These are notes for my own little reference. Metrics to track if you really want to makes changes that the customers want, not your boss.

Conversion Rate

Customer satisfaction,

Average order value (AOV),

Market Share,

Number of active customers,

Visitor Loyalty & Visitor Recency

Task Completion Rate 

Measuring Days & Visits to Purchase

Share of Search (share of shelf space at the Google supermarket)

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The definition of a bug is the product is not working according to design. use case is not working accordingly.

Bug vs. Feature Request. It’s a painful and arbitrary decision, because most of the time, it’s both. There’s no difference between a bug and a feature request from the user’s perspective. If you want to do something with an application (or website) and you can’t do it because that feature isn’t implemented — how is that any different than not being able to do something due to an error message?

vendor gets those strings but they missed a string, who’s responsiblity is it.

When you get a lot of bug fix requests from the client, how do you address it?

Anatomy of a bug
issue definition; if it is in only one language usually it is considered ia bug
priority and severity
status
configuration
localization specifics

When you get a lot of bug fix requests from the client, how do you address it?

from Kien Vu to Everyone:
Most translation vendors that i have worked with generally have the fonts and whatnot.
from Bob to Everyone:
Megan’s example could happen with any type of file incompatibility: XML, HTML, RTF, etc.
from Michael Maas to Everyone:
Absolutely.
from Bob to Everyone:
It shows that you have to be careful about assumptions!
from megan finaly to Everyone:
yes. you are right. I had no idea the printer would do that to my file and make changes in it.
from Bob to Everyone:
Yeah, some of those cases are hard to predict.
from Mark Cruth to Everyone:
yes, you have to put everything in the contract. I worked on an outsourced project that was burned by not specifying the software that should have been used
from Bob to Everyone:
I had similar problems in filmmaking where there were all sorts of different (and incompatible) formats.
from Bob to Everyone:
This sounds like the requirement for 9-track tape 🙂
from Mark Cruth to Everyone:
LOL
from Kien Vu to Everyone:
We had issues with that as well. We went with an overseas translation vendor since they were cheap. Unfortunately, they didnt put translations into memory, desktop publishing fees were enormous, etc
from Bob to Everyone:
Would this sort of error show up in a pseudo loc test?
from Bob to Everyone:
So wouldn’t content tool selection be part of your internationalization review?


The tools you use for localization, make sure you have the same tools, software. Font is a major issue. Someone will has to bear the cost of it.
Siemens font is customized and weighs 25MB! Think about loading that onto a mobile device or deliver within web content. And think about all the other languages that have to be represented in that font; cyrillic, japanese, etc.

Priority vs severity of a bug
Severity
1: sys crash or data loss, major legal problem, geopolitical issue
2: major funcitonality loss
3: minor issues, cosmetic problems

Priority
1: fix as soon as possible
2: fix soon
3: fix if time permits

Status of bug
Active: bug still needs to be looked at or worked on
Resolved: bug has been investigated and worked on; a decision has been made to either correct it or postpone it
Closed: the resolution of the bug has been verified by the person who ORIGINALLY opened the bug

Resolution
Fixed; corrected
Not reproduceable; could not reproduce
External; this is a dependency on an external partner and does not affect any code or component inside your product
Postponed; bug is postponed
Won’t fix; bug that is minor and will probably disappear by the next version
By Design
Duplicate

Reasons not to fix; cost, priority, risk of breaking the software or introducing more bugs

<what about the person who put together the spec and signed off on the contract doesn’t know so well about the internationalization process and the kind of bugs you would find, and the bug list becomes a battlefield. >

Types of bugs we care about
Globalization; this is code problem with the core sw
Localizability; what is my ability to translate this? Is it easy enough to do with my existing process? embedding HTML 5 in the the .dll file…it won’t load the HTML5. sofware works fine, but cant efficiently localize. screen saver file name, if you put a code like the fish name, then it can be done. it adds work for the team.
Localization; Linguistic and Functional. For functional testers; they will use Eng app on one side and another language on the right and do the same test on the localized file. Linguistic testing need to be a native.

Type of Bugs
Localization (L10n) bugs; are usually language specific. translation strings issue. (Microsoft calls it Globalization) and in one language
Internalization (i18n) bugs

Examples of International bugs
– text not displayed correctly
– truncated text in dialog boxes or buttons, there was not enough allowance made for text expansion
– system crashes; longer translated strings overrun the buffer. if the translation has more characters than expected.
– translated text isnt grammatically correct or makes no sense; soncatenated strings
– locale (dates, time, currency, etc) info is incorrectly formatted; data may be hard coded. You need to keep an eye on those programmers to make sure they do that. There are often several ways to code things like that and the international versions are sometimes more complicated to use.
– functionality problems; functionality (in hot keys, etc) may rely on some strings being identical
when designing a dialog box, allow for additional space for the languages that use up more space

Over Localization
when non localizable resources are translated and it breaks functionality
Non localizable strings may include;
-folder names (or maybe anchor links)
– registry keys
– Microsoft “Word” shouldn’t be localized

so sometimes you need to pull out those strings (such as the word “jabber”) from the translation file

Sometimes words from one language are not usable in some other languages…. like the word bing
from Divya Addepalli to Everyone:
MS Bing
from Divya Addepalli to Everyone:
meant something like disease or something …. I am not sure
from Divya Addepalli to Everyone:
And there are so many such terms in the Indian languages that we can not use in other indian lanuages
from Michael Maas to Everyone:
Interesting…
from Divya Addepalli to Everyone:
Sometimes becuase of the different dialects in the same language
from Bob to Everyone:
My documents
from Michael Maas to Everyone:
That is a good one.
from Michael Maas to Everyone:
That is prolly why it is a “special” folder with a UID reference.
from Bob to Everyone:
But if you’re documenting it, you’d need to know whether it should be translated in the documentation or not. That would trip me up!
Just another example of how you can’t just “bolt-on” localization at the end 🙂
If you are referencing it in documentation to the end user, you may be fine with leaving it in English.

Best Practice – prevention!
educate developer about globalization and localizability best practices. so separate out, okay this is a parameter name, the is a reference tag link, so we define those elements so people, translator know what to translate.
test and fix intl bugs before localization begins
encourage pseduo-localized build testing before localization effort starts; take a language and run a pilot project, even if you only have one week to do tests. in the end this will save you a lot of money. you don’t want to have that bug in all languages. you want to find it early on.

Cost of fixing international issues; cost goes up as you get through the different phases, from design, coding, testing, localization. YOU WANT TO DO INTERNATIONLIZATION TESTING
the way you work it out is by looking at the expectations of how much intlization awareness they have. if they have never done it befoer, then you quote more hours for bug fixing.

software testing, bug tracking; http://www.softwaretestingstuff.com/2007/10/mercury-quality-centre.html

Purpose of bug triaging
– understand real project status
– move the sw project towards stabilization
– manage risk
– inform stakeholders

Members of BRC
-QA
– Engineering
– Product mgmt
– Project mgmt
– other stakeholders

Role LPM
– driver
– communication & coordination
– facilitate other roles
– ensure things are done as scheduled

Working with client test team
-get time est for testing, and allow enough time!! TEST, like localization often gets squeezed in at end of project. what is my testing scope? what have i cut out to do. squeezing more tasks in the last part of schedule
– are their tools globalized?
– how best to file localizability and globalization

Working with test vendors
– trends; functional and linguistic testing is often outsourced to china, india or eastern europe
– provide clear hand off, training and schedule to vendors
– detailed checklists/test plans to distinguish test coverage (make sure you are using the same measures)
– provide sample reports, explicit process for logging bugs. be clear. you have to frame exactly how you want the bugs to be reported, especially the description field or the bug report.
– be aware of infrastructure limitations
– keep them in the loop

Types of testing and ownership
– US/client test team generally owns
– intl sufficiency functional testing
– globalization testing
– localizability

– localization testing owns the UI,

Managing bugs
You only know if your project is on track if you a good
You need to categorize the bugs

reference i found; http://netbeans.org/community/issues.html

Below is an example email to a client explaining the localization process.

