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"Why Does IBM Constantly Insist on Having Their Customers and Partners Perform Website Testing?"

Bill Malchisky  November 17 2011 02:30:00 AM
Well you probably guessed or even knew that the main product sites at Lotus and IBM have been recently updated to handle the new re-branded products. Unfortunately, the execution is missing some URL redirection, which leaves people like you the reader, to find the flaws and report them back to IBM -- for free. I will focus on one aspect of a greater issue for brevity purposes. Know that I have no problem providing substantiated feedback in a professional manner; but there are times when the issues found really insult the intellect of the target audience. These matters are resolved with some very basic testing in most cases. Of course, ibm.com is a massive site with scores of pages, so of course, dead links will appear occasionally. This post highlights a different situation. Ultimately, it leaves the end user to contact their IBM/Lotus BP (if they have one), contact IBM directly (expensive for both parties) or go to a competitor. If they really lack the desire to perform proper internal testing --- and I have zero information that they do, but providing a conjecture based perception here --- then they should hire partners and select customers to perform simple usability testing. Because in the end, the absence simply irks their partners and can deflate their customers' zeal, leaving us in the community, to help the customer find what they need. (But that point commences deviation into matters outside the intended scope of this post.)

Where I am Going With This Post?

A long time ago, in an internet far, far away, one could type lotus.com/ and you would get to the product page--quickly and easily. In fact, the main IBM site also did and does this well. Two of my favorite site conventions are ibm.com/servers and ibm.com/linux. As expected, one arrives at the main systems product page with the former, and the IBM Linux portal when using the latter link. With the re-branding of several Lotus products, many of the new expected URL conventions are counter-intuitive, if they work at all. Here is a table of my findings this evening. It is hardly an exhaustive list, but illustrates the point sufficiently.

UPDATE: As per the comments, I added eight more URLs to the table to illustrate their point. Yes, prefacing "www." before some of the URLs does yield different results.
Product
URL Shortcut
Results
Notes Lotus.com/notes Redirects to Lotus.com
Ibm.com/notes Redirects to the Lotus Notes product page on IBM.com
Www.lotus.com/notes Redirects to the Lotus Notes product page on IBM.com
Domino Lotus.com/domino Redirects to Lotus.com
Ibm.com/domino Redirects to the Lotus Domino product page on IBM.com
Sametime Lotus.com/sametime Redirects to Lotus.com
Ibm.com/sametime Redirects to the IBM Sametime product page
Www.lotus.com/sametime Redirects to the IBM Sametime product page
Www.ibm.com/sametime Redirects to the IBM Sametime product page
Quickr Lotus.com/quickr Redirects to Lotus.com
Ibm.com/quickr Our apologies…
The page you requested cannot be displayed
Www.lotus.com/quickr Redirects to the Lotus Quickr product page on IBM.com
Www.ibm.com/quickr Our apologies…
The page you requested cannot be displayed
Connections Lotus.com/connections Redirects to Lotus.com
Ibm.com/connections Our apologies…
The page you requested cannot be displayed
Www.lotus.com/connections Redirects to the IBM Connections product page
Www.ibm.com/connections Our apologies…
The page you requested cannot be displayed
Traveler Lotus.com/traveler Redirects to Lotus.com
Ibm.com/traveler Our apologies…
The page you requested cannot be displayed
LotusLive Lotus.com/lotuslive Redirects to Lotus.com
Ibm.com/lotuslive Our apologies…
The page you requested cannot be displayed
Support Lotus.com/support Redirects to Lotus.com -> click on Support in left pane -> IBM Support
Ibm.com/support Redirects to IBM Support page portal
Www.lotus.com/support Redirects to IBM Support page portal



Yes, some of the products that were Lotus originally, have been re-branded as IBM now. They are reachable via the IBM URL convention and that is all fine and well. The products that do redirect to Lotus.com are accessible under the Featured Product section in the rightmost column. But is this the correct approach?

Example 1
: If a customer uses IBM Connections, seeks the main product page at ibm.com via redirection, they are unable to do so. Two options to solve: (1) they can either hunt for it on the main IBM site, (2) or go to Lotus and find it there. So, the IBM Connections product is accessible via Lotus.com but not via ibm.com. Fascinating.

Example 2
: Lotus.com/Notes goes to Lotus, but the same convention on the IBM site takes one to the Notes product page -- which is the expected result, but on the Lotus side. This is a counter-intuitive web experience which creates frustration.

The table really highlights that the URL redirection table is missing some entries. If IBM is in a hybrid state for naming products, then add a few entries to ensure that your sales audience can find what they need easily. Very simple items for the proper administrator to create easily.

Solution

The customer is really not going to know at a moment's notice what product is owned by which division. What was Lotus yesterday may be IBM today or tomorrow. People refer to Lotus Quickr simply as "Quickr". It is surprising to me that when all of its sister products have ibm.com redirects due to re-branding, that Quickr does not.  Allowing smarter, web savvy customers or partners an intuitive design with time-saving conventions is important and well, expected in today's market. So if the site user wants a particular product, take them directly to the respective product page. Simple.

I really no longer care what IBM names the products, just as long as they have a future. But whatever they do with this effort, the implementation should be common, complete and consistent. These URL shortcuts are also a feature that IBM has provided successfully previously. The competition understands this too and has done it well for years. Guess where hp.com/drivers takes you? Or how about microsoft.com/exchange? Thanks for reading. Enjoy your day.
Comments

1Stuart McIntyre  11/17/11 7:20:58 AM   Why Does IBM Constantly Insist on Having Their Customers and Partners Perform Website Testing?

Thank goodness, Bill, someone else to take up this fight! I am been going on about IBM URLs and redirects for long enough.

Here's some other examples...

www.lotus.com/connections goes to the right page

lotus.com/connections goes to the Lotus page (same for other products)

IBM's site is so huge and confusing that remembering the real URLs for pages is just too difficult, where IBM owns the domains it really should direct them to the right location.

2Carl Tyler  11/17/11 8:44:09 AM   Why Does IBM Constantly Insist on Having Their Customers and Partners Perform Website Testing?

If you add www. infront of your test URLs, you will find you get different results

Well for support at least.

3Gregg Eldred  11/17/11 9:07:44 AM   Why Does IBM Constantly Insist on Having Their Customers and Partners Perform Website Testing?

My snarky two cents:

Is this the result one can enjoy if you buy into, and pay for, an "Exceptional Web Experience?"

So, what they promote and what they actually do on their own sites are separate things? Fascinating, indeed.

4Bill Malchisky  11/17/11 12:56:11 PM  "Why Does IBM Constantly Insist on Having Their Customers and Partners Perform Website Testing?"

Thanks for the comments, fellows. I updated the table with eight more URLs to highlight some additional inconsistencies. How this stuff actually gets out the door is quite surprsing.

5Keith Brooks  11/17/11 2:12:59 PM   Why Does IBM Constantly Insist on Having Their Customers and Partners Perform Website Testing?

Quickr has been rebranded,it is IBM Lotus Quickr presumably until 8.6 comes out.

But yes it all used to be easier, but then there is a push from within IBM to think like a consumer again.

I know that is hard for many of us to see because it is small increments of benefit but there are people working very hard to listen to the world again. Maybe this will get on someone's list to speed up the process.

IBM is listening but many parts still await the power to make autonomous decisions that will come when the entire org is a social community.

Give it time. Until then try to help the ones who are leading this crusade from within.

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