Migrating microsites

This week on the Boagworld Show, we go north of the border to talk about microsites and look at how one charity saved millions.

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Paul Boag:
This week on the Boagworld show we go north of the border to talk about micro sites and look at how one charity saved millions.

Paul Boag:
Hello and welcome to boagworld.com, the podcast for those involved in designing, developing and running websites on a daily basis. My name is Paul, and joining me is Marcus. And we’re not going to talk about the weather or health.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve got nothing else to say.

Paul Boag:
I know exactly. That’s the problem isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Just had a nice lunch.

Paul Boag:
You can’t talk about food, the weather, lunch, golf, feeling ill or cricket. Is there anything left in your life?

Marcus Lillington:
Music.

Paul Boag:
Oh, music, yes fine. So I listened to a ShopTalk podcast for the first time in ages. They’re good.

Marcus Lillington:
You told me that the other week. Obviously not knowing really, just made it up.

Paul Boag:
It was not. It had been a while since I had listened to them, and they’re very good. It was a really interesting interview with the lady whose name escapes me, I apologize who …

Marcus Lillington:
That’s a funny name.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I know. It’d be embarrassing wouldn’t it. Hello, my name is Escapesme and I apologize, who trained as a – went to Harvard Business School. Went and became a venture kind of – one of these what do they call them, the banker types – investment banker.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
And then became an accountant for SurveyMonkey, and then one day decided she wanted to retrain and become a developer. And it was fascinating. Well, I’m not going to do accounting anymore; I’m going to be a developer.

Marcus Lillington:
Crikey.

Paul Boag:
I know.

Marcus Lillington:
Who does that?

Paul Boag:
Well, she does and she did it very well. And she went on – it was really interesting because she went on like a 10-week intensive training course to learn how to do it, which is really weird and alien in my view. You know that you can go and just be taught how to be a developer, because of course I come from the school of learning it as I go along. Also known as making it up as I go along. So, yes and that’s how she did it, it’s really interesting actually, very fascinating. It sounds good.

Marcus Lillington:
I mean, I have often thought I wish I knew how to code.

Paul Boag:
There you go. You’ve got 10 weeks.

Marcus Lillington:
But I’m not going to do it.

Paul Boag:
Your level of commitment is not as high as hers.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, I don’t know, maybe if I wanted to be a developer, then people want me to do other things.

Paul Boag:
That’s the story of my life.

Marcus Lillington:
Know what I mean.

Paul Boag:
So, what I was going to tell you about. Went to see Dootrix this morning with Rob Borley and his little crew. They’ve got – they’ve just copied our barn. Except they’ve got the drawback that their barn is on a working farm, with a lot of very smelly pigs.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, that’s not so nice.

Paul Boag:
And they’ve got really low beams in their office. It’s lovely; it’s kind of very much like the barn where we used to work. But with much lower ceilings and really low beans, which they’ve had to cover with carpet because they keep walking into them. It’s so funny. It did make me giggle that did. So that’s what I was up and doing and I went to… You don’t need to know about any of this. I went up to do an internal conference with a big publishing house and shouted at a load of marketing people. That was fun too. I have a good life.

Marcus Lillington:
You do.

Paul Boag:
I just waltz around telling people what to do.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, next week you will go out to see another – yet another Scottish University for a chat.

Paul Boag:
There must be – we must be running out now. Are there any Scottish Universities we haven’t gone and had a chat with?

Marcus Lillington:
There are quite a few probably, he says maybe.

Paul Boag:
I’m really being, we haven’t done any work with Dundee have we?

Marcus Lillington:
No. Oh yes, we have years ago. Yes, we did a very small piece of work with Dundee.

Paul Boag:
Oh okay.

Marcus Lillington:
There is another one in Aberdeen; I can’t remember the name of.

Paul Boag:
Is that?

Marcus Lillington:
What was it, Harriot-Watt?

Paul Boag:
So we’ve done Aberdeen. We’ve done Glasgow. We’ve done them. It’s like notches on my bed post, women I slept with. We’ve done Aberdeen, Glasgow, Highlands and Islands, which we’re going to hear from later in the show. Strathclyde …

Marcus Lillington:
Sterling.

Paul Boag:
Sterling, St. Andrews, who I’m going to meet next week.

Marcus Lillington:
Going to eat.

Paul Boag:
I’m going to eat. Just don’t go there Marcus. So, it makes perfect sense doesn’t it? A web design agency on the south coast of the U.K. specializing in institutions in the Highlands of Scotland.

Marcus Lillington:
They not all in the Highlands?

Paul Boag:
Yes, Duncan is, who we’re going to talk to you today.

Marcus Lillington:
True.

Paul Boag:
So it’s a weird old world. So that brings us on to what we’re talking about today. So we got a couple of interviews. We are talking to Duncan from the University of Highlands and Islands, who is actually one of our clients. I think this is our first client? That we done on – I forgotten who we’ve covered in the series so far?