Hi Maren,

I am the International Project Manager here at Ashbury Designs. Scott mentioned you would be contacting me. I worked with Scott on the globalization of the Windows Kinect product.

Below is a brief explanation to help you get an idea of the process and deliverables from a broad perspective or what Americans sometimes call the “10,000 ft view”. Much of this is project management information that you are already familiar with, but what will be new to you is the aspect relating to globalization. I don’t want to bore you so I have focused on how the globalization project will differ from a single language product launch. I will also send you my MS Project doc from the project that Scott and I worked on to give you an idea of the timeline and the milestones that get added to a globalization project.

I hear that the product is nearing the GUI freeze stage. I am really glad that you have contacted me while the application is still in development. This will give us a chance to catch any globalization bugs that might be in the code before we start in on the translations of the application.

Scott and some other teams at Microsoft really appreciated our flexibility in accommodating the different project management styles at Microsoft (agile, just-in-time, waterfall). We have been in the localization business for more than 10 years and have developed a network of top-notch vendors that we work with. This network is here for us to leverage, to make sure your application puts its best foot forward in each regional market that it enters. The additional advantage is the lessons we learned from working on previous Microsoft projects.

Collaboration

I would like to get together with you in person to introduce you to the world I live and breathe, the world of localization. I can answer more in depth any questions you have. In preparation, think about how involved you would like to be, how you prefer to communicate in terms of frequency, and forms of communication (emails, standing meetings, virtual meetings, Sharepoint, Dropbox, etc).

User Experience

And last but not least, I would like to learn more about your product, the users and your competitors. It would be great to find out who your core target users are and how much you know about them. This will help us to stay focussed on the customer and to identify things we can do in localization that will reinforce our commitment to a quality customer experience. For example, understanding your users in each region will help us to determine which style of translators we should work with and whether or not your existing imagery will be an issue for any of the target regions.

Next Steps

The most immediate action items would be:

1) For your localization engineer or one of your lead engineers to send me a sample build of the app. and a test case scenario if you have one. This will give us a chance to analyze the localizability of the source files.

2) For both International Project Managers (that would be you and I) to go over where you are in your schedule, talk about budget, file formats, tools and how you would like to communicate with our team.

Once we get our schedule, process and structure set up it would be great to have a kickoff meeting with our teams, including all stakeholders and people that might be impacted by the project.

We look forward to working with you!

Megan

PROCESS

Starting the Project….. the Initiation Phase

Charter: This is part of our required documents and will give us the authority to begin work.  A brief project charter is essential and does not have to be lengthy. This will document your business needs, current understanding of the customer’s needs, and the new product, service, or result that the project is intended to satisfy.

Organizing and Preparing…..the Planning Phase

Scope Statement: The inputs we look for in a scope statement are:

Project’s Product – a summary of the Product Description or Specification.

Project Objectives – the quantifiable criteria that must be met for the project to be considered successful.

Project Deliverables – a list of deliverables whose delivery marks completion of an activity or project.

Project Driver – identify what is the single most important factor for management of this project (cost, quality, time)

Assumptions and Constraints

You will want to include a product analysis, a cost/benefit analysis, and an alternative analysis. For cost benefit, you might want to look at the cost of localizing your product, entering a new market and supporting it long term. Look at the country’s GDP and the size of the opportunity for going into that market. This may lead you to consider a joint venture for customer service and shipping or to decide that you actually don’t want to enter a certain region’s market. What is Microsoft’s reputation in that region.

Work Breakdown Structure: By walking through the project once and identifying all the tasks this will help you lock down the cost and schedule for the project. Additionally it will make it a lot easier to go through the second time around when in execution phase.

Scope: Identify the number of markets, list of components, estimated word count per component, and a list of deliverables.

Responsibility Assignment Matrix: Let us know who will be on the team (include people who are to be Responsible, Accountable, Consultants, Informed, and even those people whom you know do not need to be involved). Identify the role of the different stake holders in each of the tasks.

For localization, In terms of the engineer that you assign for this project, it is critical that we work with the most knowledgeable and experienced engineer you have as this person’s knowledge & efficiency will exponentially effect efficiency on both sides, in terms of time and cost. On my side I will guarantee to putting my most experienced team of engineers, testers, translators, and terminologist onto this project. That way we can ensure a good working relationship with less chance of that exponential error occurring after translations have taken place.

Schedule: Define dates and resources that will be performing each task. We will obviously need both the product schedule and your localization team schedule. I will then list the milestones in my localization schedule doc and put in your milestones. We encourage you to use the Critical Path Method (CPM) for estimating start dates, sequence and duration of tasks. We are also familiar with the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)

Cost: We would prefer to do a bottom up approach to estimating for this project, where we would leverage the information gathered such as Work Breakdown Structure, resource requirements, rates and any constraints of the project. We like to be transparent about our process for costing. Our rule of thumb for translation is as follows:

If that is not possible and you have a set budget, we can work with that number to tell you what can be delivered for that amount.

Carrying Out the Work…..the Execution Phase

Below are the main sequential steps.

1) Globalization review

2) Pseudo testing: I mentioned this in the email. It is the simulation of the localization process, using a pseudo language for automatic “translation”. It enables the testing of a product for its localizability.

3) Create and prepare terminology/recycling: We will create a terminology database that we can leverage throughout the project to ensure consistency in vocabulary and terms.

4) Choosing/testing tools: We use Catalyst for

5) Localization kick off – very important

6) Handoff and hardback processing time – Please add additional time for this as we will be working with translators in 5 different countries and the time zones will cause a slight lag in response time.

7) Sample hand back for QA

8) Bug fixing

Localization Kit: These are the things the vendor (Ashbury Designs) will need to get started.

  • What file formats are being used
  • What words in each string are NOT to be localized
  • What string rules are to be followed
  • How to deal with localization of error messages (verbosity, terminology, are they referring to code specific technologies?)
  • Provide any information to provide contextual information of the resources
  • Provide screenshots of where problem strings are being used. Will probably be asked by vendor during translation

Auto Translation: Our team leverages auto translation tools. Auto translation (AT) is the best kind of translation technology (other than human translation) because it has a very low-cost to implement and verify. The basic idea is that if the localization tool finds an existing localized string that matches a non-localized one, it will localize the string using the already translated string. We pass on the benefits of AT to you by charging you a reduce rate for this service.

Monitoring and Controlling

This is required to track, review, and regulate the progress and performance of the project; to identify any areas in which changes to the plan are required; and to initiate the corresponding changes. This includes scope, cost, risks, procurements, quality, and time. With localization the areas that often require close attention are;

  • Initial product design
  • Tool/file type incompatibility
  • Unclear or missing processes
  • Communication style and Cultural differences
  • Changes to US product
  • US product schedule
  • Client/vendor relationship

After translation, errors will usually be generated when running the localized files in the build. This is because of the nature of utilizing different languages in the same interface, human errors, unclear localization instructions, etc. We will be happy to resolve any issues related to the resources localized such as: resizing of dialog boxes & interface components, shortcut issues, and over localization

Project Performance Measurement

Probably the most valuable tool for you as the client is something called Cost Performance Index (CPI) Schedule Performance Index (SPI). The formula is:

Closing the Project

At this point we have already ensured that the product meets all the requirements of the stakeholders and customers. You inspect the product in detail. We will formally hand over the final product.

