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Awards Don’t Matter – Right?

I used to be the sort of fellow who eschewed design or leadership awards for web sites. I figured the true measure of success is seeing the sites used every day for Customers and Partners answering their questions, assessing the right product fits, communicating with their colleagues on forums.

I still take awards with a grain of salt, but we’ve gotten several mentions lately for, so I thought it would be worth a brief recap for the following reason: These awards not only reflect our team’s hard work here at Cisco, but also your participation. They show:

  • How you’ve helped us achieve excellence (or strive for it, at least) with your regular participation in comments to the site and in our 1:1 usability tests that we do around the globe via WebEx.
  • How our team has worked diligently to continuously improve our web, social and mobile experiences, based on your input.

Here is  a list of some of the accolades we’ve gotten lately, and then I promise I’ll stop bragging for a while:

  • As Bill Skeet just blogged recently, our Online Support experience recently won the “Ten Best Support Sites” award from the Association of Support Professionals (ASP). And, Cisco was awarded the 2012 Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) STAR Award for “Best Online Support” for the fourth year in a row.
  • Cisco recently won an Award of Distinction for our Brand Identity System, which includes the web site. The scope of this one included Cisco brand guidelines, along with brand assets such as, navigation, photography, icons, templates and more.
  • is a 2012 Webby Honoree:  Official Honoree distinction is awarded to the top 15% of all work entered 10,000 entries received from the US  and more than 60 countries.
  • And, our Cisco London 2012 website has also been selected as an Official Honoree of the 16th Annual Webby Awards in the Corporate Communications category.
  • Cisco won a bronze ADDY in the AAF-Silicon Valley ADDY Competition. This award is for our new Brand Identity System which includes all of the standards for the web, mobile and social venues. The ADDYs are arguably the world’s largest creative competition, with over 60,000 entries each year nationwide.
  • Cisco’s Connected Life Exchange blog was honored at @btobmagazine Social Media Marketing Awards. In the article, the writer says “The whole package is refreshingly non-promotional and often fascinating. Cisco continues to innovate in the suddenly red-hot field of content marketing with an approach to thought leadership that emphasizes actual thinking.”

And, I already mentioned these, but they bear repeating because these focus on coverage and usability:

Our digital teams don’t think about awards that much; but we do think about you and how you use our web sites, mobile and other digital experiences every day. And I like to think that focus has translated into some of the recent accolades.

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Some Updates to Product Pages

You may notice this weekend that we’re doing some updates to the product series and model pages on These are simple and subtle changes, but we think they’ll make it easier and quicker to get to the information you need.

I’ll write more later, but here’s a preview and a quick overview:

Series and Models Update View

1 – Pictures enlarge more gracefully, but still open in a separate box so you can keep browsing around.
2 – Most important links now featured at the top of the page, for easy access.
3 – Comparisons and other key features made more obvious.
4 – Facebook Like and other features in a new standard location
5 – Streamlined Let Us Help and Contact information, which also routes to different places depending on the product and your role.
6 – All the key support you rely on.

Enjoy — and if you have additional suggestions or notice anything is amiss, send us a note via the “Feedback” link that’s at the bottom of every page.

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Kudos for’s Support “Mega Menu”

As you’ll remember from Bill Skeet’s post the other day, we recently rolled out a new menu for Support that focuses on the top tasks our customers do on  This menu is available on virtually every page — it’s that little window that appears when you hover your cursor over the “Support” menu link.

new support MegaMenu

Well, web analysts SiteIQ have been watching, and have some very nice things to say in their new blog post about the Support Mega Menu.

My favorite quote in the article hints nicely at the balance we try to achieve on

“Support is a different animal than marketing. It is truly task-based. More access is key—the quicker the better. That requires functionality, scannability, and a nod towards popularity. This is where gets it—and the gold.”

Congrats to the Support web team for this very nice (and on target) review.

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Using walkthroughs to prevent web experience meltdowns

This past weekend, I enjoyed a couple of very straightforward and simple online shopping experiences. But, unfortunately, I also endured some really bumpy ones. Which led me to wonder: Doesn’t everyone in the digital world know about doing walkthroughs before a launch?

Walkthroughs are a very simple way of previewing experiences so you know what they’ll be like when you go live. They’re like a dry-run of the experience that you can do early in the development process.  Here is how it works:

    1. Figure out the common paths through an experience. (For instance, one that I saw this week on a consumer site was to sign up for a promotional program: It started with an ad, led to a landing page, which went to a Facebook page and on to a sign-up form [which turns out is too many steps, but that was the flow, so that is what you would walk through].)
    2. Mock up a placeholder page for each step. If you have a small team that’s in one place, you can just draw with pencil or pen; if your team is more distributed, pop some fake screens into PowerPoint or another online tool so you can share via WebEx.  If parts of the web site or mobile screens are already built, use those.
    3. Then, in a small meeting, have someone pretend to be the site visitor, and step through the experience. Make sure someone takes notes about missing steps, messages you want to get across on specific screens, what the main calls to action should be, etc.

      The picture below shows what it’s like if you walk through the steps posted on a wall. We sometimes do it this way at Cisco, although more often we set up WebEx Meeting sessions so and walk through web pages or PowerPoint mockups. But the idea of walking through sequential steps is the same.

      A walkthrough is a great focusing exercise because it gets everyone to focus as a team on what the end customer will see, and a lot of petty or political issues melt away once everyone is focused on the end experience. On a big project, you should walk through many key scenarios and repeat until you get it right.

      I can’t remember a walkthrough I’ve done where something wasn’t caught. And catching problems before launch is much better than having thousands or millions of people experiencing them live.


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      Easier search results on

      You may have noticed that a few months ago, we introduced a new feature into our search results, where if you search for a product we present back quick links to key types of assets including downloads, data sheets, and configuration and troubleshooting information.

      For example, search for a Cisco 800 Series router…

      And you will get back results that link not only to the main product and support pages, but also include quick links to relevant downloads, data sheets and other info:

      I’ve watched many customers in our studies now use these features, and they seem universally appreciated.

      Kudos to the vocabulary teams that manage all of these data relationships, and to the search team who implemented this.

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