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Yes, Responsive Design Really Helps

October 26, 2012 at 7:41 am PST

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 Cisco.com 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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Awards Don’t Matter – Right?

May 23, 2012 at 10:55 am PST

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 Cisco.com, 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 Cisco.com, navigation, photography, icons, templates and more.
  • Cisco.com 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 fine-tuning to Cisco.com “Megamenus”

April 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm PST

This is minor so you might not have even noticed it — or if you did, we hope you noticed it in a good way!

This weekend we made some subtle changes to the timing of those interactive  “Megamenus” that are available from all Cisco.com pages. We made the change because after some extensive usability testing, we found that some of the original interaction timing struck customers as too “jittery.” So, we have made the timing more purposeful.  Let us know what you think.

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Welcoming Spring via Cisco TelePresence

March 30, 2012 at 4:42 pm PST

Our digital team (the folks who bring you Cisco.com, mobile and presence on the online social venues like twitter, Facebook and YouTube) had another great virtual all-hands today thanks to Cisco TelePresence. Just like last time, we had tons of people in multiple locations around the globe.  Most of us are in the Northern Hemisphere, where it’s spring, and so we wore rabbit ears and festive spring colors (the people who look so intent are looking at one of my amazing slides!):

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I love free digital design help (in this case, really)

March 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm PST

This nice blogger, Victoria Morehead of the optimization outfit Brooks Bell) designed an A/B test on their blog for a Cisco.com page. Their suggestion was to test the effectiveness of video (“A”) vs no video (“B”) vs segmented videos: http://www.brooksbell.com/blog/2012/03/id-test-that-determining-the-conversion-power-of-video-with-a-split-test

What we know about video already:

  • Visitors who view videos stay longer, go deeper into the site, and return more frequently
  • People who watch a video are in fact twice as likely to return
  • People who watch a video are more likely to complete a “success event” such as a chat or downloading relevant information
  • We use video interaction to help personalize some elements and behavior on your site journey

The blog points out some places where a good A/B test could reveal even more good data. You can bet we’re talking about running a test like this.

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