Lesson Learned: It is good to document the causes of variances, the reasoning behind the corrective action chosen, and other types of lessons learned so they became part of the historical database.

Archive Project Documentation: This is the process of finalizing all activities across all of the management Process Groups to formally complete the project.

Product Deliverables

  • Scope Statement
  • Pseudo Build with Test Case
  • Work Breakdown Structure
  • Schedule: Based on WBS
  • Cost Estimate: Based on Schedule
  • Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM)

 

Recently I had to do some research on SEO and how to improve the performance of one’s website. Below is a list of questions. I have also added links to websites and editorial articles that cover this topic.

Converting traffic into sales;

http://www.ecommercewebsites.com.au/blog/selling-online-converting-traffic-into-sales/

http://www.insideview.com/

http://www.gshiftlabs.com/sew-readers-gshift-score-a/

http://www.alterian.com/socialmedia/

http://www.socialmention.com/search?q=ashburydesigns.com&t=all&btnG=Search

http://www.labnol.org/trends/

http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-to-do-a-site-audit

Good dialog here to study;

http://www.seomoz.org/blog/building-faceted-navigation-that-doesnt-suck

http://www.distilled.net/excel-for-seo/

http://www.conversationmarketing.com/2011/01/marketing-dungeons-dragons-2011.htm

WordPress SEO

WordPress out of the box is already technically quite a good platform for SEO, this was true when I wrote my original WordPress SEO article in 2008 and it’s still true today, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve it further! This plugin is written from the ground up by WordPress SEO consultant andWordPress developer Joost de Valk to improve your site’s SEO on allneeded aspects. While this WordPress SEO plugin goes the extra mile to take care of all the technical optimization, more on that below, it first and foremost helps you write better content. WordPress SEO forces you to choose a focus keyword when you’re writing your articles, and then makes sure you use that focus keyword everywhere.

Write better content with WordPress SEO

Using the snippet preview you can see a rendering of what your post or page will look like in the search results, whether your title is too long or too short and your meta description makes sense in the context of a search result. This way the plugin will help you not only increase rankings but also increase the click through for organic search results.

Page Analysis

The WordPress SEO plugins Linkdex Page Analysis functionality checks simple things you’re bound to forget. It checks, for instance, if you have images in your post and whether they have an alt tag containing the focus keyword for that post. It also checks whether your posts are long enough, if you’ve written a meta description and if that meta description contains your focus keyword, if you’ve used any subheadings within your post, etc. etc.

The plugin also allows you to write meta titles and descriptions for all your category, tag and custom taxonomy archives, giving you the option to further optimize those pages.

Combined, this plugin makes sure that your content is the type of content search engines will love!

Technical WordPress Search Engine Optimization

While out of the box WordPress is pretty good for SEO, it needs some tweaks here and there. This WordPress SEO plugin guides you through some of the settings needed, for instance by reminding you to enable pretty permalinks. But it also goes beyond that, by automatically optimizing and inserting the meta tags and link elements that Google and other search engines like so much:

Meta & Link Elements

With the WordPress SEO plugin you can control which pages Google shows in its search results and which pages it doesn’t show. By default, it will tell search engines to index all of your pages, including category and tag archives, but only show the first pages in the search results. It’s not very useful for a user to end up on the third page of your “personal” category, right?

WordPress itself only shows canonical link elements on single pages, WordPress SEO makes it output canonical link elements everywhere. Google has recently announced they would also use rel=”next” and rel=”prev” link elements in the head section of your paginated archives, this plugin adds those automatically, see [this post](http://yoast.com/rel-next-prev-paginated-archives/ title=”rel=next & rel=prev for paginated archives”) for more info.

XML Sitemaps

WordPress SEO has the most advanced XML Sitemaps functionality in any WordPress plugin. Once you check the box, it automatically creates XML sitemaps and notifies Google & Bing of the sitemaps existence. These XML sitemaps include the images in your posts & pages too, so that your images may be found better in the search engines too.

These XML Sitemaps will even work on large sites, because of how they’re created, using one index sitemap that links to sub-sitemaps for each 1,000 posts. They will also work with custom post types and custom taxonomies automatically, while giving you the option to remove those from the XML sitemap should you wish to.

Because of using XSL stylesheets for these XML Sitemaps, the XML sitemaps are easily readable for the human eye too, so you can spot things that shouldn’t be in there.

RSS Optimization

Are you being outranked by scrapers? Instead of cursing at them, use them to your advantage! By automatically adding a link to your RSS feed pointing back to the original article, you’re telling the search engine where they should be looking for the original. This way, the WordPress SEO plugin increases your own chance of ranking for your chosen keywords and gets rid of scrapers in one go!

Breadcrumbs

If your theme is compatible, like most Genesis and WooThemes themes are for instance, you can use the built-in Breadcrumbs functionality. This allows you to create an easy navigation that is great for both users and search engines and will support the search engines in understanding the structure of your site.

Making your theme compatible isn’t hard either, check these instructions.

Edit your .htaccess and robots.txt file

Using the built-in file editor you can edit your WordPress blogs .htaccess and robots.txt file, giving you direct access to the two most powerful files, from an SEO perspective, in your WordPress install.

Social Integration

SEO and Social Media are heavily intertwined, that’s why this plugin also comes with a Facebook OpenGraph implementation and will soon also support Google+ sharing tags.

Multi-Site Compatible

This WordPress SEO plugin, unlike some others, is fully Multi-Site compatible. The XML Sitemaps work fine in all setups and you even have the option, in the Network settings, to copy the settings from one blog to another, or make blogs default to the settings for a specific blog.

Import & Export functionality

If you have multiple blogs, setting up plugins like this one on all of them might seem like a daunting task. Except that it’s not, because what you can do is simple: you set up the plugin once. You then export your settings and simply import them on all your other sites. It’s that simple!

Import functionality for other WordPress SEO plugins

If you’ve used All In One SEO Pack or HeadSpace2 before using this plugin, you might want to import all your old titles and descriptions. You can do that easily using the built-in import functionality. There’s also import functionality for some of the older Yoast plugins like Robots Meta and RSS footer.

Should you have a need to import from another SEO plugin or from a theme like Genesis or Thesis, you can use the SEO Data Transporter plugin, that’ll easily convert your SEO meta data from and to a whole set of plugins like Platinum SEO, SEO Ultimate, Greg’s High Performance SEO and themes like Headway, Hybrid, WooFramework, Catalyst etc.

Read this migration guide if you still have questions about migrating from another SEO plugin to WordPress SEO.

WordPress SEO Plugin in your Language!

Currently a huge translation project is underway, translating WordPress SEO in as much as 24 languages. So far, the translations for French and Dutch are complete, but we still need help on a lot of other languages, so if you’re good at translating, please join us at translate.yoast.com.

News SEO

Be sure to also check out the News SEO module if you need Google News Sitemaps. It tightly integrates with WordPress SEO to give you the combined power of News Sitemaps and full Search Engine Optimization.

.Survey questions for seo usage;

http://blog.maydayhq.com/

Your Google Analytics Usage

As part of the on-going development we’re interested in hearing how people are currently using Google Analytics. We would be extremely grateful if you could answer the following questions.

