I am absolutely positive that someone was leaning on the Fast Forward button during April because it flew by. It is only now that I am able to see over the paper piles on my desk and talk about my fantastic experience that started my April 2011 off at a brisk pace. In early April, I was privilege to be asked speak at the Polish IA Summit
in Warsaw. My deepest thanks to Wieslaw Kotecki, Hubert Anyzewski and all at UseLab for putting together such a terrific program. And, a very special thanks to Magda Wolszczak- Protas who did such an incredible job of coordinating the event on top of taking good care of this clueless American visitor to Warsaw. It was an exceptional experience.
My colleagues have done such a fantastic job of representing the content of the Polish IA Summit that I will refer you to them for specific representations of what we learned over an inspiring two days.You will also find many tweets using #iasw
as your search term. The summit hash tag was the most popular tag in Poland for the first day of the Summit on April 7, 2011.
My personal epiphany from the conference was confirmation that the U.S. hegemony over IA/UX/Experience Design, or whatever you want to call what we do and where we do it, has long been over. We’re lucky here in the United States where we have been blessed for years with the thought-leadership of many of the originators of our practice. When we limit ourselves to conferences, meet ups, webinars and other information sharing venues from the continental U.S., it is easy to think that this is where all of the innovative, thought-leadership is happening. Au contraire. The viral nature of the Web has spread the good word far and wide. Our colleagues overseas are blazing many trails with innovative work and forward-thinking.
We service a global community that deserves a global perspective. Such perspective does not come from following the same superstars on Twitter or seeing the same people deliver similar PowerPoint slides at local conferences. I believe that a truly global perspective comes from the experience and intellect of our colleagues overseas. And for this you need to get on the long plane ride and go find it. Here are some international IA events for which I could find links: German IA Summit
, Italia IA Summit
and the EuroIA
The IA Institute site, Boxes and Arrows and other professional sites announce other events in Australia, South America, Asia and Eastern Europe. I plan to do what I can to include educational opportunities from outside the U.S. in my professional development from now on as I believe strongly that it makes me a better IA. I hope that you do also. And, in the United States, it is a tax deduction.
Polish IA Summit Recaps
Martin Belem on the Polish IA Summit. Martin has done a fantastic job of bringing forth salient points for many of the presentations. He is too modest to talk about his own presentation that illuminated an interesting path from SEO to IA in Five Lessons from an Information Architecture career.
Peter Boersma did a fantastic job of sending us on our with with his closing plenary that examined the state of IA and UX, where it came from and where it is going, in UX: (still) the next step for IAs
. He also has excellent notes for many of the sessions from the Polish IA Summit
Claire Rowland and Chris Brown, from Fjord, delivered a thought provoking presentation on extending our concept of design in Designing Beyond the Glowing Rectangle: User Experience Design and Research Implications of the Internet of Things
that closed out the first day’s session.
It is with great pride that I announce the addition of Kristina Mausser
to the FatDUX Ottawa team!
Kristina is one of Canada's leading Web Content Strategists whose expertise in identifying, positioning, and creating online content and messaging through best practices in web content writing and strategy has earned her accolades from clients and web industry professionals alike.
Her portfolio includes client work for Microsoft Corporation, Sephora, Fusion Brands Inc, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, the Government of Jamaica and McGill University. A firm believer in UX centred design, Kristina is an active member of the UX Book Club Ottawa
and founder of Canada's first Web Content Strategy Meet-Up
Kristina has been interviewed on both radio and television in Canada and Jamaica, and has guest lectured on the subjects of Information Management, Writing for the Web, and Web Communications at the University of Maryland
in the U.S. and at the University of Technology
in Kingston, Jamaica.
A graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature, Kristina studied advertising, web publishing and e-business at Centennial College's School of Communications, Media and Design in Toronto.
In 2007, Kristina was nominated for Canada's Top 40 Under 40 Award
, in recognition of her vision, innovation, and impact within the web industry.
I have had the pleasure of working with Kristina on several projects within the private and pubic sectors here in Canada; she is a brilliant asset to an incredible International team of User Experience professionals!
My name is Marianne Sweeny and I am a recent addition to the FatDUX gaggle. My specialty is search optimization, organic, paid and enterprise. Eric is generous to share the FatDUX blogspace with me on occasion so that I can share my thoughts, guidance and tips on making search engines work for you. Because, that is the way it is supposed to be with the machines working for us. At least, until Robert Heinlein’s vision of the future becomes the present.
Search engine optimization (SEO) has been around since the introduction of Web browsing, millennia in Internet-years. Unfortunately many practitioners are still using techniques from when the Web looked like this:
Apple Website 1996
We don’t live in that Web world any more. The “publish-anything-you-want-anyway-you-want” Web world started about 10 years ago and now most of the Web looks like this:
Soon everyone, not just the pornography industry, was trying to scam the search engines. In their defense, search got smarter until, with the advances in hardware and algorithmic computer science, they became very smart.
Consequently, search engine optimization had to become smart and strategic (more on strategic SEO in another post).
