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Measuring (and Improving!) Digital Experience

There’s an adage that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” and all of us that are in the business of managing or running things pretty much live by that.

But, how to do you measure something as squishy and ephemeral as an “experience”? And, what experiences are worth managing? At Cisco, we’ve taken a very focused approach to managing the online experience you have in web, mobile and our social media: We focus on customers’ and partners’ top tasks and missions with us, and then we measure relentlessly the success, failure and satisfaction on those. This allows us to reduce complex experiences to a set of trackable numbers that we can manage. We take this approach on big things, like the experience of getting support answers online. In fact, usability guru Gerry McGovern explains this approach to “Top Task Management” in a recent article featuring Cisco’s Bill Skeet. And we also take the “manage the experience approach” on little things — those simple but important tasks that people do with us every day. Read More »

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HDX Blog Series #4: Optimized Roaming

Editor’s Note: This is the last of a four-part deep dive series into High Density Experience (HDX), Cisco’s latest solution suite designed for high density environments and next-generation wireless technologies. For more on Cisco HDX, visit  Read part 1 here. Read part 2 here. Read part 3 here.

If you’ve been a long time user of Wi-Fi, at some point you have either observed someone encounter (or have personally suffered from) so called “sticky client syndrome”. In this circumstance, a client device tenaciously, doggedly, persistently, and stubbornly stays connected to an AP that it connected to earlier even though the client has physically moved closer to another AP.

Surprisingly, the reason for this is not entirely…errr…ummm…unreasonable. After all, if you are at home, you don’t want to be accidentally connecting to your neighbor’s AP just because the Wi-Fi device you’re using happens to be closer to your neighbor’s AP than to your own.

However, this behavior is completely unacceptable in an enterprise or public Wi-Fi environment where multiple APs are used in support of a wireless LAN and where portability, nomadicity, or mobility is the norm. In this case, the client should typically be regularly attempting to seek the best possible Wi-Fi connection.

Some may argue that regularly scanning for a better Wi-Fi connection unnecessarily consumes battery life for the client device and will interrupt ongoing connectivity. Therefore the “cure is worse than the disease”. But this is true only if the client is very aggressively scanning and actually creates the complete opposite of being “sticky”.

The fundamental issue with “stickiness” is that many client devices simply wait too long to initiate scanning and therefore seeking a better connection. These devices simply insist on maintaining an existing Wi-Fi connection even though that connection may be virtually unusable for anything but the most basic functionality. Read More »

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Yes, Responsive Design Really Helps

One of the most consistent challenges in designing for your customers’ digital experiences is understanding what things they’ll be doing when, which in turn governs what device they’ll be doing those things on. Will it be on the couch with a tablet? On the go with a smart phone? At work on a laptop?

On the Cisco digital team, we do a lot of research and planning on this very topic, and have found that some tasks are very time/device specific (such as looking up appointment information or background information on your phone right before a meeting) while some are more broad and could happen anywhere, such as checking product information or searching. To illustrate this better to our teams internally, we put together a storyboard to illustrate how our customers and partners use multiple devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, smart phones) within the course of their day when interacting with us and each other. Here’s a panel from it:

What this doesn’t show is that there are also “could happen anywhere” cases. These are often the most mundane of things, but important ones. For instance, our login page on receives more than 2,000,000 visits per month. But when we took a look at the mobile part of the login experience, we knew something had to be done!

The most obvious problem with this page above is the teeny tiny type. And then, to use it, you have to stretch and zoom to get the fields big enough to even type into. It was, as we euphemistically say in the tech biz, “suboptimal.”

One solution would have been to create separate login designs for large tablets, small tablets, phones and desktops. Instead, we chose a smarter way, using Responsive Design, which I have blogged about previously: We used one “smart” code base that adapted the display for the size of the current device. The result was very simple and very nice: A clean login page we launched recently that retains its normal behavior on the desktop browser, but shrinks to fit for tablets and smart phones. It’s a simple example of where Responsive Design saves time in deployment because we could write the code once and put it through one development and test cycle, rather than creating three or four different experiences and having to develop and test them all separately.

Responsive design doesn’t solve every problem — and there are many, many experiences on mobile that need to be designed specifically for venue and device. But use responsive design where it helps save time and money, and can provide some consistency in basic behavior.

Thanks to our mobile, design, and IT teams for pushing this out. Enjoy!

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Simpler is Better: An Updated Gateway Page for Products

They may seem simple changes, but we think some recent updates to the Products & Services page on will make this page easier and quicker for you to use.

Here are some of the main things we’ve improved:

  1. Links are more obvious. Previously, some links were hidden behind drawers. Examining the metrics — plus testing with you — convinced us to make all the links visible, which will definitely help for findability.
  2. Scanning the list of products is easier.
  3. Scanning the list of services  is easier and the lists are more obvious.
  4. There’s a new “Key Topics” module which allows a clear navigation path to these important areas.
  5. Borderless Networks; Collaboration; and Data Center & Virtualization are highlighted.
  6. We’ve updated the “Let us Help” content to reflect all of our main contact methods so you can connect with us more easily.
  7. It’s easier find key links to areas like Visio stencils and EOL products. And, we’ve added a few new links places like the Developer Network Marketplace and Developer Network (Resources).

A lesson is this update is that sometimes, simpler is better.  The previous design was an improvement over its earlier version, but also had some interactive elements such as switchable tabs and popup drawers; these may have been “cool” to play with, but didn’t do much to help usability or speed of navigating on the page.  We’ll let you know how this new, more simple version performs.

The new page:

For comparison, the previous version:

The older one is shorter, but in the end, we find that people don’t mind scrolling or swiping a bit to get to the information they need. It’s much better to have the information visible.

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Cisco Product Info Now On Your Mobile Smartphone

Here’s something I think you’ll like: Rich information about the entire Cisco product and services portfolio is now available free in a smartphone-friendly format.

This update includes:

  • More than 7,000 product series and model pages for mobile access
  • Complete coverage for Services products
  • More than 1,180 product oriented videos now playable on mobile devices for the iPhone and Android platforms. (We’ve converted 31 GB worth of videos!)
  • Links to data sheets and other key information that you can browse to quickly, in both HTML and PDF format.

You can access it from your mobile smartphone start at We’re treating this like a “Beta” — primarily because we are still working on table treatments — and tuning every day. But I know you’ll find a lot to like here when you’re on the go.

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