How often do you login to Google Analytics? *

2-3 times a day Once a day 2-3 times a week 2-3 times a month Once a month Rarely

What is the main type of website you are tracking? *

  • E-Commerce
  • Blog / Content / CMS driven
  • Mobile Application
  • Other:

Who accesses the Google Analytics account?

Which features do you currently use? *

  • Visits / Page Views
  • Dashboards
  • Custom Reports
  • A/B Testing
  • Events
  • Cohorts / Custom Variables
  • Segmentation / Filters
  • Goal Tracking
  • Ecommerce (purchase tracking)
  • Funnel Analysis
  • Site Speed
  • Other:

Which metrics are you most interested in? *

  • Visitors
  • Page views
  • Traffic Sources
  • Conversions
  • Events
  • E-Commerce purchases
  • Other:

What decisions have you made based on your Google Analytics metrics?

What metrics are missing from Google Analytics?

What would you like to know?

Do you use other analytics tools alongside Google Analytics? *

There you go. Ian’s Three Principles of D&D Marketing. Help your audience:

Slay monsters
Take their treasure
Tell the tale

http://www.google.com/webmasters/checklist/

http://www.google.com/analytics/discover_analytics.html

style guide from bbc-global-experience-language

I recently had to do some research on style guides for websites and I came across some wonderful references. It is so generous of the designers to take the time to post their experiences and knowledge for the greater good of the design community. All I can say is thank you and here again I share them.

http://24ways.org/2011/front-end-style-guides

Anna Debenham is a freelance front-end developer and I put her link at the top as it is the most thorough article I found that discusses the different type of style guides that one might need to create.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/gel/web/foundations/universal-grid/the-grid

The BBC’s online style guide is one of Anna’s favorite references and I can see why. It is so easy to digest the information.

And some others to check out;

http://imjustcreative.com/front-end-style-guides/2011/12/07/

http://www.gossamer-threads.com/blog/the-benefits-of-style-guides/

http://noelenefajardo.com/blog/2011/07/13/website-style-guides/

http://www.juliebevacqua.com/praise-to-the-website-style-guide/

And social media and some other types of style guides:

http://meetcontent.com/creating-a-social-media-style-guide/

http://meetcontent.com/elements-of-editorial-style-for-the-web/

http://webcontentblog.com/content-strategy/

This is a very comprehensive checklist of website best practices.

(Courtesy of SEOMoz)

Check indexed pages

  • Do a site: search
  • How many pages are returned (this can be way off so don’t put too much stock in this)?
  • Is the homepage showing up as the first result?
  • If the homepage isn’t showing up as the first result, there could be issues, like a penalty or poor site architecture/internal linking, affecting the site.

Search for the brand and branded terms

  • Is the homepage showing up at the top, or are correct pages showing up.
  • If the proper pages aren’t showing up as the first result, there could be issues, like a penalty, in play.

Check Google’s cache for key pages

  • Is the content showing up?
  • Are navigation links present?
  • Are there links that aren’t visible on the site?

PRO Tip: Don’t forget to check the text only version of the cached page.

Content

Homepage content

  • Does the homepage have at least one paragraph?

Landing pages

  • Do these pages have at least a few paragraphs?
  • Is it template text or is it completely unique?

Site contains real and substantial content

  • Is there real content on the site or is the “content” simply a list of links.

Proper keyword targeting

  • Is the intent right?
  • Are there pages targeting head terms, mid-tail, and long-tail keywords?

Keyword cannibalization

  • Do a site: search Google for important keyword phrases.
  • Check for duplicate content/page titles in the SEOmoz Pro Campaign App.

Formatting

  • Is the content formatted well and easy to read quickly?
  • Are H tags used?
  • Are images used?
  • Is the text broken down into easy to read paragraphs?

Good Headlines on Blog Posts

  • Good headlines go a long way. Make sure the headlines are well written and draw users in.

Amount of content v ads

  • Since the implementation of Panda, the amount of ad-space on a page has become important to evaluate.
  • Make sure there is significant unique content above the fold.
  • If you have more ads than unique content, you are probably going to have a problem.

Additional Reading:

How to Write Magnetic Headlines

SEO Copywriting Tips for Improved Link Building 

The Ultimate Blogger Writing Guide 

Tips to Earn Links and Tweets to Your Blog Post

Duplicate Content

There should be one URL for each piece of content

  • Do URLs include parameters or tracking code – This will result in multiple URLs for a piece of content.
  • Does the same content reside on completely different URLs?

Pro Tip:Exclude common parameters, such as those used to designate tracking code, in Google Webmaster Tools. Read more at Search Engine Land.

Do a search to check for duplicate content

  • Take a content snippet, put it in quotes and search for it.
  • Does the content show up elsewhere on the domain?
  • Has it been scraped? – If the content has been scraped, you should file a content removal request with Google.

Sub-domain duplicate content

  • Does the same content exist on different sub-domains?

Check for a secure version of the site

  • Does the content exist on a secure version of the site?

Check other sites owned by the company

  • Is the content replicated on other domains owned by the company?

Accessibility

Check the robots.txt

  • Has the entire site, or important content been blocked? Is link equity being orphaned due to pages being blocked via the robots.txt?

Turn off JavaScript, cookies, and CSS

Now change your user agent to Googlebot.

PRO Tip:Use SEO Browser to do a quick spot check.

Check the SEOmoz PRO Campaign

  • Check for 4xx errors and 5xx errors.

Site Architecture

Hierarchy

  • Are category pages set up in the appropriate way to flow link equity to key pages?

Landing pages

  • Do they have landing pages high enough in the architecture to receive enough link equity to compete for competitive terms?

Number of category pages

  • How many category pages are there?
  • Have they been scaled out too much?
  • Category pages should be built out only when there is enough demand for new or sub category pages.

Pagination/Faceted Navigation

  • Is pagination or faceted navigation more appropriate? Or, should they be used in tandem?
  • Does pagination exist to help long tail content get indexed?
  • Is the pagination prohibitive to crawling (uses JavaScript).

Number of clicks to content

  • Pages targeting really competitive head terms should be one or two clicks from the homepage.
  • Pages targeting moderately competitive keywords should be 2 or three clicks from the homepage.
  • Pages targeting the long tail should be 5 clicks away (obviously exceptions must be made here for sites with a ton of content).

Prioritized content

  • Most important content should be higher up in the pagination

Additional Reading:

Successful Site Architecture for SEO

The SEO Guide to Site Architecture

Information Architecture and Faceted Navigation

Technical Issues

Proper use of 301’s

  • Are 301’s being used for all redirects?
  • If the root is being directed to a landing page, are they using a 301 instead of a 302?
  • Use Live HTTP Headers FireFox plugin to check 301s.

Use of JavaScript

  • Is content being served in JavaScript?
  • Are links being served in JavaScript? Is this to do PR sculpting or is it accidental?

Use of iframes

  • Is content being pulled in via iframes?

Use of Flash

  • Is the entire site done in flash, or is flash used sparingly in a way that doesn’t hinder crawling?

PRO Tip:Flash is like garlic. A little bit of garlic in your food can make it taste better. Eating a plate full of garlic would be quite terrible. Likewise, Flash can be added to a site in a way that improves the user’s experience, but creating the entire site in flash is not a good idea.

Site Speed

Alt text

  • Is alt text present?
  • Does the alt text use keyword phrases?
  • Does the alt text reinforce the topical themes presented in the content?