Like millions of others, I belong to a number of professional SEO groups on Linked-in. Most of the posts are from SEO practioners and qualify as shameless self-promotion. Occasionally, a civilian posts an honest question, like the one that became the title of this blog, and it seemed like a good starting point for my debut. These are not meant to be “tablets from the Mount.” They just work for my clients. I would very much like to hear how your experiences with search engine optimization worked for you.
Questions to ask yourself or the prospective SEO consultant:
- Will I know more after the consult delivers the initial meeting than I did before? I try to set my client's expectations by giving them a framework of understanding. This entails a brief primer on how search engines work and, most importantly, why they work that way. The Semantic Web has been here for quite some time and semantics are a fundamental start for any search optimization engagement.
- Is the approach strategic? Many SEO consultants are still relying on the brute techniques that hold over from the early days of search engines. Anyone who has used a search engine in the last 10 minutes knows that things have changed. Yes, there is still a need to have the query term in the content and yes placement does have impact (browser title, headings, etc). Links do still count. However, search engines are a lot smarter these days. Context has achieved a strong position. Link quantity is no longer a key driver in relevance ranking. The quality of the link is now a factor. And don't even think about buying them.
- Is the approach holistic? SEO success is based on a broad array of factors, content, linking, page code, visibility to search technology, user behavior and more. If your consultation does not contain a performance review (against a competitor or two of your choosing if preferred), metadata strategy, content strategy, linking strategy and page code recommendations, you are not getting a comprehensive treatment to search issues.
- Will the SEO report contain clear, concise, prescriptive and actionable steps? Ask to see a sample of their deliverable. I read a report with recommendations that alternated between the incomprehensible to unachievable. I think the consultant was asking the client to completely re-architect their content structure with dubious justification. So, now the client is looking for another SEO consultant to translate the initial investment into practical and actionable steps.
- Will I know how to keep your site optimized after the consultant goes away? This is the hoary old "give a man a fish/teach a man to fish" rule. As a consultant, I want you to be able to sustain the work that I've delivered. This means teaching YOU how to: craft good <title> and Description metadata, read your site analytics tea leaves, use online tools to study customer behavior around key phrases that pertain to your product or service.
- Will the consultant available for follow up questions? Likely, we’ve all had “movie response” (thinking up the perfect retort after the conversation has ended). This is often the case when delivering complex reports with questions that come up long after the meeting has ended. If your consultant bills for time to answer reasonable questions that emerge after you've had time to digest the report or start on the recommendations, they may not be right for you.
Oh, and before you take any consultant’s advice about software products that they recommend, make sure that the consultant can demo their own version of the product as well as the software manufacturer. If your consultant is not using the software themselves, how can they recommend it for you?
Frank Lloyd Wright said that the two most important tools for an architect were the drafting pencil and the sledgehammer. Of the two, the pencil is the easier to use as well as the more effective. As it is with building design, so it is with designing websites and their discoverability by search engines, the tool used by a majority of users. The Web has become so vast and the search systems have become so sophisticated that retroactive optimization can be only marginally effective.
My mantra of late has been that search engine optimization must be part of the strategy at the beginning of a site design or redesign project. I believe that user experience is as much about how users find the site as with their experience once they get there. At the 2010 IA Summit in Phoenix, I presented a poster session on an SEO/UX design framework that sees search optimization as part of the UX engagement throughout the project lifecycle.
- Discovery comes before experience. Including search optimization in discovery sessions with the client provides opportunities to illuminate the state of the competitive landscape and the current search visibility state of the existing site. During this stage, I give the client a brief education in how search engines work. Despite the sophistication behind how results are presented, the core functionality of search technology is still based on information retrieval methods from the early days of electronic data storage. In order to appear in the results, the search terms used must appear in the content.
- Planning reduces the signal to noise ratio for the search engine spider. Search engine spiders do not have eyes, ears, thumbs or fingers. They cannot read the messaging in sticky Flash and Silverlight applications. They cannot hear instructions or compelling evidence contained in videos. They cannot “click” anything to move forward. Provide on the page or in the code annotation for all rich media to make sure that the messaging contained here makes its way to search results.
- Build a relevant site structure. Something that you keep in the attic of your garage is likely less important to you than something kept in the cabinet over your coffee machine. Search engine spiders interpret your site structure as an indicator of relevance. Content buried deep in the structure is seen as less relevant that content found closer to the home page. Design site and link structures that reveal context and importance.
- Create a flexible design to ensure ongoing visibility. There is no “set it and forget it” in search engine optimization. Post-launch optimization continues with analysis and measurement. Analyze search terms driving traffic to the site, bounce rate, time on site and other analytics to discern patterns and anticipate customer needs or interests. What were they looking for? Did they find it? Benchmark positioning for key metadata phrases prior to redesign. Run regular placement reports to chart progress and provide quantitative evidence of effectiveness.
Following a roadmap of optimization through the stages of a website project is a step is extending the user experience to from start to finish.
Download the Search Engine Optimization and User Experience Design Framework Poster