Marcus Lillington:
No, we spoke to …

Paul Boag:
Oh, we spoke to Laura of Chelsea Pensioners. And I suppose Macquarie was a client a long time ago, but not …

Marcus Lillington:
And even though Duncan is essentially a client, we haven’t done any work with him for ages.

Paul Boag:
No, that’s true.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s not like it’s something that’s ongoing.

Paul Boag:
Nepotistic.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Kind of it is.

Paul Boag:
Only because you like to go drinking with Duncan?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, dangerously.

Paul Boag:
Dangerously. Well he is Scottish.

Marcus Lillington:
Scottish, likes whiskey. He actually collects whiskey. He has £1,000 pound bottles of whiskey, he buys and sells it.

Paul Boag:
I was going to say, because I don’t imagine he can afford to have many £1,000s of – working in the higher education and the Web design team isn’t the way to make a fortune, is it?

Marcus Lillington:
Well, he’s selling, buying and selling scotch is probably the way to go.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely. So we’re talking to him and then our feature project is from the World Wildlife Fund.

Marcus Lillington:
I probably ought to have a look at it.

Paul Boag:
Which is quite interesting. So that’s going to be a good one as well, because very similar themes come out in both which is going to make an excellent show. So unless you’ve got anything else to talk about outside of that long list of things I banned you from talking about, should we move on and listen to our interview?

Marcus Lillington:
It’s warm in here.

Paul Boag:
I think that borderlines on talking about the weather. And that’s definitely talking about being ill. I’m not giving you any sympathy, because you didn’t give me any sympathy when I was ill.

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
And I’ve probably given you this. Although it’s more likely from your wife.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, she was just as bad as you were, so I think it probably was her.

Paul Boag:
You know you snog her, while you don’t snog me?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, just even saying it, Paul, is…

Paul Boag:
It’s wrong is it?

Marcus Lillington:
It’s quite horrible.

Paul Boag:
I’ve lost you now. You’re back into your notes. You’re not paying any attention to this podcast.

Marcus Lillington:
Migrating from Microsites.

Paul Boag:
You’ve found …

Marcus Lillington:
As shown in the notes.

Paul Boag:
Well done. Most people look up the notes before the podcast starts. You wouldn’t get this kind of amateur behavior on ShopTalk is all I’m saying.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, well how long have they been going?

Paul Boag:
They’re only – They’re over 100 episodes now.

Marcus Lillington:
Over 100?

Paul Boag:
I know and which is …

Marcus Lillington:
Over 100?

Paul Boag:
I know. What are we, 500?

Marcus Lillington:
No, I think we’ve probably …

Paul Boag:
600?

Marcus Lillington:
350.

Paul Boag:
3000?

Marcus Lillington:
I think we’re at 350.

Paul Boag:
Is that all?

Marcus Lillington:
That was just based on we’re on our ninth series.

Paul Boag:
Nine series.

Marcus Lillington:
And I reckon we probably average 12 per series.

Paul Boag:
Maybe.

Marcus Lillington:
All right, well that’s – even so this says – let’s say its 10. Or let’s say it’s 100 we’ve done since we’ve been doing it. And I reckon we got to 230 odd, so we’re now at 330 odd.

Paul Boag:
But I would argue that this isn’t really a podcast anymore. This is just us sitting and having a chat.

Marcus Lillington:
A cup of tea.

Paul Boag:
Yes, because you’re not even on the mic, you’re leaning back. We aren’t talking about anything that is of any interest to anybody.

Marcus Lillington:
And how is that different to the previous episodes?

Paul Boag:
Okay. Let’s move on to the interview then. Here we go. This is the interview with Duncan from the Highlands and Islands.

Duncan Ireland from the University of Highlands and Islands

UHI.ac.uk
Duncan Ireland is responsible for the University of Higlands and Islands website. He also supports numerous other smaller college sites.

Visit the UHI website

Paul Boag:
So joining me today and Marcus – I always say joining me, Marcus, I forget to include you, sorry about that.

Marcus Lillington:
So rude.

Paul Boag:
I know it is.

Marcus Lillington:
It is rude.

Paul Boag:
Terrible, isn’t it? So joining us today is Duncan Ireland: from – now this is quite a mouthful, isn’t it? Duncan Ireland: from the Highlands and Islands. God, try saying that fast.

Marcus Lillington:
Well, it’s the University of the Highlands and Islands. We will let you speak shortly Duncan, honestly.

Duncan Ireland:
Jolly good.

Paul Boag:
Hello. How are you?

Duncan Ireland:
I’m very well. Thank you. Good morning, gentlemen.

Paul Boag:
What’s the weather like up there?

Duncan Ireland:
Gosh, starting with the weather, I mean – currently we are overcast, but otherwise I’m in quite good order.

