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 Cisco.com. 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:
- Make the most important information quickly available (by putting it at the top of the pages)
- Highlight product comparisons, where they’re available
- Make the pages easier to scan visually
- Make the fonts bigger so things are easy to read
- 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:
- 800 Series Routers
- Cisco Unified Contact Center Express
- Cisco Catalyst 2960 Series Switches
- Cisco Catalyst 2960-S Series Switches