Friday Apr 04, 2008

You Know, Like CNET

Before you even get to the point where you ask 'what is your content?', there's an apparent understanding that you need to work out how it surfaces all over your site. Since the very early days of sun.com, one of the biggest goals, as far as maintaining a healthy visitor profile goes, is just how to make things sticky. I'm not talking sticky as in the stuff that makes you go eeuw, but sticky like the invisible elastic brain rubber that compels you, against the gravity of your free will, to revisit those places online that have already visited. It's the same reason you go back to Fry's every so often, just to see if there's any new technology stuff to dribble over, or why you ping last.fm or iTunes to keep up with released, related, and recommended. It might also be the reason you visit Gap every Friday lunchtime - you're just checking it out to see what's new.

But how do you know what's new and where do you expect to find that out? When you're looking at something the scale of sun.com and trying to determine customer behaviours for a given page type, it's not alway a simple task to predict. You might be the kind of visitor who would casually visit the sun.com home page and, not unreasonably, expect to see anything newsworthy enough, that you might be compelled to actually invest time in, to be present right there. You might be more specific than that. You might be the CTO for an SMB or some other suitable market research defined acronym pairing, in which case, you'd probably know that we've got a place just for you, where you'd expect announcements, deep-dives and news to appear, relevant to your needs. You might even have a large propeller sticking out of your head and be interested only in what's going on with Sun Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and how that relates to your development requirements for your linear accellerator or something. Either way, when we've got news for you, we want you to find it. And we want you to come back again. And again. And again.

So that's why we're currently investigating new approaches to surfacing the bestest, most currentest, content around, that's relevant to you, in a way that's going to make you want to come back often, but not take all day to consume when you're engaging with us. One of the ideas we're floating around (or select another flagpole/envelope/conceptualization buzzword bingo term of your own there) is content channels. You know, like CNET. We could funnel these content streams into various containers on product pages, gateways, category pages, etc., so that what's most relevant to you is right there, where you want it, on-demand, so to speak. In terms of web design, this a quite a nice proposal, as we can have the content live elsewhere and suck it through a virtual 'news pipe', which spits it into, for instance, the servers container. Which would probably be quite sticky. Of course, someone, somewhere, needs to be owning, managing, publishing and maintaining the channels, but on the assumption that that would be possible, then a modular approach to deploying those channels where it makes most sense would be, um, neat.

AddThis Feed Button AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Technorati Tags:

Listening Post: The Who: I Can See For Miles

Wednesday Mar 19, 2008

IETab for XHTML Traps

You'd think I would check. First rule of web design and all that. I mean, we extensively test our web design components against all the platform and browser combinations out there, and Andrew and Greg are constantly redefining CSS elements so that we maintain a consistent style, whatever you're using to connect to us.

But that can't save me from being a lazy arse. I like to put images in blog posts to illustrate points, or just to make myself less uninteresting than I am. I also like to have them aligned left or, usually, right, with text wrapping around them. This is from the HTML 1.0 handbook, right? So I was rightly ashamed of myself when I installed the IETab add-on for Firefox the other day and took a look at some blog postings. Initially, I'd installed IETab to try and sync up PicLens with a thumbnail folder view of an enormous image directory as presented as a windows explorer view. That didn't work, but I thought IETab was kind of interesting, so I duly went away and 'IETabbed' my bookmarks.

Oops. seems that that old align=right hspace=8 vspace=8 ain't what it used to be, and probably hasn't been since about 2003 or something. For blog templates written in HTML 4 (of which there are tons out there I've used or written), this old syntax is just fine, even if it's like the 'Hello World' of web design, but, you know, if it ain't broke. Except it is broke. In XHTML 1.0 (correct me if I'm wrong, but only in your head), those handy attributes are deprecated, so if your doctype declaration contains the XHTML 1.0 string (like this blog template), the page rendering is undefined. No problem, then, if you've been using Firefox since forever, because Firefox just understands that some people out there can't code for toffee and gracefully deprecates on your behalf. Internet Explorer, however, throws its toys right out of the pram. Because we always gave IE a hard time in the past for being rotten with supporting web standards, it gets all fussy if you make mistakes these days. At least, mistakes in the way IE wants to implement XHTML.

Suffice to say, align=right translates to something like align=centerwithnowrapanddoitrightnexttimeidiot. Meaning this whole blog has looked a right old mess on IE since I started. My fault really. I should have checked. How authoritative I must have appeared, spouting on about web design standards, customer experience journeys, usability and everything, when the very page I was writing looked like someone has thrown up a flickr photostream at random in between the passages of pompous rambling prose like this.

Anyway, you're probably reading this, if anyone is, through google reader or something, so it really doesn't matter. A new class in the CSS for those images fixed everything pretty quick. In case you're using FireFox, and you're now thinking "oh, I might just take a look at my blog to see what it looks like but I can't be bothered to start Internet Explorer which I can't anyway because I'm on Solaris and I don't happen to have a virtual version of XP running somewhere", then try IETab. It eats memory like children eat cakes at a birthday party, but its worth it.

AddThis Feed Button AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Technorati Tags:

Listening Post: Sleater-Kinney: The Fox

Thursday Mar 13, 2008

Sun.com Works of Art

Not my words. Those good folks at siteIQ conducted a regular, in-depth, web site best practice review of sun.com towards the end of last year, and there were some great highlights. There were plenty of lowlights too, of course, and we're already figuring out our way forward as we try and resolve some of those, but, as I have my trumpet out, I'm about to blow it.

We put a great deal of effort into how we support customers through the buying cycle. In the past, we've not had great success with integrating ecommerce activities into our product pages. Product buying has always been something of an uncomfortable appendage on sun.com - a kind of strange distended web version of the dead people in the Sixth Sense - but, in recent years, we've evolved our ecommerce capabilities into a compelling, well-rounded customer experience. Its very satisfying to see that the latest siteIQ report picks up on this and singles out the 'Get It' tab on our product pages for singular praise. From the report (referencing the Sun SPARC Enterprise T5220 Server):

"Kudos to Sun.com for a 'Get It' page that is truly a work of art. This page starts by putting SPARC servers in multiple contexts for visitors, including price, compute power and scalability."
"This page leads to a short and well crafted e-commerce clickstream that allows buyers to quickly configure additional options and purchase the product in two additional clicks."

The fact that this whole experience hangs together so well is due to some supercool customer experience and interactive design work in the web experience team, and some key collaborations with our publishing and engineering teams and ecommerce vendors. What we're actually talking about here is the seamless integration of of the ecommerce platform, that drives the transactions, with the sun.com environment, where we're supporting your decision making process. That Get It tab is part of the sun.com information architecture, of course, and navigating between tabs on a product page is a consistent and coherent design experience and all that, but its not actually on sun.com at all. Toot!

That last bit was my trumpet, by the way.

AddThis Feed Button AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Technorati Tags:

Listening Post: Beth Orton: Someone's Daughter

About

The Sun Web Experience Design team is a group of user experience professionals committed to making the online experience with Sun the best it can be.

Search

Archives
« April 2014
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
  
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
   
       
Today