Paul Boag:
See I just – the whole area where you guys are is just gorgeous. The nicest place on the planet when the weather is good.

Duncan Ireland:
That’s why I moved here.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. So where are you based now? Where are you living?

Duncan Ireland:
I’m living just outside Inverness, and my office is based in Inverness. So I’m looking out the window at the River Ness flowing past the office window. Very nice.

Paul Boag:
Oh, I’m so envious.

Marcus Lillington:
It’s quite lovely out there. I did enjoy my trip last January.

Paul Boag:
I did – when I did WMW which is a big conference, higher education conference was up in Aberdeen, I did – I took a holiday off of the back of it and went to Kingairloch – that kind of area. It was, we had honestly two weeks of gorgeous sunshine and it was the most incredible holiday I think I’ve ever had other than the Maldives, which I like to mention at every interval.

Duncan Ireland:
We like to compete with the Maldives at every opportunity.

Marcus Lillington:
Talking about holidays, we will get on to the questions, but you went to Cape Verde recently I believe.

Duncan Ireland:
I did go to Cape Verde Islands, Boa Vista, that was tremendous.

Marcus Lillington:
I was there last week.

Duncan Ireland:
Excellent. Were you skiving or did you have a purpose?

Marcus Lillington:
No, just skiving. Well, holidaying I think is the proper term. Which hotel did you stay in?

Paul Boag:
For crying out loud!

Duncan Ireland:
Yes, Paul is just going to feel left out. I was in the Royal Decameron.

Marcus Lillington:
I know that one. We walked past it when we went there last year. We were round on the south of the island this year, but yes highly recommend it to anyone listening. Gorgeous place.

Duncan Ireland:
Yes, definitely do it.

Paul Boag:
So anyway Duncan, driving it vaguely back to what we’re supposed to be discussing, so you work for the University of Highlands and Islands. Tell us a little bit about your job and what it is that you do there?

Duncan Ireland:
A little bit, that’s hard.

Paul Boag:
Or a lot if you want, that’s fine.

Duncan Ireland:
We will see where this goes. The university is made up of 13 colleges and specialist research centers. So my role encompasses looking after the main University website. But given we’re a partnership, I also look after 10 of the websites belonging to specialist colleges and research institutes. So I’m looking after a full HE website and a lot of input on 10 FE or specialist websites. So that’s a little bit different from the typical faculty department main university structure. So that’s been quite interesting.

Paul Boag:
So how long have you been with them? Because it’s not that long, is it?

Duncan Ireland:
Not a huge period. I think a year and a bit now.

Paul Boag:
Wow! You’ve achieved a lot in that time, because the whole site’s been completely redesigned and restructured.

Marcus Lillington:
I was quite lucky, I think the folk who were in – the role of web manager was a new one for the university. They had typically had a marketing manager who took on a number of roles and just as I joined the university, the web was split out into its own team, which was quite nice. So I was lucky enough to be building on work that previous incumbents had done. They had brought together the design through a project called Oneweb for a lot of the partner websites. So the main university website and the majority of the partner websites look like they’re of a family and related. And so what me and the team have been doing is continuing that work, and we’ve also been trying to make some specific impact in the area of recruitment.

Paul Boag:
Oh okay.

Duncan Ireland:
Because that ties in with us as Scotland’s newest university. So we’ve got some awareness raising and some profile raising to do and recruitment is clearly a goal. Obviously, every university is interested in it, but in particular we were given extra funded places by the Scottish government. So we had to make sure we made best possible use of those.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. I think a lot – it’s the goal of every university, some of them lie about it, mind don’t they. Some pretend that they don’t really care. They’ve got far too many people, far too many applicants. I think there is a bit of snobbery in the higher education community about recruitment, which always makes me laugh, but there you go.

Duncan Ireland:
Certainly, it’s an interesting issue when you focus right on it and say we’re going to concentrate on recruitment. I think in a number of institutions then that would certainly be contentious, because there is a strong argument to bring forward other audiences for the Website. So it’s quite refreshing to be given that brief.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely, because so often with university Websites, they’re trying to focus on so many different audiences at the same time. And that can be really – it is one of our biggest frustrations working in the higher education sector is balancing all these different audiences. But working with you guys, it was such a clear brief in a sense, there were these fundamentally two audiences weren’t there. There is the local audience and then the border audience, but it was all about recruitment which is just great. It was really refreshing. So what have you, over the kind of year and a bit you’ve been there, what do you think is the biggest challenge that you’ve faced?

Duncan Ireland:
I think there is maybe – there are different challenges. The obvious one of starting in a new organization is catching up and working out how the organization works. And a particular one for me, I’ve always taken an interest in technical aspects of running the website. So I’ve been closely involved with bits of HTML and bits of CSS, and bits of content management system. So coming into an established content management system that I knew nothing about I personally found quite difficult. In that it was Plone not a commercial product I found made it harder, because getting the documentation and help is not as straightforward as phoning a help desk and getting direct support. So that was an interesting learning curve for me.

