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It Takes a Global Village to Collaborate on a Template

August 18, 2009 - 0 Comments

The other day I was blogging about how ready-made off-the-shelf templates can be just the ticket if you have a small business and need to update your web presence.

But what if you’re in a much bigger company, and you need to create templates that work specifically for your products and brand, and can scale to all of the countries where you have an online presence?

I realized something that will sound absolutely shocking:

A good design for an important page or section on a global web site can easily require the collaborative expertise of more than 100 people. We have a pretty small and efficient design team, so that number surprised me. Until I realized that good designs are usually not the output of a lone "genius designer," but rather the outcome of collaboration and input from dozens and dozens of people, including your customers and partners.

The recent update we did to the Voice and Unified Communications page provides a good example of why, sometimes, it takes a global village to design a new web page.

  • First off, more than 40 customers participated in usability tests to help us understand what worked (and didn’t) about the previous design, and how to improve it. We used a mix of WebEx meetings and in-person lab tests to interact with customers in Mexico, China, Germany, and the United States (twice). We highly value the expertise of the customers who have helped us in these usability tests. (+40)
  • Next, the design involved a number of different product areas, and would expand to more in the future, so we had 2 site area producers (we call them "site strategists" at Cisco) who were involved on and off to guide us through the requirements of different product areas. (+2)
  • Because many product groups might use portions of the design in the future, we invited about two dozen product experts to contribute their opinions early on. (+24)
  • We had time from an information architect to figure out the required content structure, a visual designer to create the visual style, a prototyper to create a testable version in Dojo, a design project manager for the design portions and an overall project manager to coordinate all the moving parts. (+5)
  • We had some time from a writer to create the content for the pages (+1)
  • Our IT team’s front-end web engineers created standard components using CSS, Javascript and HTML, which involved time and expertise from four more folks (and will pay off as we resued the components elsewhere) (+4)
  • We have 80 country sites, and we asked some eager country web contacts to give us their feedback (+20)
  • I was involved giving feedback all along the way (+1), and our chief visual designer (+1) did too.
  • We had some time from a technical PM to make sure everything worked together (+1). Plus, Quality Assurance folks to make sure the pages and pieces worked right (+2)

Now, some of these 100+ people above only gave up a few minutes to lend their expertise, while a core group of folks were involved flat out for many weeks. But without the collaborative effort across all of the experts (and a lot of WebEx meetings!) the core team couldn’t have done it alone.

To follow Alan Cohen’s recent post, I guess you can count me as a rabid Collaboration Enthusiast!

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