office” that touched on many subjects discussed by the various writers on this blog. The article reinforces how a virtual workspace creates an environment for workers to engage with their global peer network using personalization, immersion and collaboration. This is powerful and something business is keen to explore. For example, the Cisco Sales Associate Program (CSAP) at Cisco is using Second Life as a meeting place for their globally dispersed team. The CSAP folks get together in this virtual environment regularly to ensure synergy with their program and to talk about the latest in technology such as WAAS and virtualization. The team is also leveraging the virtual environment for team building activities like global team photo days. This leads to a sense of belonging to something greater than ones self, to a sense of being part of something.Isolation is a killer for the remote worker. It is common for the remote worker to feel out of sync with the office worker. The sense of being left out of desicions because one is not part of the ‘water cooler’ conversations at the office is palpable for the remote worker. Virtual environments allow for the potentially disenfranchised worker to reengage and realize their contribution potential. There are many folks exploring this subject and I would like to quote directly from Peter Quirk’s excellent post about how virtual worlds address this:1) by making meetings more engaging than is possible through 2-D web conferencing solutions 2) by creating a sense of a workplace separate from the employee’s home environment, helping to focus the employee on the tasks at hand 3) by creating places for real-time collaboration with other employees 4) by creating a workplace that can be seen from afar, reducing the likelihood that the remote employees will be”out of sight, out of mind” 5) by creating places for remote workers and their office-bound colleagues to hang out with each other over lunch, after work, or after long meetings I would like to add one to that list:6) by allowing workers to personalize their appearance in the virtual environment to create a brand for oneself and allow for creative expressionI feel that personal expression and brand is something we all do on a day to day basis, without really thinking about it. Our clothing, hair styles, office accoutrements, etc. say much about who we are, and about our life styles and interests. (Walk past my cube and you can see that I am in to Star Wars, technology and the Muppets. Hmmm, once I apply that idea to my self it makes me wonder whether folks think I am just a big kid?) Participation in a virtual environment can allow remote workers to do much the same thing with their avatar. This enables the remote worker to have a sense of ownership and self when engaging with their peers in a virtual work space.The consensus is in and the conclusion is that virtual and real world will meld in the work place over the next 5-10 years so intrinsically that we will not think of them as separate. The lines of separation will be blurred to the point of making the separation between virtual and real world not relevant. I’ll toast to that!