Paul Boag:
So that’s an interesting factor that you raise there. This whole thing of open source versus commercial. You – from your point of view then actually a commercial product is nicer because the support is easier?

Duncan Ireland:
I’m not sure if that’s it. I’m lucky enough that the commercial products I’ve been involved with I have tendered for and I’ve implemented. So I’ve had training from the ground up, I’ve grown up with them. So I think that, if you will in that argument, I guess it gives the commercial product an unfair advantage. Had I grown up with this system I maybe would not have found the learning curve so steep, but coming into it established and running, and some of it runs very, very differently from other things I’ve encountered. It was a very steep learning curve for me.

Paul Boag:
Cool. What’s then – so that I can understand is a massive challenge. What then do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned over the last year? Because you’ve been in higher education for a long, long time, but this is a very different kind of institution for you and I wonder whether there were any specific lessons that have come out of that or ways that you’ve had to adapt?

Duncan Ireland:
I think that the most important lesson is one I probably learned earlier on in my HE work experience, but it certainly remains true here. And I think that’s one of incremental change. I think you will go stark raving bonkers if you try and fix everything at once, to do the big tasks immediately. I think trying to improve a little bit everywhere all the time is much more realistic and much more practical, and can deliver ultimately the results you want. I think if you were to focus on a major project and only that project then the nature of the beast in a larger organization, is that that will take time. There are some things I can go back to my desk and I can do now, and it will help the user or help the colleague or move a particular goal forward. That’s quite difficult when you’re taught to get on with it and finish the complete task. Do everything. I don’t think that really applies to large Websites. I think you’ve got to nip away all the time with incremental stuff.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. I mean, that seems to be a reoccurring theme with the people that we’ve interviewed so far is that, that ongoing development is absolutely crucial for a success.

Duncan Ireland:
Yes. I think what’s interesting for the members of my team is that obviously you can get drawn into business as usual work, so you’re always doing that little task in the content management system and you’re always changing that bit of HTML. You’re always chasing that person for content, and that’s quite nice to say why don’t we just stay embed the video better and try to do something that we’ve never done on that page. What if we did it that way? And it gives you a chance to keep skills up-to-date and to make sure folks are getting a variety of work under their belt, not just going on to a treadmill.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely. Okay. Kind of changing track a little bit, a big part of the audience that listen to this podcast, Web design agencies and freelancers and people like that, one of the things I’m doing is taking advantage of interviewing all of these clients to try and find out what it is that clients look for when hiring a Web design agency? What are the key factors that influence that decision? Because I think as external people you’re all a bit of a mystery, you clients. You don’t really know what the hell is that you’re after? So, I’d be interested to hear your perspective on it?

Duncan Ireland:
I think there is different angles. One of that in this particular sector, one of the things that drives almost everything is budget, is there any.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Duncan Ireland:
And if there is then what do we spend at on and is it appropriate to spend it on X, Y, or Z. And so in many ways I will answer your question with a negative in at the first instance what we want is not to be cold called.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Duncan Ireland:
There is absolutely no point phoning me up and saying hi, we’re brilliant, we do shiny stuff, how about it. My response is well you’re not in my budget. You’ve had it. There is no point talking to me. You cannot get into my consciousness that way. You’re just annoying me in my working day.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Duncan Ireland:
And so it’s to somehow draw our attention to the organization and the products and the wares and the personnel so you’re thinking oh, that’s interesting. If I come back to that, I might well give those guys a call. And that’s – for me what we’re looking for is expertise.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Duncan Ireland:
Can you do something I can’t and whether that’s telling – you’ve spoken on and you know fine well that if a third party tells your management structure something it’s gospel and if you tell your management structure something, not always the case. And so expertise is the thing. We are looking for someone who knows what they’re talking about and is perhaps talking about something that’s coming soon, that’s not been done yet. Somebody – I mean cost is clearly going to be in there. If we are coming for ₤20,000 worth of work and somebody quotes us ₤40,000 then that’s not going to work.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Duncan Ireland:
But somebody might come back and say well you’ve asked for this, we can’t do that in that budget but here is what we could offer you. An alternative can be welcome, although it will depend on how we’ve asked for the quote because various tendering procurement processes have to followed.

Paul Boag:
Oh, yes.

Duncan Ireland:
You know them well.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
We do, we do. Yes.

Paul Boag:
Bloomin’ procurement processes.

Marcus Lillington:
Another recurring thing there about the “third-party expert” being seen as gospel to senior management, that’s – I think pretty much everyone has said that to us as well that we’ve interviewed so far.