Check for Errors in Google Webmaster Tools

  • Google WMT will give you a good list of technical problems showing up on your site that they are encountering (such as: 4xx and 5xx errors, inaccessible pages in the XML sitemap, and soft 404’s)

XML Sitemaps

  • Are XML sitemaps in place?
  • Are XML sitemaps covering for poor site architecture?
  • Are XML sitemaps structured to show indexation problems?
  • Do the sitemaps follow proper XML protocols?

Canonicalization

Canonical version of the site established through 301’s

Canonical version of site is specified in Google Webmaster Tools

Rel canonical link tag is properly implemented across the site

Uses absolute URLs instead of relative URLs

  • This can cause a lot of problems if you have a root domain with secure sections.

URLs

Clean URLs

  • No excessive parameters or session ID’s
  • URLs exposed to search engines should be static.

Short URLs

  • 115 characters or shorter – this character limit isn’t set in stone, but shorter URLs are better for usability.

Descriptive URLs

  • Get your primary keyword phrase in there.

Additional Reading:

Best Practices for URLs

URL Rewriting Tool

mod_rewrite Cheat Sheet

Creating 301 Redirects With .htaccess

Internal Linking

Number of links on a page

Vertical Links

  • Homepage links to category pages.
  • Category pages link to sub-category and product pages as appropriate.
  • Product pages link to relevant category pages.

Horizontal Links

  • Category pages link to other relevant category pages.
  • Product pages link to other relevant product pages.

Links are in content

  • Does not utilize massive blocks of links stuck in the content to do internal linking.

Footer links

  • Does not use a block of footer links instead of proper navigation.
  • Does not link to landing pages with optimized anchors.

Good internal anchor text

Check for broken links

  • Link Checker and Xenu are good tools for this.

Additional Reading:

Importance of Internal Linking

Internal Linking Tactics

Using Anchor Links to Make Google Ignore The First Link

Title Tags

Unique title tags

  • Every page should have a unique title tag.

Keyword rich

  • Pages should contain the primary keyword phrase.
  • Is possible to use the secondary keyword phrase in a non spammy way?

Primary keyword phrase at the beginning of the title tag

Page titles include branding

  • In most cases the brand should be included at the end of the page title to help build a brand or entice users if you are a well known brand

65 – 70 characters in length

  • If the title is longer than this, the entirety will not be displayed in the SERPs.

Have they been keyword stuffed by someone else?

Meta Tags

Meta keywords tag used

  • This data should be removed as competitors can scrape this data.

Meta description is appropriate

  • Each page has a unique meta description.
  • Meta descriptions are representative of the content and entice users.

Rewrite meta descriptions for key pages

  • For key landing pages, write meta descriptions by hand instead of systemically implementing.

Meta robots tag

  • Noindex pages only appropriate pages.
  • Not blocking important pages.

Product pages for e-commerce websites are often rife with ambitions: recreate the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, provide users with every last drop of product information, build a brand persona, establish a seamless check-out process.

As the “strong link in any conversion,” product pages have so much potential. We can create user-centric descriptions and layouts that are downright appropriate in their effectiveness: as Erin Kissane says, “offering [users] precisely what they need, exactly when they need it, and in just the right form.”

Beyond that, a user-centered creation process for product pages can help brand the information as well as reduce the content clutter that so often bogs down retail websites.

User-centric product copy garners positive results because it anticipates the user’s immediate reaction. As Dr. Timo Saari and Dr. Marko Turpeinen, authors of “Towards Psychological Customization of Information for Individuals and Social Groups” suggest, individual differences in processing information implicates dramatic variances in type and/or intensity of psychological effects, such as positive emotion, persuasion, and depth of learning (2).

We can describe products in various ways. Highlighting certain aspects of a product will elicit different reactions from various users. Gearing product descriptions to a particular audience encourages those users to effectively process the information, heightens persuasion, and increases the potential to predict what the users want (but didn’t know they needed). The effort required of user-centric product descriptions demands that we understand how certain descriptors, contexts and inclusions of details affect the target user, and that we then put our discoveries into action.

This article offers a user-centric guide to producing product pages and provides examples of successful e-commerce websites that present user-centric approaches to product page descriptions and layouts.

[Editor’s note: Have you already got your copy of our Printed Smashing Book #2? The book covers best practices and techniques for professional Web designers and developers.]

Get To Know Your User

Approaching product page description and layout from a user-centric perspective demands that we have a rich understanding of the target user. As Saari and Turpeinen suggest, Web customization starts with some type of model, be it individual, group or community. With your user models in place, you can best assess what they need and how to write for them.

In her book Letting Go of the Words, Web usability expert Janice Redish suggests these strategies for getting to know your target user:

Scope the email responses that come through the website’s “Contact Us” form and other feedback links. Consider the profiles of the senders. You can discover commonalities in lifestyle, technological capability, education level and communication preference through these channels.

Talk to the customer service or marketing employees at your company. Don’t approach them with a broad demand to describe the typical client. Rather, ask questions about their interactions with clients. Who is calling in? Who is stopping by the office? What queries and complaints are common?

Offer short questionnaires to visitors to the website. Redish suggests asking people “a few questions about themselves, why they came to the site, and whether they were successful in finding what they came for.”

If possible, acquire a sense of the client simply by observing the people who walk through the front doors of the business. This is a great way to pick up on key phrases, jargon, emotional behavior and demographics.

Once you’re able to confidently brainstorm the major characteristics of your target user or group, then developing the models to guide the writing process comes next.

Keep in mind that gathering and compiling this information can take as little or as big an investment of time and money as you (or the client) can afford and still be effective. As Leonard Souza recently noted, even stopping in a nearby coffee shop to engage five to ten people in your target demographic can yield useful insight. With a bit of flexibility, you can find learning opportunities that are convenient and on the cheap.

The models created from your user research can be fashioned into personas, which Souza describes as “tools for creating empathy among everyone in the project.” Use personas to guide user-centric copywriting by establishing very specific user goals and preferences.

A persona is a fictional person amalgamated from the characteristics of your target user. You can get creative here with the persona’s name and image, but not too creative. The persona must be mindfully constructed according to the age, education, family status and other personal details culled from your research.

Now that you have a persona to please as you construct a product description and layout hierarchy, staying user-centric is that much easier. Take a look at the product description from Lululemon, a British Columbia-based yoga-wear retailer:

Product description from Shop.lululemon.com

The product description assumes that the reader knows a specific set of jargon: How many non-yoga participants would know what downward-dog means? Or “pipes”, as the “Key Features” section refers to arms? This content drives right to the needs and preferences of a very specific user. She wants warmth (four of the “Key Features” note the thermal quality of the product), convenience (pre-shrunk fabric, easy layering), and motivation for an active lifestyle (she recognizes the yoga jargon and enjoys giving her “pipes some air time”).

A rich understanding of the user has made this product page effective and delightfully specific to both the user and the brand.

Master S.M.A.R.T. Content and Layout

Without specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and trackable user goals driving the copy on the product page, the information will sag. I draw here from Dickson Fong’s enlightening article “The S.M.A.R.T. User Experience Strategy“ to suggest that care should be taken to develop user goals that guide the writing process for product pages.

The S.M.A.R.T. formula will keep you on track as you plot out product details and decide what descriptive angle to use.

Fong provides an excellent user goal for a product page: “I want to learn more about this product’s design, features and specifications to determine whether it fits my budget, needs and preferences.”

This will help you create a checklist when assessing what to present first and what to offer as optional information when structuring the layout of the page (more about that in the “Create Information Hierarchies” section below). It provides direction when you’re writing content and helps you focus on the benefits to the user. And as Darlene Maciuba-Koppel suggests in The Web Writer’s Guide, “In copywriting, your end goal is to sell benefits, not products, in your copy.”

