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Focusing on customers’ top digital journeys

I’ve often written about how we optimize to our Customers’ and Partners’ top journeys across our web sites and mobile apps. We’ve found that focusing relentlessly on the top things that visitors do with us online (versus following the latest cool digital fads) helps us stay grounded.  Customers and Partners drive their own journeys, and we’re reminded of this every time we run a user test with them or  look at the analytics from our sites.

Following this “top tasks” approach, we’ve been able to raise usability scores in key areas like Support by as much as 65 or 70%.  And, in areas where we still have challenges — as all sites do, by the way — the focus on top tasks keeps a spotlight on the work we have ahead.

I mention this again because usability luminary Gerry McGovern has recently published a nicely detailed overview of our top tasks approach on It’s a great inside look at the process we follow, and is a great read if you’re interested in quality improvement or customer satisfaction in the digital space.

The techniques we’ve followed here for web sites and mobile also apply more broadly to omni-channel experiences, of which digital tasks are usually core. We’ve been exchanging notes with teams in other companies around this topic of measuring top tasks and journeys, and would love to hear about the experiences from you!

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Giving attention, not getting attention

This recent post in the Harvard Business Review, Your Digital Strategy Shouldn’t Be About Attention, is a good reminder that the best digital experiences come from listening to your visitors and then anticipating what they want.

We’re tried to follow that philosophy on and in our mobile apps, through observing by listening, invisible change,  and continual improvement.

Good read!

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“Invisible change” in your favorite web sites

My colleague Bill Skeet published an interesting blog a few weeks ago about “Invisible Change” — the improvement and innovation that happens quietly in digital experiences such as web sites and mobile apps. You may have noticed — or not noticed — this phenomenon on web sites you visit frequently. For instance, you may have noticed the shopping site updated its web design very recently, and that the new design feels newer and fresher but still retains all of the key functions that you’re familiar with as an Amazon customer. But, if you think back, you’ll realize has been continually changing for years, in thousands and thousands of microsteps. isn’t, but we also practice this continuual improvement regimen. In his post, Bill lists a number of improvements on that have happened quietly in the last year or so. These range from improved site search, to product search boxes in the support and downloads area, to 7,000 product model pages for support that were added to streamlined tools, and tweaked link labels and terminology to be more understandable. There have also been some significant updates in our online commerce areas for customers and partners.

Because improvements are rolled out incrementally, we have often found that even regular visitors had no idea about all of these changes. But, they were absolutely delighted as they interacted with some of the new features.

If you have a little time over this holiday-laden period of the next few weeks, feel free to spend some time interacting with, and I’ll bet you find at least a half-dozen things you didn’t notice before.


P.S. If you’re interested in how we drive continual improvements in our web and mobile experiences, one excellent process that we have developed at Cisco is something called our 5-Star Experience program. I’ll be writing about this in the near future, but here’s a sneak preview encapsulated into one graphic:


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You Can Observe A Lot By Watching.

Usability Testing at CiscoLive!

Usability testing a support mobile page at the NetVet lounge with NetVet Mike Williams.

Recently at CiscoLive!, we spent a full week with customers and partners doing in-detail usability tests of and some of our mobile sites and apps. This is one of the main methods we use to make our web and mobile easier.

What’s a usability test? Something different than you might think. While you’ve probably heard of other research techniques like focus groups and surveys, usability tests and listening labs are a way for us to learn through observing how people use our sites: We have someone sit down in front of the screen and ask them to do a task that they would in their real work day. This could be solving a support question, researching a new product, finding the right download, investigating a new API, or any number of other things.

Here’s the difference between a usability test vs. a focus group or survey: In a focus group, a facilitator often throws out an idea or scenario and gets a group of people to comment on it. The people in the room will tell you what they might like… they will build on others comments… they may give you some great ideas! But, you won’t really be learning by observing. You won’t understand the kinds of things they will actually do in real life, because you’re asking them what they think they would do. You aren’t observing.

But when we observe people using our mobile apps or web sites, we can see lots of things. For instance:

  • We can see the areas that trip them up (even if they report to us that the experience is just fine)
  • We can see the areas where they’re getting the wrong result (even if they think they’re getting the right one).
  • Or sometimes even technical problems that we see and can troubleshoot, but they can’t.

We recommend running usability tests or listening labs at multiple stages for major projects:

  • At the beginning of the project – when you want to understand current state and also look at how competitive or best practice sites and apps are doing.
  • In the middle – while you’re still developing, and direct observation and feedback can make a huge difference
  • Before release – so you can catch any last-minute problems
  • After release – because sometimes when outside factors and environments affect the app or web experience in way you can’t expect (for instance, how and whether people can find your site topic on Google or other search engines, and how they interact with the results).

Even though this sounds like a lot of testing, there are some new techniques you can use to get real user feedback very quickly – within hours or days. I’ll talk about that in a future post.

Meanwhile, keep testing. And, remember baseball legend Yogi Berra, who said:

“You can observe a lot by watching!”

Yogi Berra

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A Simple Update To Our Menus

MM-Mouseover Bar

Did you notice the recent change to the menus on  We call them “megamenus” — those convenient lists that fly down when you mouse over the masthead bar on any page on We recently updated the “Products & Services” megamenu on the site to make it more readable and simplify navigation.

Here’s the new improved Products megamenu:


For comparison, the here’s previous version:


What We Did

Do you notice what’s changed?

  • We reduced the length of the list of product categories so that it’s more readable.
  • We updated the layout so there’s less back-and-forth scanning.
  • We made Solutions and Services a bit more visible.
  • We put Cisco Validated Designs in a more obvious place.
  • We reordered some other things here and there to help us understand traffic patterns.

We think this is a nice simplification for our site-wide mega menus. And, of course, you can still find the full list of all products via the “All Products” list.


(And, as always, if you have feedback, please send us a note here or at the [+]Feedback link that’s at the bottom of every page.)

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