Duncan Ireland:
Yes, I’m fortunate in that that’s not a situation I’ve yet encountered here. I have a good dialogue with folks that are coming with the requirements and objectives and I think there has been a history of folk being able to deliver what’s been asked for here. So that puts me in a very fortunate position that I can have that discussion with managers and the advice and the suggestions are taken. So I’m very grateful for that

Paul Boag:
Yeah, that’s good.

Duncan Ireland:
And it’s a nice situation to be in. And I think another thing that comes through is communication. When you’re dealing with a third-party – I have a working theory that universities can be some of the worst clients on earth because we’re quite big. And I’ve started conversations with suppliers and said we’re going to be a fairly horrible customer in terms of certain things. You need to be prepared for that. We might take a while to get back to you, so don’t tell us it’s going to take you four weeks and if you’re assuming that we’re going to respond to every email, every draft, everything you send us by return. Tell us it’s going to take 12 weeks, put that in there. So it’s communicating openly about what’s going to be happening, I think, is quite important.

I do think we’re all fairly different and folk will be sick and tired of hearing how this is unique or that’s unique or we’re very different. But I think the structures do change, so there is a reality, I think, that certain commercial providers will come with a package; a list of things that they do and that they’re good at. It maybe that that package is not what the client needs in this instance. It needs to be tailored, it needs to be specific. So that dialogue early on is very important I think.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely. Yes, because you have to adapt to the sector and the environment and the client you’re in, makes a lot of sense. So okay, the last question I want to ask you which you’ve already touched on which is what’s the next big thing for you guys? Where are you focusing over the next few months or year or whatever?

Duncan Ireland:
I’m – I think it’s a statement from the school of the obvious. Mobile, small screen devices. Other stuff that accesses our web content. It’s clearly and obviously on the increase when you look at the statistics or when wander about the streets or drop into somewhere that’s got Wi-Fi, there’s any number of devices about. That’s what brought us to work with you guys. It’s something we’re now going to have to expand. So thinking about things responsive and how to deal with that and that’s – it’s an interesting thing for me. I’ve had a wee scout around and there is any number of people that will teach you about responsive or show you how to code and mark up and CSS. As yet, I don’t think I’ve found anybody that will discuss managing a responsive website.

Paul Boag:
Oh, that’s interesting.

Duncan Ireland:
In my head—and we could probably argue for hours over it—in my head, we’re no longer talking about one design. We’re talking about three, four or five designs that happen to be represented with one set of files. So on the face of it, there was an increased work load by default and it’s not – there is no economy of scale. It’s you’ve got five designs or you’ve got five times as much design work potentially.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I see where you’re coming from.

Marcus Lillington:
Testing certainly.

Duncan Ireland:
Yes, well that interests me, if I’m missing trick or if there is discussions around that. Of course it doesn’t only touch on design and testing, it touches on your content. Do you need smaller images, do you need bigger images, do you do that technically, do you need different aspect ratios of images depending on what you’re doing. Lots of little details all begin to come in. So I think that’s another big thing is content. Can we crack it? I mean it’s a never ending. We all know there is not a single solution, we all know it’s not easy and we all know there is all sorts of things you can do to aid content gathering and maintenance. But I think that’s what folk end up reading and looking at so it’s a big and important piece of what’s going on.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely. I can feel some blog posts coming on here. It is very easy to look at responsive design purely from a technical point of view. But, like you say, yeah, there are so many other issues. Even copy, should – because you’re reading, maybe reading on a small device, should the copy be as long. Are you going to read something of the same length as you would do on a screen? I think there is so much we still have to learn about how users interact with mobile devices. So it’s going to be an interesting few years, I think, ahead of us with that one. So yes, really good. Thank you so much, Duncan. That was absolutely brilliant. It was really nice to have you on the show and I think you’ve raised some interesting points that haven’t been touched on by the other interviews we’ve done. So very much appreciated and good luck with the site over the coming weeks and months.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, thanks Duncan.

Duncan Ireland:
Thanks very much. Nice talk to you.

Paul Boag:
Thank you.

Duncan Ireland:
See you, guys.

WWF’s Panda.org

Panda.org
Creating a single framework for all websites saved WWF from having to redesign 60 separate sites.

Visit Panda.org website

Paul Boag:
So I really enjoyed that. I like Duncan. I say this about every interview, don’t I?

Marcus Lillington:
Can we have one on that you didn’t like and then you can be rude.

Paul Boag:
Yes, Duncan he is a shithead.

Marcus Lillington:
You wouldn’t say that to him to his face because he is really hard.

Paul Boag:
He is hard. He has got that look about him and Pete has just come in the room. Hello, Pete.

Marcus Lillington:
Hi, Pete.

Paul Boag:
Pete has come in, he has got a camera. He is taking photographs for our new website.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Because he apparently – apparently once before he became a project manager, he used to be like creative. When I first worked with you…

Marcus Lillington:
You were a designer. I bet my headphones have messed my hair up.

