Question mark

The SMX East Conference back in early October attracted visitors from all over the country.  One of the attendees at my Information Architecture/SEO talk was Tracey Hicks, who specializes in the Chickasaw Language.  Tracey had some extra questions that I wanted to respond to in more depth here.

Question: Information architects and seo’s need to collaborate within an iterative process.  Understood.  But where does usability come in, specifically, how does the user experience “expert” fit in with the info architects and seos?

Ric: First thing is scale.  In many circumstances, the IA, the SEO, and the Usability experts are all ONE person. In much larger projects, they will be separate individuals with different skill sets.  In most of the projects that I’ve participated in, the IA was the usability person – although often in collaboration with a digital designer.  Come to think of it, everyone on the team was well versed in usability.

In my experience, though, you get these various interests in the room, and an argument ensues.  A good HEALTHY argument.  But by working through the difficulties, better websites come out of it all.

Etela Ivkovic (our head of SEO here at DragonSearch) saw my new design for the DS homepage, and nearly flipped.  OK, so maybe she didn’t flip; but she was adamant that the approach wasn’t quite right. And darn if we didn’t end up with a design that was MUCH, MUCH better (stay tuned; hope to have it produced within the next week).


Question: Do you see energy companies embracing social media besides BP?

Do I see them doing it, as in ‘now’, or do I think they should.  No and Yes.

As of today, @shelldotcom has tweeted 162 times, but has close to 7K followers.  That’s not engagement by any stretch of the imagination. And yet the potential is there.

But this represents a bigger underlying crisis: who would speak for a large energy company? The PR people?  The CEO himself? A special team?  We’re asking, how does a big corporate entity become human, and communicate with people.  And then there is the problem of who the big energy company cares about. Too often it is shareholders, not the rest of the population.  And yet, the impact of big energy is on its global neighbors – the impact of their success AND the impact of their failures.  Large companies need to  figure out how to humanize the goliath that they are, and communicate socially.

Question: Do you see companies using social media internally beyond portals but still in an insulated environment?

Intranets have been popular in business long before social media became mainstream – and yes, I see many businesses using every major pattern of social media within those intranets.

Contrary to Cluetrain thinking, it really is necessary for businesses to have private communications.  One problem they face, though, is that in situations where liability might arise, those communications are subject to judicial review.  So, gee, maybe we should avoid this.

My own hunch is that collaborative and social tools are valuable in the smaller workgroups within the corporate environment.

Many thanks to @traghic for her great questions. Feel free to create a discussion on our Facebook page (look for the discussions tab) and start a new discussion – then we can get some back and forth as well.