Product and Engineering Wisdom - Issue #19
Tips, advice and guides on cleaning up the mess of technical debt
A free fortnightly email that highlights the relevant tips, advice, and case studies from the world of product and engineering for the SEO community.
In this issue, the topic is cleaning up the mess.
As SEOs, we are often called to help fix problems caused by businesses. However, we’re not the only specialists who have to deal with tech debt.
In this issue, I've highlighted product and engineering blog posts that might help you better understand the “messy middle”. The messy middle is teams trying to provide better user experiences and drive business revenue by improving a platform or website.
I’ve provided blog posts that discuss and showcase studies on teams decisions to improve tech stacks or platforms (including Yelp discussing their search engine indexing technology).
Stay safe and enjoy.
⚡Wisdom of the Sprint
by The Product Experience
Time: 39 mins ⏲️
A Mind The Product podcast interviewing Abby Covert on the Information Architecture (IA) specialism.
Abby has been practising IA for 17 years, is an active member in the Information Arhciture (IA) community and was President of the IA Institute from 2014 - 2016.
Adam’s Insight: This is a great interview if you want to better understand IA.
Website architecture isn't just something SEOs think about but also part of UX function.
Abby talks about the "messy middle" — where IA needs to serve both the user and drive revenue.
What I enjoyed about this interview is that Abbey lays out a clear step by step process to improving IA. This seven-step process is:
Identify the mess (be specific, it can't be everything!)
State your intention (what are you doing about it?)
Face reality (what do you actually have to work with?)
Choose a direction (pick a solution and make a decision)
Measure the distance (what metrics are you choosing)
Play with the structure (what are the IA tricks you can pick?)
Prepare to adjust (it never goes to plan, pivot)
Abbey also highlights that there is never a "best practice" information architecture example someone can point to for everyone to follow. There are so many factors that can change from one website to the next, including: user journeys, domain language, technical debt, etc. (even in the same industry).
The interview has a lot more interesting tips and tricks when working with enterprise organisations and implementing information architecture.
As SEOs and product people we can help build user-friendly information architecture but it's important to recognise we can learn from specialists like Abby Cover.
If you'd like to learn more about IA check out her website here.
by Rich Mironov
Time: 14 mins ☕
Rich Mironov discusses in-depth the biggest source of failure when it comes to replatforming.
Adam’s Insight: Website replatform migrations are lets face is nightmares at the best of times.
Rich discusses reasons why platform migrations can failure points and why things can take longer than neccessary.
I really like his phrase "100% of our current revenue comes from customers on our current platform". This statement reminds me of many clients in the past who moved to a new platform (without any user testing) only to remove all the elements that helped drive revenue.
So it's important while gathering new requirements from different stakeholders (internal vs external) that you remember to identify why the legacy platform generated revenue.
Rich also highlights how to set an alternative path on how to manage a migration to a new platform for product teams. These includes steps include:
Expect to plan a phased approach to releasing to a new platform over years (not months) using parellel development efforts.
Define customer cohorts and segment access to core features for set release dates.
Identify success metric to track progress and report back to higher management.
Push back and say no to improvements to old platform and only esculate critical tasks.
Do soft launches for your new platform to stress test core features and identify bugs from customer feedback.
Although many of this steps might be outside SEO teams responsbility it does echo the advice of many successful product teams. You can’t release everything in one go, you’re going to have break down the big bet into smaller releases.
If any SEOs are working on replatforming or want to learn more about migrations from a product POV this is a great introduction blog post.
by Lina Hansson
Time: 6 mins ☕
Lina Hansson, a Google Mobile UX specialist, talks through a Core Web Vitals case study that used business metrics to drive team buy-in.
Adam’s Insight: It’s important to recognise that improving Core Web Vitals and buy-in is not about focusing search engine ranking factors.
I’ve discussed this topic in detail in my Outcomes vs Outputs in SEO newsletter.
This is a great Core Web Vitals case study which highlights how using business metrics like Relative Mobile Conversion Rate can create a business case.
If you're a technical SEO interested in how to develop a case study around mobile web performance this is a potential technique that could work.
by Sarthak Nandi and Umesh Dangat
Time: 11 mins ☕
The Group tech leads at Yelp talk through why they replaced the Elasticsearch ranking platform with a Lucene-based search engine called nrtsearch.
Adam’s Insight: Search engine technology has always fascinated me.
This might not be interesting to most SEOs but if you're a geek who is interested in understanding the underlying technology of a commercial search engine this is an interesting read.
The SEO Sprint Retrospective
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