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#1 Kudos for Cisco.com

February 10, 2012 at 9:06 am PST

Web analysts SiteIQ have just ranked Cisco.com among business IT sites, tying with our friends at IBM.com, and beating out 22 other sites for the honors.
SiteIQ noticed the many subtle improvements we’ve been making across the site in the last year: “[There] is hardly a space on this site that one can’t notice a single, although quiet, improvement. This relentless march towards optimal usability is exactly what gained Cisco.com its first place ranking—and made IBM.com share the spotlight.”

I know there’s a lot still to do to make Cisco.com into the best in the world, but nice mentions like this certainly boost our resolving to keep driving to that end.

See the SiteIQ blog for more on their rankings.

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A few recent Cisco.com search enhacements

January 9, 2012 at 7:17 pm PST

We made some updates to the search experience on Cisco.com recently.

1. Created US Product/Part ID (PID) synonyms – Makes it much easier to find products by Product/Part ID by  suggesting queries related to that PID.  By the way, you guys do a lot of PID searches — this helps make them much better.

Example: Enter PID ‘10000-1p2-1ac’ and search will provide you the option of “You could also try this related product: “cisco 10008 router”

2. US spell checking – Improves your experience by suggesting other queries if the system detects a misspelling.

Example: Enter a misspelled keyword ‘routr’ and search will provide you a “Did you mean:” optional keyword ‘router’

3. Clickable synonyms – Improves your experience by suggesting other similar queries without automatically including them in the search results.

Example: Enter keyword ‘cisco acl’ and have clickable synonym options presented for alternate search results

4. Verb lemmatization – Wait, what?  Oh, that’s the thing that provides results for variations of a word (install, installing, installed).

Example: Enter the term ‘install’ and search will also return results for ‘installing’ and ‘installed’

Enjoy!

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Cisco.com Updates Cover The Walls

December 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm PST

You may have noticed updates in various areas of Cisco.com over the last few months. For instance, the new Cloud area, or the updates to our support menus and navigation. Even though in our team we normally work all electronically, we decided to keep a running set of improvements, components and templates on one of our walls.  It’s nice to see all of the red “Delivered” labels!

We’ll be writing  about some of the specifics here in coming weeks.

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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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