Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Day: May 31, 2007

Don’t Hire Fancy Pants Consultants Like us to Tell You the Obvious

I was talking to someone in the office this morning. I was actually watching tech support change a failed hard drive – that’s how badly I didn’t want to sit down and write a particular document. He told me that I didn’t have to watch him change the hard drive (especially because it wasn’t my laptop). I told him – “I’m procrastinating on writing a client document.” After a few polite questions he asked me what the problem was with the client. I sighed and said the conversational equivalent of: “Senior management is completely disengaged when it comes to setting strategic direction for the web.

So, middle management and the web team are just flailing about in a reactionary way putting up whatever content needs to be had at the moment and fighting with each other about what’s the most important content on the site, and watch technology to use, yadda, yadda, yadda…” He nodded knowingly. Then I realized, this statement could be made for just about all of our clients. Most “web site problems” stem from the rotten root of ambivalent senior management. So in a moment of largesse (and finding a more creative way to procrastinate), I thought I would write this blog entry.

If you’re having Web problems, the first thing to consider (before calling a content management system vendor, a taxonomist, a web design firm, or Web Operations folks like us), is whether or not the CEO, Administrator, President or whoever heads your organization is even thinking about the site – strategically. If they are not, then more than likely any changes that the web team makes to the site will just be “interim” or “quick fixes.” For a lot of organizations, the organization’s public facing web site is the first point of contact for business partners and customers, prospects, and information seekers it deserves serious senior consideration.

I’m not just talking about making sure that the web site looks good either. Good web design – while shockingly rare in some segments of the Web – is not a mystery and good web designers and information architects are easy to locate. I’m talking about establishing performance and quality objectives for web sites – objectives, which support the overall mission, service and/or business objectives of your organization and then holding folks accountable for meeting those objectives – like you don’t get your raise if you don’t get it done. If you establish these basic strategic and governance related principles, you will find that a lot of the other decision related to web design, what types of software needs to be utilized, etc. become a lot easier to answer.

So, get your Web Strategy and Web Governance ducks in a row before you shell out the big bucks for a web site redesign or a new web content management system or fancy pants consultants like us.
But if your still dying to talk to someone anyway or just commiserate with other folks with messed up web sites, we’ll be talking a lot about various strategic and governance issues at the Gilbane conference in Washington DC next week.

Hope to see you there.

The Google Effect on Cross-Language Search

As the Internet continues to redefine ubiquitous, the issue of cross language search becomes more critical. It’s a pervasive challenge with extreme scalability requirements. Hard to imagine, but the Internet will be full by about 2010 according to the American Registry for Internet Numbers. ARIN’s recommendation for IPv6 demonstrates the potential breadth of information overload.

Organizations such as the European-based Cross-Language Evaluation Forum (CLEF) have moved beyond discussion and into in-depth testing on cross-language search for many years. With its “Leaping over Language Barriers” announcement, Google has moved beyond experimentation and toward productization of its cross-language search feature.

  • The Wall Street Journal’s Jessica Vascellaro weighs in here, and includes commentary on rival strategies from Yahoo and Microsoft.
  • Google Blogoscoped weighs in here.
  • Clay Tablet’s Ryan Coleman weighs in here.
  • Global by Design’s John Yunker has a review here.
  • And from Google themselves, here’s the beta UI, the FAQ, and the “unveiling” at the company’s Searchology event held earlier this month.

IMO, any discussion of what the interconnected world “looks like” in the future, whether focused on fill in your label here 2.0, social networking, customer experience, global elearning, etc., (should) eventually drill-down to translation and localization issues. Once we’re at that level of conversation, there’s more challenges to discuss — the ongoing evolution of automated translation, the balance between human and machine translation, the conundrum of rich media and image translation, and as Kaija will always remind us, the quality and context of search results as opposed to merely the quantity.

As a researcher, I’ve used Google’s “translate this” functionality and Yahoo’s Babel Fish (originally AltaVista’s) numerous times to “get the gist” of a non-English article. But my reliance on the results has been more for sanity-checking trends than for factual data gathering. Inconsistencies skew the truth. I just can’t trust it. Can we trust this? Time will tell. Is it a step in the right direction for the masses? No doubt.

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