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When constraints are a blessing

October 17, 2011 at 9:33 am PST

A curse of any project is that moment when you look at the objectives to be solved, and realise that the rules or resources seem too constrained for success.

But sometimes, those constraints — which are so vexing early on — can be a blessing in the end.  A case in point is the new Series and Model pages we’ve recently updated on Cisco.com. Originally, we had all kinds of grand ideas for how these pages should be transformed. But then we looked at the underlying systems that create the pages, and realised the grand ideas would be expensive to implement and time-consuming to maintain.

So, we dropped back. We asked ourselves: “What is it we’re really trying to accomplish for customers with this update?”  Some of the answers were very simple:

  1. Make the most important information quickly available (by putting it at the top of the pages)
  2. Highlight product comparisons, where they’re available
  3. Make the pages easier to scan visually
  4. Make the fonts bigger so things are easy to read
  5. Make basic spec information quicker to read

We realised we could do all of those things without an expensive rewrite of the underlying system. So, instead of a massive engineering project, we focused instead on new content standards and some CSS tune-up work.

You can see the result of items 1 and 2 and some of 3 above on all 7,000+ series and model pages. And, we’re beginning to roll out updates that address items 3-5 (making things easier to scan and read). Here’s an example from the Cisco Catalyst 2960 Switch series:

The simple changes we made with links to comparisons, embbeding spec tables, using bigger fonts and creating streamlined layouts were focused on things we knew customers needed in their daily use of the pages.  Constraints in the underlying system, it turned out, were a blessing because the constraints made us focus on those few things.

You can see additional examples of the updated layouts on these pages:

Enjoy!

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Cisco.com users on World IPv6 Day 5 to 10 times more likely to use IPv6 than visitors to other websites

While looking over our data from World IPv6 Day, we found that 2.26% of all users who logged in with a username and password to www.cisco.com on June 8 did so over IPv6. That is nearly an order of magnitude greater than between the less than .2% and .3% averages reported by sites operated by more broadly visited websites such as Yahoo, Facebook, and Google. In contrast to those who logged in with their username and password, the total proportion of unique users who visited our site via IPv6 was estimated at just under 1.5%, which still represents at least a five times greater likelihood that a given cisco.com visitor reached us via IPv6 vs. the broader population of Internet users.

This shouldn’t be surprising at all. The cisco.com user base is made up of networking and IT professionals that are likely more willing to go out of their way to obtain IPv6 connectivity than most users. We hope that you will continue to use IPv6, show others how, and that we’ll have even more IPv6 users the next time we make www.cisco.com AAAA records available (see Fred Baker’s blog on what might be next).

In terms of overall traffic, our netflow statistics reported that 1.11% of traffic to and from www.cisco.com was served over IPv6. This traffic was delivered via an IPv6 to IPv4 load-balancing proxy function within our Application Control Engine (ACE) 30, allowing us to keep our existing production www.cisco.com virtually untouched while still providing an IPv6 web presence. On June 8, we used a pre-release version of code, alongside other Early Field Trial (EFT) customers. Matthew Laslie, Network Engineer and Architect at Savvis writes:

“Savvis was looking to provide IPv6 reachability to our primary websites without performing major modifications to our backend application/security infrastructure.  After evaluating several solutions, Savvis selected the Cisco ACE.  In the span of two short days the ACE was fully installed, configured and providing IPv6 reachability for several Savvis corporate websites.”

In addition to the participants that officially signed up for World IPv6 Day, others moved ahead on June 8 without the formalities. Cisco EU IPv6 Deployment Council member and customer Strato let us know after World IPv6 Day that they are now announcing IPv6 AAAA records for over four million domain names. Wilhelm Boeddinghaus, Head of Networks at Strato writes:

“Our customers don’t ask us for IPv6, nor do they ask us for IPv4, they ask us for the Internet, and that’s what we give them. Today the Internet is more than IPv4. The working Internet provides both protocols.”

Those four million domain names represent the ability of the content side of the IPv6 Internet to move very rapidly to IPv6. The fact that they decided to leave IPv6 on after June 8 is testimony to the confidence they have in IPv6, and that it is the right thing for their customers. There were a number of other websites that opted to keep their AAAA IPv6 records active after the 24 hour test on June 8, including our own www.scansafe.com, which moved to IPv6 by announcing AAAA records on World IPv6 Day and continues to today.

Given the relatively high turnout of IPv6-enabled www.cisco.com users vs. the rest of the industry, we have yet another clear data point of the importance of IPv6 to our customers. With all the success around World IPv6 Day, it seems hard to fathom that this will be the only event of its kind and we are eagerly looking forward to participating in and helping our customers with the next “World IPv6″ event. Stay tuned…

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Cisco.com is Now Your One Stop Shop

As SVP Edison Peres, SVP Keith Goodwin and EVP Rob Lloyd told you at Partner Summit, we are committed to making it easier for you to do business with Cisco. So to follow up on that promise, you can now find comprehensive industry resources and customer materials on Cisco.com.

So how does that impact you? Now, instead of having to go to both Partner Central and Cisco.com to locate all of the available resources for industries and solutions, you can simply head to the same Cisco.com pages that have always housed the latest customer materials to find everything you need…in one place.

When you get there, you should be sure to take advantage of more than 450 new and updated resources, ranging from training webcasts to marketing campaigns. Get started now by logging into the retail pages on Cisco.com (CCO and password required to view partner-only assets).

So what else can you find on Cisco.com? Read on to find out. Read More »

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Cisco.com Product Category Pages: New, Better, Live

March 14, 2011 at 9:31 am PST

You’ve probably noticed the new product category pages on Cisco.com, which we updated last week. That’s pages like the ones for Switches, Routers, Voice and Unified Communication, Security, Wireless and about a dozen others.

We’ve made a number of new enhancements (see below), and one of the ones I like the best is how we’ve begun to link directly to specific relevant areas that support the product.

Support: If you click on the Support button, it expands out to reveal links that do directly to relevant downloads, troubleshooting and other information that support the products in this category (and of course, we also link from specific product pages — which is an extremely handy way to jump to the correct place).

Follow Us: Relevant community links, twitter feeds, podcasts, blogs, etc are grouped together under the Follow Us button. This is the first time we’ve consistently grouped this information together by category, and you may be surprised at the rich information available via social feeds by product category.

Here’s a recap of additional enhancements, which I mentioned on the blog last week:

1. Faster performance load time. The pages are faster to load, thanks to sleeker pages.

2. Clearer linking to the “All products” listing. It’s easier to get to the full list of all products in a category, thanks to more obvious links that go directly.

3. Consistent treatment for Contact Us and related information.

4. Consistent navigation to related Communities, Support, How to Buy functions, as shown above.

5. Clearer linkages to reference designs and other important functions.

6. Elevated technology and business benefits areas – so you don’t have to go hunting for them.

7. More ROI information, and in more obvious places.

8. Better information about services and solutions related to product areas.

9. Consistent routes to segments/size-specific views of products where it applies (e.g. small business).

10. Removing the left nav at this top level, which confused new customers (you can more easily move using the flydown megamenus at the top)

11. Improved writing – We rewrote some things that… well to be honest, were confusing.

12. Ongoing improvements–We’ll be making additional improvements based on your feedback, and what we see in site metrics.

Let us know what you think.

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