For users, benefits and accomplished goals go hand in hand. A product that doesn’t fit their budget, needs or preferences offers them little benefit. So, in order for S.M.A.R.T. goal-driven product pages to serve user-centric purposes, the text must follow suit. Fong suggests presenting relevant content details that are specific to the consumer of that product type.

Let’s take Fong’s S.M.A.R.T. user goal for product pages and assess the specifications at play on the following two pages from Dell:

Product page for Alienware on Dell.com

Featured on Alienware, Dell’s computer subsidiary for high-performance gaming, the description for this desktop computer has been tailored to the primary browsing goal of a very specific user. The needs and preferences of the user have already been predicted in the bullet-point outline, highlighting optimum graphics and top-notch liquid-cooling capabilities, thus harmonizing the checklist of features with a checklist of benefits for the user. A number of the product’s features could have been highlighted, but for optimal ease, the specifics most likely to help the user accomplish their goals are featured.

With the next Dell desktop computer, another goal of the target user is covered in the description:

Product page description for Inspiron 570 on Dell.com

With a noticeable absence of technical details and a heavy emphasis on product personalization, this description plays to a user with very different needs than the Alienware shopper’s. Even the tabs have been re-arranged to best meet the user’s goals. The Inspiron 570 page shows “Customer ratings” as the first tab, while the Alienware page offers “Design” first and then “Tech specs.”

These decisions are all geared to accomplishing very specific user goals: find the required information and assess the benefits.

  • Use Personal Pronouns
  • Consider again Dell’s description of its Inspiron 570:
  • Make It Yours

The Inspiron 570 desktop is everything you want and nothing you don’t. Available in vibrant colors, so you can complement your style or stand out from the crowd. Plus, you can build your desktop according to your needs with a choice of multiple AMD processors and NVIDIA ATI graphics cards as well as other customizable features. So whether you are surfing the Web, emailing friends and family, downloading music and photos or blogging about it all, the Inspiron 570 desktop can handle it.

Your wants, your style, your needs, your friends and your Internet past-times. Including the title, eight instances of “you” or “your” turn up in this 86-word segment!

Personal pronouns in product descriptions are perfectly appropriate and quite effective at engaging users, because, as Redish states, “People are much more likely to take in [messages] if you write with ‘you’ because they can see themselves in the text.”

With Dell’s content, the personal pronouns target a specific user (one who is savvy enough to download music and email and who is interested in customization and feeling unique), while also managing a broad gender appeal.

Outdoor equipment retailer REI employs personal pronouns in its online product descriptions, creating dynamic scenarios aimed at a specific user:

Product description for REI.com

The description asserts that this canoe will help you navigate a waterway that “you’ve recently noticed,” anticipating a specific user reality (or dream).

The product showcase is devoted to the user’s needs and showing how the user will benefit from purchasing the canoe. Using “you” is the clearest and most direct way for this retailer to grab the user’s attention and to convince them, at any time of the year, that this canoe is the right buy.

Angie King backs this up in her article “Personal Pronouns: It’s Okay to Own Your Web Copy.” She suggests that using first- and second-person pronouns helps users connect with the content, and “reflect[s] the way real people write and speak,” fostering an immediate connection.

For a product description to speak directly to a specific user or group, the “you’s” should flow freely.

Use Information Hierarchies

Adopting a user-centric approach to the layout and copy of product pages helps you tackle the challenge articulated by Kean Richmond: “How do you cram so much information into a single Web page?”

In addition to technical specifications, shipping information, item details and preference options (and don’t forget that compelling product description), product pages must also list every describable service that the product performs for its user, including customer benefits (as Darlene Maciuba-Koppel explains, too).

By all means, provide the user with every last detail possible. Answer every conceivable question, or make the answer visible for discovery. Do so with information hierarchies that are based on a rich understanding of targeted users. This will keep each page tidy and drive users to complete your business goals.

In a structure in which, as Kean Richmond states, “all the important information is at the top and [the rest] flows naturally down the page,” details that might not be a top priority for the target user can be tucked into optional tabs or presented at the bottom of the page. The key is to gauge the structure of the page with the sensibilities of the targeted user in mind.

Look At User Context

Here’s where you become a mind-reader of sorts. Erin Kissane points to the approach of content strategist Daniel Eizan in understanding what specific users need to see on the page in order to be drawn into the information. Eizan looks at the user’s context to gauge their Web-browsing behaviors. Eizan asks, What are they doing? How are they feeling? What are they capable of?

Establishing user context aids in planning an information hierarchy, and it is demonstrated by small and large e-retailers. On the big-box side, we have Walmart:

By making the price and product name (including the unit number per order) immediately visible, Walmart has anticipated a possible user context. A Walmart visitor searching for granola bars has perhaps purchased the product before. With the unit price made visible, perhaps the anticipated user is judging the product based on whether this box size will suffice.

Details such as “Item description” and “Specifications” are options that are convenient to the user who is making a large order of a familiar product.

The user’s context shapes the hierarchy: the user seeks a quick calculation of units per product versus price. The targeted user does not immediately need an ingredients list, allergy information or a description of the flavor. But if they do, they are available in a neat options-based format.

Walmart has built its reputation on “Everyday low prices,” and the brick-and-mortar philosophy has crossed over to its website. Walmart anticipates users who have some familiarity with its products and who have expectations of certain price points. These factors play into the information hierarchy across the website.

Now look at the product page of a different kind of retailer, nutrition bar manufacturer Larabar:

Cashew Cookie product page from Larabar.com

Here is an online presentation of a retail product that is similar to Walmart’s Nature Valley granola bar (though some might argue otherwise).¬†However, the information hierarchy clearly speaks to a different user — a specific user, one who might be looking for gluten-free snack foods or a vegan protein solution. The Larabar user’s context is much less urgent than the Walmart user’s. The product page does not reveal pricing or unit number. Ingredients are visible here, with simple images that (when scrolled over) provide additional nutritional information.

The anticipated user has more time to peruse, to browse several varieties of product, and to read the delightful descriptions that help them imagine the tastes and textures of the bars.

This user might be very much like the targeted Walmart user but is likely visiting the Larabar website in a different context. This product page offers more immediate information on nutrition and taste, selling to a user who is perhaps hunting for a solution to a dietary restriction or for a healthy snack alternative.

However, the red-boxed “Buy Now” is positioned in a memorable, convenient spot on the page, leaving no guessing for the user, who, after reading a description of this healthy bar full of “rich and creamy flavor,” will likely click it to find out the purchasing options.

With these two pages for (arguably) similar products, we see two completely different ways to structure product details.

Both are effective — for their targeted users. A person seeking gluten-free snacks for a camping trip might be frustrated having to search through the hundreds of granola bar options on Walmart’s website. But they wouldn’t be going there in the first place; they would use a search engine and would find Larabar.

Information hierarchy solves the content-overload challenge that can overshadow the process of constructing a product page, and it is an opportunity to bolster user-centric copy and layout. As mentioned, the key is to gauge the user’s context.

Conclusion

While a user-centric consideration of product pages is not the only way to go, it does provide a focused approach that has appeared to be effective for some pretty successful e-commerce players. Consistency in product pages is key, especially when building a brand’s presence; a reliable guide can ease the writing process. The user-centric method does require some primary research, but this lays a sturdy foundation by which to gauge every bit of content on the page according to how it benefits the user.

