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A subtle update to navigation

This past weekend, we made a subtle change to the product navigation in the “mega menus” available from the top of the pages on

Notice the change? Feedback welcome!

Tags: , Updates Cover The Walls

You may have noticed updates in various areas of over the last few months. For instance, the new Cloud area, or the updates to our support menus and navigation. Even though in our team we normally work all electronically, we decided to keep a running set of improvements, components and templates on one of our walls.  It’s nice to see all of the red “Delivered” labels!

We’ll be writing  about some of the specifics here in coming weeks.

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When constraints are a blessing

A curse of any project is that moment when you look at the objectives to be solved, and realise that the rules or resources seem too constrained for success.

But sometimes, those constraints — which are so vexing early on — can be a blessing in the end.  A case in point is the new Series and Model pages we’ve recently updated on Originally, we had all kinds of grand ideas for how these pages should be transformed. But then we looked at the underlying systems that create the pages, and realised the grand ideas would be expensive to implement and time-consuming to maintain.

So, we dropped back. We asked ourselves: “What is it we’re really trying to accomplish for customers with this update?”  Some of the answers were very simple:

  1. Make the most important information quickly available (by putting it at the top of the pages)
  2. Highlight product comparisons, where they’re available
  3. Make the pages easier to scan visually
  4. Make the fonts bigger so things are easy to read
  5. Make basic spec information quicker to read

We realised we could do all of those things without an expensive rewrite of the underlying system. So, instead of a massive engineering project, we focused instead on new content standards and some CSS tune-up work.

You can see the result of items 1 and 2 and some of 3 above on all 7,000+ series and model pages. And, we’re beginning to roll out updates that address items 3-5 (making things easier to scan and read). Here’s an example from the Cisco Catalyst 2960 Switch series:

The simple changes we made with links to comparisons, embbeding spec tables, using bigger fonts and creating streamlined layouts were focused on things we knew customers needed in their daily use of the pages.  Constraints in the underlying system, it turned out, were a blessing because the constraints made us focus on those few things.

You can see additional examples of the updated layouts on these pages:


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Maybe You Just Need a Little Red Wagon

My friend and colleague Helen Lechner has a saying when someone excitedly comes to her with a grandiose idea to solve a simple problem on our web or mobile sites. It goes something like “I know you want a Ferrari, but maybe for this project you really just need a little red wagon.”

Actually, she’s said this to me more than a few times. I often think of that quote when I myself get excited about something big or grandiose; it reminds me to step back and ask if what our Customers and Partners may need is something more simple and straightforward, like a clear datasheet; a well-written service description; or a clear conceptual diagram. Sometimes you do indeed need a Ferrari to get places. But sometimes a little red wagon is fine — and in fact preferred.

Our design team was recently inspired to make Helen a “fake home page” poster to commemorate her saying.

Enjoy, and here’s hoping that you and your team drive both Ferraris and little red wagons, as appropriate.


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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