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Kudos to a microsite that really isn’t one

There’s a great article on Search Engine Land that gives an overview of our ūmi home telepresence area, and, probably unintentionally, underscores the strategy we followed in our new design system:  Create a system that’s flexible enough to create “microsites that aren’t really microsites.”

For those who don’t know, a microsite is a separate small web site that companies set up to focus on a specific topic or promotion. For instance, a soft drink company might set up a microsite around a specific promotion it is doing around a sporting event.  The advantage of a microsite is that it is very focused, so there are no distractions from a bigger corporate web site. It focuses on a single topic and place.

But there are usually big disadvantges, including these:

  • Microsites usually aren’t connected at all to the main company site, which means that users who need more information can be lost. Or, if they go to more supporting information from the corporate site, they’re off into a different navigational space and may never be able to find their way back.
  • Microsites often have a completely different domain from the main company site, which means search engines often don’t associate them with the parent company, and that can hurt their ranking when people search on Google, Bing or the other search engines.
  • Microsites can be expensive to create and maintain, since they usually involve inventing a completely different design system and then maintaining separate templates, content and infrastructure.

So, when we set out to create a new design system for Cisco’s web and mobile sites, we had an express goal of supporting something that would have all of the advantages of a microsite, but with none of the disadvantages.  I was heartened to read Search Engine Land review, which thinks we’ve succeeded:

From a user experience perspective, it is a stand-alone property. And that’s important here because people interested in Umi—a high-definition video conference system that hooks up to your TV and broadband Internet connection, for spread out families and long distance relationships—are intrigued by a very specific solution.

They’re probably not weighing a decision, “Should I buy this or maybe check out a new firewall?” So Cisco has eliminated almost all non-Umi distractions.

The basic templates we use for everything from ūmi home telepresence, to home networking, to Borderless Networks are similar, which means not only a consistent experience for our visitors, but also a lot less reinventing of the wheel for us.  But, since the templates can support a “walled garden” idea such as the one we’ve adopted for ūmi home telepresence, we can have the advantage of a microsite too.

One way we tie everything together — while still allowing it to be separate when needed — is with the simple idea of hover navigation over the logo. And, regional navigation along the top bar (for instance, for the home-focused site area) helps visitors navigate to related products. You can see related implementations of the same navigational model on Cisco.com, our blog site, and you’ll be seeing it on many other of our site areas over time.

Enjoy!

P.S. Here are some pictures of the ūmi site.

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Death {of,by} Toolbar

We got some spirited input from many of you about the toolbar on the bottom of Cisco.com pages.  While you can collapse it to move it out of the way, a number of our visitors have asked that we remove it all together. Our own tests have confirmed that it’s more of a problem than a benefit.  So, we’re removing the toolbar from Cisco.com in mid April.

In the meantime, you can click on the arrow on the toolbar to collapse it. It will stay collapsed until the next time you delete your cookies.

Expanded state:

Expanded Toolbar

Collapsed state:

Thanks for sending us all your feedback to make Cisco.com a better site.

P.S. The toolbar saga is an interesting one, and at some point in the future I will post a long story about the design and project lessons that we learned from it.

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Downloading, Carts and Java

More than a year ago, we introduced a feature in the Cisco.com download flow that allows you to download multiple images at once, which are stored in a cart.  This feature was created at the request of customers and partners, some 42% of whom told us they really needed multi-file downloads.  At the time, the cart feature only used Java, which was a challenge for some users. But back in October we introduced a “non-Java” setting for the cart.  Even though this has been active for a few months, I thought I would point it out in case you haven’t noticed it yet.

Here’s how it works.  If you want a simple list – rather than the Java-based Download Manager – just look for the “Non Java Download” option when you get to the download cart screen:

If you select this as your default, you’ll see the following screen instead of the download manager.  No Java needed. This is all customizable by you!

We’re continuing to work on the download flows in order to support a wide range of download scenarios. I know the Cisco.com download team would like to hear from you about specific needs you have around the download experience, and if you leave a (polite, honest and thoughtful) comment here they will read your comments and can follow up with your directly.

P.S. Just so you don’t complain that I’m a complete Java-hater of some kind, here is my coffee cup :-)

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WebEx.com Gets a Nice Update

Visitors to WebEx.com will notice the site has been updated recently with a brand new look, including streamlined navigation and page designs. In style and format the site is now more similar to Cisco.com, using bright saturated colors, the same page width, and many identical elements.

The new design and structure will make it easier for visitors to find information about WebEx products:

  • A simpler navigational structure replaces previous complex menus.
  • Product and Overview pages are more visual, easier to scan and read, and rely on screenshots and videos to illustrate ease-of-use, features and benefits.
  • The “How To” section with short video clips and a new webinars section—Together@WebEx—are both accessible directly off the top navigation bar.

The new site is a first step toward other improvements in the works. WebEx.com is now on a platform that enables quicker updates and ongoing user experience enhancements. Over the coming months, content on the site will continue to be updated and optimized to address the needs of a variety of visitors. And new subscribers will see big improvements in a simplified purchase process, too.

And last but not least, European visitors will see similar makeovers on WebEx European sites, coming later this year.

Oh, and, as you probably know if you’re a WebEx customer, the online service itself gets new features and improvements regularly.

The new online experience took many months for the WebEx.com team to conceptualize, design and test, and involved groups within the Collaboration Software Group Online and IT teams, and Cisco Solutions Marketing. It was fun collaborating with the designers on WebEx.com as we worked on some of the common design elements across Cisco’s sites.

Enjoy!

P.S. Thanks to Amelia and the WebEx.com team for the pictures and notes. It really was great watching this update come together!

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Supportive Support for Small Business, too

Yesterday, Bill Skeet posted an update on a list of improvements we’ve made to the main support experience on Cisco.com. In a related effort, we’ve also been working on some simple but important updates specifically for small business, and have just re-launched a Small Business Support and Resources page at cisco.com/go/smallbizhelp. Some features of this new page:

  • Highlights the Small Business Online Chat Support option
  • Phone support hyperlinks direct customers and partners to appropriate Support Center based on product
  • Community support hyperlinks direct customers and partners to appropriate Support Community based on product
  • Provides customers and partners with advice to expedite their support calls
  • Calls out ‘how to purchase options’ for customers and unregistered partners
  • Provides links to Open Source information
  • Go URL shortcut (cisco.com/go/smallbizhelp) – easy for customers and partners to remember and easy to include in docs and correspondence
  • Fast search ‘recommended content’ already in place for this page

Let us know how you like these updates, and enjoy!

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