Paul Boag:
Why have you taken…Oh, you’ve taken the headphones off so you look vein for the photos.

Marcus Lillington:
No.

Paul Boag:
Nobody can hear Pete so you just have half a conversation. And you don’t know whether they can hear you – hear him because you’ve taken the headphones off.

Marcus Lillington:
Do I care?

Paul Boag:
Not much. Right, no I’m not vein. Don’t drag me into this. Okay, so yes the reason I thought that was a really good interview, there was a few things that came out.

Marcus Lillington:
Duncan is very sensible.

Paul Boag:
He is sensible. Well, yeah I’m sure…

Marcus Lillington:
No, he is. He is really sensible.

Paul Boag:
Is he?

Marcus Lillington:
He is really organized and he gets things done and that kind of person.

Paul Boag:
He does. Yes, he is. I thought it was really interesting that the conversation we didn’t quite get into about open source versus commercial. So there was a kind of half conversation where I was trying to pin him down as to whether he felt commercial software was better than open source and he kind of fudged it a bit.

Marcus Lillington:
He has been – he has inherited a CMS that he doesn’t like. Yeah.

Paul Boag:
Doesn’t like, no. That’s the truth of it. But I would think any – does anybody like their CMS unless they actually picked it? This is the big thing.

Marcus Lillington:
Probably no one, yes.

Paul Boag:
CMSs.

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t like CMSs at all.

Paul Boag:
Oh, don’t start you on CMSs again.

Marcus Lillington:
Although saying that I’ve being WordPress for our new site and that’s been…

Paul Boag:
Does the job, doesn’t it.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve been getting on fine with it.

Paul Boag:
Yes. The other thing we talked about in the interview which I liked was this idea of working incrementally. Talked about nibbling around the edges, which I think is really, really true. I think large organizations have got this tendency of kind of creating these big projects, don’t they? Which they kind of yes so let’s create some huge project that is going to take five years to complete and goes massively over budget and turns into healthcare.gov and the President has to apologize for it and stuff. But in actual fact, the way to get things done is Duncan’s approach of keep nipping away at things; I thought that was really good.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, well I’ve been trying to persuade another client of ours to approach their site redesign over a nice lunch that I mentioned earlier.

Paul Boag:
Oh, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
That basically to take a more kind of step-by-step, an add-on approach if you like, but working out what the priorities are, build something, test it, built something else, test it, go back and fiddle with the thing based on the feedback …

Paul Boag:
Absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
… which I think got the right response.

Paul Boag:
Good. Let’s hope so. That will be really cool. I’d like to do that.

Marcus Lillington:
No, this is too weird without my headphones on.

Paul Boag:
Yeah, see I knew you wouldn’t be able to cope with it. But the biggest thing, the thing that I liked most from Duncan’s interview…

Marcus Lillington:
Ah, that’s better.

Paul Boag:
…and which brings us very nicely onto our feature project is this idea where he talked about that he is not just responsible for the main site, but he is also responsible for all the individual further education colleges and how they brought them all together with one look and feel. So …

Marcus Lillington:
Bringing them together not brought them together.

Paul Boag:
Really?

Marcus Lillington:
Trust me, really.

Paul Boag:
Really?

Marcus Lillington:
Really. You’ve worked in the 80’s sector?

Paul Boag:
I don’t – yes, I don’t care. Which brings us onto this kind of whole subject of microsites…

Marcus Lillington:
Right.

Paul Boag:
And having these big organizations that seem to have a microsite for everything. And it always really amuses me, because it – of course it confuses the user a lot, it’s costly to create and it’s expensive to maintain and I wrote a blog post about this a while back, which I will link in the show notes, where I talk about the pros and cons of both approaches. I think a lot of the time the problem with microsites or really the reason microsites exist is because the main template sites that have been built are not being designed in enough of a flexible way to be able to support the things that different content owners want to do.

Marcus Lillington:
We’ve being guilty of that.

Paul Boag:
Absolutely, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
We’ve built campaign templates that kind of are totally reusable as long as you kind of fit within the framework of what’s being previously delivered.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
But yes, this is Chris’s current sort of bee in his bonnet that we had.

Paul Boag:
Oh, is it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, yes. He wants to be – us to be delivering sites, certainly from a campaign point of view, so that you can effectively drag and drop your design.

Paul Boag:
Yeah.

Marcus Lillington:
Probably not right on that, but certainly be able to kind of like have a menu of stuff that can rearrange the order of …

Paul Boag:
Yeah. Well, it’s kind of Dan’s bee in his bonnet as well from a different perspective, that he always talks about patent libraries and building patent libraries rather than focusing on specific templates. And that – that’s very much like it as well and that brings us onto our feature project which is a project that was done back in 2011 for the World Wildlife Fund, WWF. They’re not called World Wildlife Fund anymore, are they? They’re called WWF.