As Maciuba-Koppel says, as a content writer or designer, your goal should not be to sell products, but to sell benefits.
(courtesy of Smashing Magazine)

211.org: How User Experience Research Can Improve
Site Functionality and Drive More Traffic

by Megan Finaly | UX Designer
December 2011

211.org is a national organization that helps people in need find social services. This nonprofit is well positioned to be able to better serve its target audiences with some simple modifications to the design and navigation of its website. New immigrants represent a growing segment of 211’s users; changes to the website could address the different ways these immigrants are used to interacting with technology.

The rapid diffusion and adoption of internet and cell phone usage around the world has made them both indispensable tools. And now with the use of smartphones and widely available access to the web via wi-fi and computers at libraries, 211.org is positioned to serve even more people in need. 211 could even increase the number of users of its website dramatically and introduce relevant, targeted advertising. Based on ethnographic observations, surveys, and contextual interviews, this report provides some recommendations.

Method

Using the Rapid Contextual Design approach, by Holtzblatt, Wendell, & Wood (2005) along with data received from the 211 office, I evaluated how people are currently using 211.org. Then I chose a subset of what I believe should be 211’s key users: immigrants, specifically Nepali immigrants in King County and I observed how they live with technology. I met with twenty Nepalis and contextually interviewed five. Using my laptop and SurveyMonkey I asked nine questions about their gender, age, employment, living situation,  social networking tools, and how they get help, both in Nepal and in the U.S. This method created an atmosphere that encouraged the interviewees to talk more openly and to elaborate on the questions that were asked in the survey.

There are many factors to consider that were outside the scope of my research, such as;  an indepth study of cultural differences in perception, aesthetics, and interpretation, cultivating trust and acceptance through use of design elements (alignment, proximity, repetition, contrast, color palette). This report does not cover the process for translating and managing the localization of content.  However my study of these cultural differences and similarities (1995, Hoft. 2010, Hofstede) did provide guidance for the redesign of 211.org.

I did a task analysis of the current 211.org site with three female participants aged 17-29 years old. Using a paper prototype translated in to Nepali, they were asked to locate the Kent Food Bank & Emergency Services, which is where we conducted the test. The results are discussed on page three.

As found by Gould, “countries can be grouped together in useful typologies–democratic, socialist, authoritarian, and so forth. Within cultures, individuals cover a wide spectrum of belief and behavior but, in the aggregate, they cluster together and these clusters display a surprising amount of stability. Cultural anthropology can provide useful insights into designing interfaces for specific countries, but theories from the field of intercultural communication are generally better for culturally diverse audiences. Most designers do not have the mandate to develop entirely different products for each national or ethnic market. Intercultural communication theory makes it possible for them to focus on a few crucial variations” (2005, Gould).

With research using a model of culture, designers can identify;

•  Global information that can be put into the interface without requiring future translation.
•  Cultural bias in the existing site.
•  Parts of the site that should be localized for a specific culture.
•  Compelling cultural metaphors and cultural markers (2005, Aykin. 1995, Hoft.)

Background

In 2010, 2-1-1 services in the United States answered more than 16.4 million calls. 211 is an umbrella group that connects people to local groups in their county.  They provide quick and easy access to information for those relocating to a new community and not settled into their new residences. Services include help finding food, housing, employment or money to pay electric bills. The last major redesign of 211.org was done in April of 2009. Very little research is currently available on the site’s target audiences, personas or task flows.

The United States has the fifth largest population of Nepalis outside of Nepal. There are 110,616 Nepali immigrants living in the United States.  They share common language and culture with main stream Nepal. As of June 20, 2010, 27,926 Nepali-Bhutanese have been resettled in the USA. It is estimated that around 50,000 of the current worldwide Bhutanese refugees will eventually be in U.S. There are over 2,000 Nepalis living in the King County area. (2011, Wikipedia).

Audience Analysis: Nepali Immigrants 

Nepali people have a basic distrust of information that does not come from known sources such as from friends or family.  Nepali people come from a very tight culture meaning they “have many strong norms and a low tolerance of deviant behavior,” while “loose” cultures “have weak social norms and a high tolerance of deviant behavior”.  The neighboring country of Pakistan is the “tightest” nation which Gelfand sampled (2011, Gelfand).

The Nepali people have a collectivist mindset and a high context culture. Their nature is towards interdependence as opposed to the Americans who tend to be more independent in thought and action.  Along with the language barrier and difficulty understanding the American accents, this hesitancy makes it difficult for Nepalis to attain the basic services they need to thrive in their new country.

A survey done in 2010 in Kathmandu, found that 44.85 percent Nepali consumers were cheated due to their lack of awareness, and 39.83 percent have been victim of illegal activities. They come from a culture where crimes and injustices are rarely reported and therefore feel it is best to rely on recommendations from friends and family. (2011, Shreshta)

All of the people I interviewed did not have a laptop when they came to the U.S. All but two interviewees did not know about public access to computers at libraries. In 2005, there were 7 computers or laptops for every 100 people in the U.S. whereas in Nepal there were .48 computers or laptops for every 100 Nepalis (2011, Wikipedia). Instead, the vast majority of Nepali immigrants rely on their cell phone to stay connected and to get referrals for basic needs.

Many non-profits in the U.S. are not allowed to help illegal immigrants so this alienates them further. The organizations that the interviewees mentioned the most were Refuge Women’s Alliance,  Asian Counseling and Referral Service, NepalSeattle.org, and Northwestsherpa.org.

Nepali Findings;

It was apparent that the difference between American and Nepali cultures was creating a barrier to Nepali people finding and using 211.org.

Common Body of Knowledge
Knowing a country or culture’s common body of knowledge can be useful information when determining for example what to expect of internet users from that country. In the case of Nepalis, only one of the interview participants knew about 211.org, while all participants knew about 911. Two of the people I interviewed had used the library for accessing the internet. All of the interviewees listed Facebook as their first choice for the social networking site that they use the most.

Language and Literacy
Not all Nepalis were comfortable writing or reading Nepali since some of them did not complete their elementary schooling. It was explained to me also that the style of Nepali writing prevalent online is more formal than many of the immigrants were comfortable with in terms of reading and comprehending.

Technology and Computer Literacy
Regarding the results of the three paper prototype participants in locating the Kent Food Bank & Emergency Services, all three were unsuccessful. All had to use the back button and it was apparent they were not confident in their choices and were guessing.  Three of the interviewees had trouble understanding the meaning behind certain button functions such as “apply” or “submit” which caused them to hesitate. The same three also did not understand how to implement a multi-step search function that invovled choosing between two radio buttons and typing in a keyword. The sign in option was confusing for one participant who thought she had to sign in to use the search tool.

While this question was not in the survey, I noticed that most of the men had cell phones with text messaging, and a very few had smart phones that allowed for internet browsing. Most of the women had cell phones with text msging, but not smart phones. Nepalis aged 18 and younger were much more comfortable using the internet to get information or for social networking. Men spent more time on the computer (surfing the web, paying bills) than women.

The Nepali culture is a high-context culture which revolves around personal contacts and, as the internet is a relatively impersonal medium, attempts to automate processes and transactions are not likely to be well received” (1998, Samiee). Based on  Hall’s constructs (monochromic and polychromic, doing one thing at a time versus many things; proxemics, social use of space and context) in high-context societies, a message’s actual text is secondary.  This is the case with the Nepali people where they rely heavily on visual cues and photos. While in the U.S. a  low-context society, the information is explicitly expressed in the text of the message.

