Strong title perhaps…but thats the kind of over the top messaging I have been practicing now that I am technically on a marketing team. Today is the big day -- all the hard work of a great many people that spent the last several years dreaming, designing and then building what appears to me as the most advanced, eco-friendly data center as yet conceived…(there I go again). Lots to promote here so bear with me -- first and foremost -- be sure and tune in today as they stream the grand opening event featuring our own Rebecca Jacoby and John Manville -- you can catch it live on the uStream channel: http://www.ustream.tv/ciscotv from 2:30 to 3:15 Central Time. (cause its in Texas!). Jimmy Ray recently penned a nice run down of our own recent visit to this high impact low profile data center in his blog -- I thought I would share a couple of my favorite things.
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.
Soon, we’re going to be making some updates to the product category pages on Cisco.com. That’s pages like the ones for Switches, Routers, Voice and Unified Communication, Security and about a dozen others. We think those pages work pretty well today, but based on your feedback and also our observations of how hundreds of thousands of visitors who use these pages, we’re making some additional improvements.
1. Faster performance load time. We’re changing out the “HTML tabs” method (which loads an entire page of tabs at once) with an approach where tabs are on individual pages. This will make the page load faster and have some other benefits, such as better behavior when you “go back” in some browsers and otherwise interact with the tabs. Here’s a pic:
2. Clearer linking to the “All products” listing. There are going to be a couple of links that make it exceedingly easy to jump to the full list of products in any category, if you want to. One example:
3. Consistent treatment for Contact Us and related information.
4. Consistent navigation to related Communities, Support, How to Buy functions
5. Contextual linking to support-related functions like troubleshooting, configuration and downloads. There will be links to support that take you right into the correct category, if you’re browsing that way.
6. Clearer linkages to reference designs and other important functions.
7. Elevated technology and business benefits areas – so you don’t have to go hunting for them.
8. More ROI information, and in more obvious places. Example:
9. Better information about services and solutions related to product areas. Example:
10. Consistent routes to segments/size-specific views of products where it applies (e.g. small business):
11. Removing the left nav at this top level, which confused new customers (you can more easily move using the flydown megamenus at the top)
12. Improved writing – We rewrote some things that… well to be honest, were confusing.
Of course, we preserved all that has worked well with the existing pages, and we’re also continuing to tune things based on your suggestions about content and functionality.
We hope you like the new pages when they go live later this week.
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.
P.S. Here are some pictures of the ūmi site.
We got some spirited input from many of you about the toolbar on the bottom of Cisco.com pages. While you can collapse it to move it out of the way, a number of our visitors have asked that we remove it all together. Our own tests have confirmed that it’s more of a problem than a benefit. So, we’re removing the toolbar from Cisco.com in mid April.
In the meantime, you can click on the arrow on the toolbar to collapse it. It will stay collapsed until the next time you delete your cookies.
Thanks for sending us all your feedback to make Cisco.com a better site.
P.S. The toolbar saga is an interesting one, and at some point in the future I will post a long story about the design and project lessons that we learned from it.