Marcus Lillington:
There is no notes in my notes, Paul.

Paul Boag:
Why – there are no notes?

Marcus Lillington:
It just says feature project: name, email …

Paul Boag:
Oh, it obviously hasn’t updated – oh no, it’s because you’ve got to scroll across because it hasn’t formatted it very well.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh there it is, there it is.

Paul Boag:
So there we go.

Marcus Lillington:
Oh well, Fernando.

Paul Boag:
Yes. You know Fernando.

Marcus Lillington:
I do, yes.

Paul Boag:
Yes, Fernando, well we met him when he was working for the World Economic Forum in 2012.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, probably about then.

Paul Boag:
Yes, well he says so at the bottom, that’s why.

Marcus Lillington:
It would be then.

Paul Boag:
But he before that was working with WWF and was involved in what was a massive global refresh for them which you can see at panda.org, which is – it is beginning to date a little bit now, this is from 2011, but what really caught my eye and the reason that I wanted to focus on this project, is that they started off with 60 sites before this project in 20 languages, right. Can you imagine? So a hell of a lot to organize and what they did was create – in effect create a package like an opt-in bundle. So it’s a very decentralized organization, WWF. So they couldn’t kind of enforce this on all of the different – parts of the organization – but they created this kind of really attractive opt-in bundle, which consisted of a CMS, a design and support from a central team. And they successfully like delivered this new website, web design, to basically the entire WWF network by kind of just offering a really compelling package that people could sign onto; something that was flexible, that supported all the different things people wanted to do in the different languages that they wanted to do it.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m really trying to find one that has not the same design.

Paul Boag:
I think it will be a struggle. It will be difficult to do. And I just thought it was really interesting because it’s a great case study of why actually …

Marcus Lillington:
Found one.

Paul Boag:
Oh, you found one? Well done. Where is it?

Marcus Lillington:
America.

Paul Boag:
Oh, well you can rely on America to do something different.

Marcus Lillington:
I guess it’s a more – I think it’s probably a newer version.

Paul Boag:
Yes, might be. It might well be. So I just find it – I love this because it’s a great example of how you can bring consistency to the user experience and save a load of money because in effect they saved the organization 59 redesigns, across all those sites. They’re creating a consistent brand, a consistent user experience and I love the way they got people on board as well using this kind of package idea of hey, here is a package of resources that you can use and you can improve it.

And he talks as well in the email he send through on the subject about creating a framework, and that goes back to these patent libraries and things like the BBC GEL framework, which we will put a link in the show notes to that so you can learn a bit more around that. And what I think it comes down to, for me, is the way he sold it, right. So, if you think about it often when we – saw of an example of this recently, okay. I was doing some consultancy for an organization and they had written a brief to persuade the powers that be that they needed to do a redesign of the site. And it was supposed to be a business case for it and this business case was great. It was said what we as web professionals would say, oh inconsistent user experience, mob – doesn’t work on mobiles, all the things that we care about. So basically argued it from the user’s perspective. But the truth is the majority of internal stakeholders don’t give a monkey’s ass about the user.

Marcus Lillington:
Unless it’s broken.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Unless what they see is broken and then it’s the most important thing in the world.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Absolutely unless – so and I think the people are inherently selfish and lazy. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I think that’s the way the world works and there is a lot of benefits to doing things the lazy way, especially when you’re talking about coding, but that’s another conversation entirely.

So what they did at WWF, which I think works so well, is they presented it in terms of benefits that it provided to the stakeholders. You know, this will make your life easier, this will save you money. It was about the benefit to them and we need to get better of that I think. We are really good at championing the cause of the user, but I think sometimes we really need to word it in terms of how this is going to benefit our colleagues and the people we work alongside. Otherwise we just sound preachy.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I was interestingly saying a similar thing again this lunch time over my nice lunch.

Paul Boag:
Of your nice lunch, were you?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, basically you need that balance between business requirements and user needs. And if you have to make a choice between the two, which way do you lean and our recent experience with working with Cindy. About the fact that their user requirements are very narrow really and very simple to deal with them, and we’ve done that, but they – the business requirements sometimes can actually get in the way of the user requirement. And that the balance is making sure that the user requirement is dealt with but actually, come in here and have a look at this as well.

Paul Boag:
But I also think when you’re talking about a large organization, sometimes it’s not even enough to talk about the business requirements, right? If I was working for, I don’t know IBM, right? I’m a middle manager at IBM.

Marcus Lillington:
I can see you in that role.

Paul Boag:
I was heading in that direction once upon a time. It would be very easy for me to go, for somebody to come to me and say we want to do this, this and this and here are good solid business reasons. But if it makes my life more difficult, I don’t really give a shit about what happens to IBM. Do you know what I mean? Really this one little project isn’t going to make or break IBM, I’m not going to lose my job over it, so why should I be cooperative.