According to Gould, “the ‘architecture’ of a web page may differ in terms of color, mass, and balance between verbal and visual elements. Many American web sites currently sport subdued hues, arrange content in explicit hierarchies of indentation, and emphasize text over graphics. Web sites from other countries appear visually striking if they upset American expectations by using vivid colors, an asymmetric arrangement, or more graphics than text. Appropriate content may also vary. Text that lacks formal historical grounding will be unpersuasive to people who rely on tradition to justify their actions. Moreover, presentation and content may interact. Pictures that are read individually in one country can become part of an unintentional collage of meaning in another.” (2005, Gould)

What changes could be made to the site to cross the cultural divide? 

According to the Global Web Index (2011), more people are coming to trust online reviews, forums, and social media such as Blog Author and Consumer Review Online.  How does 211.org and its information fit into the lives of immigrants? It could become the virtual gateway for guiding immigrants through the United States’ infrastructure and ultimately could speed their adaptation to the American culture. According to research done by Nancy Hoft, localization helps overcome inherent resistance by making the interface secondary (hidden) to the user’s task of locating information or a service (1995, Hoft). Non-profits such as IRC and World Relief have an advantage here because they are recognised entities with existing offline and online relationships.

How to Drive More Traffic

I believe we can introduce a more entrepreneurial mindset to the non-profit arena. Any group that has a steady flow of users or that has built up a critical mass has created a ‘market’ just like any retail business. It is from this foundation that the directors of non-profits should be moving aggressively to help their customers in new and innovative ways. I don’t believe that these more corporate-like objectives weaken their potential impact on 211 as an organization. As the real estate motto has been “Location, location, location!” the internet motto is now “Information, information, information”, not just regurgitated reports or contact information, but current information about what services non-profits are providing. For example, which shelter has beds available tonight, which pantry is serving hot food, or where can I find a weekend job doing labor, child care or catering?

Please view online at: http://ashburydesigns.com/clients/211/redesign_proposal/index.html  The comp for the Nepali language page is in English for the purpose of understanding content and functionality.

Now that many non profit website use Twitter, WordPress or other Content Management Systems, 211.org could request RSS feeds or Tweets that publish regularly updated information from the various non profits. With a combination of fresh information and improved search engine optimization, 211.org could dramatically increase its traffic and eventually add some advertisements deeper in the architecture of their site which could bring in some revenue for the organization. Non-profits such as the International Rescue Committee (which has been in existence for 75 years) and World Relief have the resources and connections to develop rich content.

Suggested Site Changes

1) The biggest change would be to allow users to choose their language preference by creating a gateway page with all the main languages used by King County’s immigrant population (Spanish, Somalian, Bhutanese, Iraqi, Japanese, Chinese, Nepali, Ethiopian, Korean) From here each page can make culturally appropriate adjustment to icons, color, spacing, photo usage and so on.  Once the site switches to their native language, the primary difference would be that the search and navigation functions would be in their native language while much of the content would remain in English unless it is coming, for example, from a Nepali source.

2) Remove all competing nonprofit logos and branding except 211. 211 needs to build trust by showing a solid, singular and unified brand.

3) Create supplement visuals to the existing logo that explains what 211 delivers: 211 = (3 small icons –> icon of a bed, icon representing food such as a bowl of rice or a plate with knife and fork, icon of a worker or of two heads talking to each other). Just as we rely on the envelope icon to tell us that is the link to email and the red cross represents medical help, 211 can create icons that are more universally understood.

4) Drilling down to the Nepalese 211 homepage for King County, I would suggest adding audio recordings for directions on using the search tools.

5) The search tools should offer two main paths or tabs along with a permanent search box in the upper right of page;

• A to Z non-profit listing with the group’s logo for using as a visual cue
• Browse Topics options which would use the latin based A-Z alphabet

6) If possible, I would add the Devanagari-based (alphabet) translation to those non-profits that serve the Nepali or Sherpa community. The Devanagari will catch their eye and will be easier to scan the pages. Also previous users can tell their friends to look for the Devanagari on the page.

Conclusion

The United States with the cooperation of the government and non-profits could set the tone for how we welcome a diverse workforce, whether they start out unskilled or bring with them the skills we seek. The new global population seems to care less about their country of residence and more about the quality of their lives. I found that the Nepali people have an extremely strong work ethic, rarely get sick and would be an asset to any economy. Just as we created Foreign Service diplomats and trained them to work effectively overseas, the 211.org website should serve as the gateway to immigrants to the United States.

As stated by an Indian entrepreneur, Shibulal (2011), ‘We must remember that the consequences of economic disparity will not leave us alone. It will catch up with us through rising crime rates, violence, vandalism, social unrest and other desperate measures. The true success of Bangalore, lies not only in fuelling the dreams of visionaries but also fulfilling its responsibility to give hope to the underprivileged. This is where each one of us has to fulfill our unwritten social contract — to give back to the society in which we operate.’ The same applies to Seattle and the greater area. With the growing and ongoing economic downturn, there are a large number of not only Americans, but also immigrants who are in need of these services, yet are unaware of 211 and 211.org.

References

211.org. Caller Data for the month of July. pdf. 2011.

Aykin, Nuray. Usability and internationalization of information technology. 2005.

Easterling, Dana interview. 211 Manager. King County. 2011.

Gelfand Ph. D., Michele and colleagues,  Differences Between Tight and Loose Cultures: A 33-Nation Study. May 2011 issue of      Science Magazine (sciencemag.org)

Hartley, Melissa interview. Partners For Our Children. 2011.

Hoft, Nancy L. International Technical Communication: How to Export Information about High Technology. New York: John Wiley and Sons. 1995.

Holtzblatt, Karen,  Burns Wendell, Jessamyn, Wood, Shelley. Rapid Contextual Design. 2005.

Hofstede, Geert, Hofstede, Gert Jan, Minkov, Michael. Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. 2010.

Samiee, Saeed. Exporting and the Internet: a conceptual perspective. International Marketing Review, Vol. 15 Iss: 5, 1998.

Sherpa, Dawa interview. Asian Counseling and Referral Service. 2011.

Shresta, Ramesh. Consumer Survey in Kathmandu Valley. http://www.ekantipur.com/2011/09/29/headlines/Consumer-Survey- in-Kathmandu-Valley/341565/ . 2011.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nepal

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nepalese_American

Smith. http://globalwebindex.net/thinking/brands-are-a-positive-force-in-social-media-%E2%80%93-let%E2%80%99s- celebrate-that/ (Dec 2011)

Shibulal. http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-04-27/news/29479059_1_global-city-bangalore-business- community . Bangalore: Hi-Tech city must meet needs of its lowest deck. 2011.

The Influence of High- and Low-Context Communication Styles On the Design, Content, and Language of Business-To-Business Web Sites. 2010. http://job.sagepub.com/content/47/2/189.

Khan, Razib. 2011 Loose vs. tight societies http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/05/loose-vs-tight-societies/

The foundation of our project is set in the exploration of differences between the United States and Japan. Keying off the “Onion Model” outlined in the Hofstede reading, we zeroed in on the heroes layer and identified a representative archetype for both countries: the cowboy for the United States, and the samurai for Japan. We examine these icons under the lenses of individualism, power distance, and uncertainty avoidance. In an effort to draw out the differences along these dimensions, we’ve portrayed three pairs of contrasting scenes from the lives of both a cowboy and a samurai.

http://www.tellouslabs.com/grad/512/CowboySamurai/launcher.html

Hofstede defines heroes as “persons, alive or dead, real or imaginary, who possess characteristics that are highly prized in a culture and thus serve as models for behavior.”

Our study of the archetypes of cowboys and samurai helped us to understand and appreciate some of the significant cultural differences between the United States and Japan through the behavior of their heroes.

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