And I know they should be and there is good reason. The same way people should care about user needs, they should care about business needs. I think, mind, we need to be pitching arguments as what benefit are you providing this particular stakeholder. I often talk about this with CEOs because you think that CEOs, in particular, they would care about the business and stuff, but sometimes they’re more – they seem to do these irrational thing sometimes and you think why on earth are they making that decision that they’re, that’s not beneficial to the business. But it’s because they’ve – they’re accountable to shareholders or their bonus is tied up in something so they need to meet a particular metric. So I think, I guess, what I’m getting at is we need to spend as much time pitching our arguments internally about how and why we should do things as we spend in actually implementing stuff sometimes.

Anyway, it’s a really interesting story of panda.org and how they went about rolling that out. And yes, I just I love this idea of how you sell things and I also love the conversation on microsites and what role microsites should – they should all be banned basically except possibly, now I think about it, except for short-term events and things like that.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. But even then they can really be incorporated into a site.

Paul Boag:
They could be really, yes. I can’t remember, I give some situations in my blog post—let me have a look—or where I thought microsites were acceptable. I wrote this a long time ago, so it might not…

Marcus Lillington:
So it will be all wrong.

Paul Boag:
It could be out of date. Let’s have a look, what have I said.

Marcus Lillington:
I said wrong, you said out of date.

Paul Boag:
You have to consider the lifespan of the project, consider that. If the content is only going to be around for few months, then a microsite may be appropriate. Short-lived campaigns do not need to worry about the ongoing cost of maintenance.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, true, but really it’s just down to whether you want to confuse people with the main navigation of a site or you want to provide …

Paul Boag:
Yes, that’s a big part of it.

Marcus Lillington:
… a different look and feel.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. And I guess it’s alright. And the other thing is I say ask yourself about the user journey. If the user is visiting the microsite after clicking on a banner ad then you don’t need to worry about them accidentally ending up on the main corporate site and dealing with all of the stuff that’s on there. That’s pretty much what you’re saying, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, yeah.

Paul Boag:
And then – yes, it depends as well how flexible—this goes back to the flexibility thing—how flexible the main site is.

Marcus Lillington:
Yeah, yeah.

Paul Boag:
If the main site is inflexible, then you’re kind of forced to do a microsite sometimes. And then finally, you’ve got to weigh the return on investment. If you invest money in creating an expensive microsite, will the campaign generate enough additional return to cover the cost of creating the site?

Marcus Lillington:
Well, yes. But not everything is measurable in money.

Paul Boag:
Everything I care about is. So do you have a joke to wrap this up?

Marcus Lillington:
I do because we ought to try and finish this show a little more quickly than last week’s one that came in an hour and fifteen minutes.

Paul Boag:
Really?

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Shit. All you need to do, if this show comes out that length of time,…

Marcus Lillington:
Just chop it in half.

Paul Boag:
Well I was just going to say just delete all your bits. Or possibly the entire introduction section, one or the other.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, no problem. Anyway a quick joke then. I’ve lost it. Oh, where was I.

Paul Boag:
Yeah. Oh, one job in the whole show you’ve got to do.

Marcus Lillington:
I have got so many here to choose from. Oh yes, we’ve probably all heard this one but I’m going to repeat it anyway. A grisly bear walks into a bar and sits down. He says to the bartender can I have a Rum and coke? Bartender says sure, why the big pause? Oh, these? I was just born with them.

Paul Boag:
Terrible. That’s a really bad one.

Marcus Lillington:
What do you get when you throw a piano down a mine shaft?

Paul Boag:
Go on.

Marcus Lillington:
A flat minor.

Paul Boag:
Okay. You can stop now, that’s quite enough. See now ShopTalk don’t have a joke.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s quite good though, isn’t it?

Paul Boag:
That was quite good. I did quite like that one. They have sound effects, we have jokes. Take your pick. Next Friday, we will find out which is the best podcast at the Net Magazine awards.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, yes.

Paul Boag:
…which is by far the most fair and balanced way of deciding anything. It’s so not. I hate award ceremonies. I’m just going to go, get outrageously drunk and then storm out when we don’t win.

Marcus Lillington:
Really?

Paul Boag:
That’s my plan.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay. I will be filming.

Paul Boag:
I’m going to turn a table over. That will be brilliant.

Marcus Lillington:
Like that. No respect.

Paul Boag:
Yes, all I’ve put into this industry, yeah. Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do.

Marcus Lillington:
And I’ll just sit there and [indiscernible] like that. Anyway, we can stop now.

Paul Boag:
Right, okay. So, thank you very much for listening to this week’s very rambling show, even more so than normal, I would guess.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And we will be back again next week when we will be talking about other stuff.

Marcus Lillington:
Bye.

Headscape

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