service-brainstorming

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Part of the overall effort to develop a service microformat.

Contents

The Problem

Like many services businesses, we want to publish our services online in a future-compatible way. No matter which semantic markup eventually dominates web3.0 (eg POSH, microformats or other), it's wise to do the groundwork now, so we're ready. But hListing doesn't seem to do the job properly for us. Sure it has "service offered" in its parameters, But when we implemented hListing on our site, we found it a little messy, lacking in suitable parameters, and we were unsure of nesting requirements (maybe just our technical knowledge). For us, it didn't fully meet buyer or seller requirements.

Real-world Search Challenges for Microfromats that Sell

Let's imagine the near future - FF4, IE9, Google and Yahoo all offer native support for hListing. We assert that hListing would not deliver usefully for either the buyer nor the seller in these Google search examples:

In our limited experience of hListing, it appears too broad and insufficiently scoped for properly buying or selling services. By inference, we suspect it's the same for products too. A new microformat is needed.

Why is hListing Unsuitable?

We tried to deploy hListing onto our services page, and it wasn't simple to retro-fit to our XHTML:

Besides these issues, we believe key topics are missing which are useful to searchers: benefits, differentiators, outcomes, duration, availability, videos and sales territory being a few.

Participants

Services firms are a huge portion of our economies in developed countries. So we invite any of the following to join us in the quest for a decent draft here:

  1. business services companies (eg designers, cleaners, marketers, trainers, IT supporters...)
  2. professional services firms (eg accountants, lawyers, consultants, engineers, architects, contractors...)
  3. consumer services retailers (eg hairdressers, dog-trainers, interior designers, gardeners...)

We also appeal to Mozilla, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo and their marketplace of tools and plugins providers to consider a few essential components for eCommerce, eListings or eBrochures:

The Requirements

In a buying/selling context, microformats can bring buyers and sellers together in a compatible way, and be 'humans first machines second'. They can also encourage marketers and web masters into clearer thinking about services; someone has write out everything properly, with the customer in mind. In fact, even if microformats wither (heaven forfend), the value of that structured thinking will prevail. Good marketing people should be clarifying their propositions for customers all the time anyway.

Hence, we'd like to propose a few principles for our new microformat: We believe our new microformat (and any other used for selling) should embrace a number of key principles:

hService Principles - format must be...

  1. small - but not so short as to hinder marketing communication or customer search (roughly 30-40 parameters should cover it)
  2. flexible - tolerant of small and vast amounts of content (ie only a few required attributes)
  3. compatible - with existing XHTML technology (ie classes and attributes only, applicable to any XHTML tag)
  4. easy - can be inserted in any order (ie no requirement for heirarchical nesting provided they're inside the microformat container)
  5. market-oriented - built-in best practice, serving the customer and marketer equally (ie attributes useful for choosing and comparing)
  6. human-centred - it should be fully semantic (ie without abbrieviations such as "fn" or "dt")
  7. portable - capable of being published on owner's site and 3rd party sites alike
  8. transparent - ie encouraging all data to be published visibly to humans, and discouraging black hat techniques (such as temptation to publish hidden ISO8601 date fields because they're good for h readers but bad for Google or humans)

Proposal for new hService format

Here is our proposed format:

  1. hService (required, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <div class='hService'>
  2. title (required, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <h1 class='title'>Intelligent Brochure Design for the Smaller Business</h1>
  3. description (required, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <p class='description'>This service creates a single printed brochure, which delivers exactly to your brief. You can choose from 8 to 64 pages, and a paper-type from a stock of over 300.</p>
  4. enquiry-url (required, type: a href link plus xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <a class='enquiry-url' href ='http://the-intelligent-brochure-design-company.co.uk/contact.php'>Get in touch to discuss your project</a>
  5. permalink (required, type: a href link plus xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <a class='permalink' rel='self bookmark' href ='http://the-intelligent-brochure-design-company.co.uk/intelligent-brochure-design.php'>Bookmark this page</a>
  6. service-id (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='service-id'>BD05</span>
  1. service-id (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='service-id'>BD05</span>
  2. image (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: multiple permitted) example:
    <img class='image' src='pics/intelligent-brochure-design-process.jpg' title='Process diagram - how we design your brochure' />
  3. differentiator (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='differentiator'>We combine aesthetic AND competitive requirements all into one delivery, unlike conventional design which merely delivers a look.</span>
  4. outcomes (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='outcomes'>a single printed brochure, which delivers exactly to your brief</span>
  5. benefits (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <p class='benefits'>The main gains are in customer desire and enquiry rates. During the project, we'll also offer free observations on your visual consistency.</p>
  6. video (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: multiple permitted) example:
    <object width='500' height='315' class='video'>
  7. video-transcript (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: multiple permitted) example:
    <span class='video-transcript'>Creative director Gordon Strachan: Well the customer gets a pretty smooth experience throughout the project, but where we spend most of the effort is in briefing. Because getting the brief right is really half the battle. 50 per cent. And my role is to ensure that the brief gets upheld and turned into reality during the creative process.</span>
  8. video-url (optional, type: a href link plus xhtml class, quantity: multiple permitted) example:
    <a class='video-url' href ='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=123456789'>Watch Gordon Strachan on our YouTube channel</a>
  9. availability (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='availability'>We can usually start work on your project at 10 days notice.</span>
  10. duration (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='duration'>The process can take 2-4 weeks.</span>
  11. ideal-buyer (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='ideal-buyer'>This service is for smaller firms who meet their customers in person.</span>
  12. price-minimum (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='price-minimum'>1,000</span>
  13. price-maximum (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='price-maximum'>5,000</span>
  14. price-guidelines (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='price-guidelines'>Prices are £650 per day for the draft design and £45 per hour thereafter.</span>
  15. price-typical (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='price-typical'>2,250</span>
  16. price (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='price'>2,255.02</span>
  17. sales-tax-included (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='sales-tax-included'>exclude VAT</span>
  18. currency-name (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='currency-name'>Sterling</span>
  19. currency-code (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='currency-code'>GBP</span>
  20. currency-symbol (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='currency-symbol'>£</span>
  21. financing-options (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: multiple permitted) example:
    <span class='financing-options'>Financing over 24 months is available for this service. You'll need to apply for a formal credit agreement.</span>
  22. territory (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: multiple permitted) example:
    <span class='territory'>We serve all counties in south-west England</span>
  23. merchant-name (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='merchant-name'>The Intelligent Brochure Design Company</span>
  24. merchant-phone (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='merchant-phone'>+44 20 7123 4567</span>
  25. merchant-email (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='merchant-email'>info@the-intelligent-brochure-design-company.co.uk</span>
  26. merchant-address (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='merchant-address'>123 High Street, Salisbury, England, SY1 1AA</span> - alternatively an hCard
  27. brand-name (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='brand-name'>Intelligent Brochure Design</span>
  28. brand-value (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: multiple permitted) example:
    <span class='brand-value'>careful</span>
  29. live-date (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='live-date'>22 January 2009</span>
  30. expiry-date (optional, type: xhtml class, quantity: 1 only) example:
    <span class='expiry-date'>22 January 2015</span>


Worked Example

Here's a worked example which covers most of the attributes listed in the proposal. We ommitted a few as follows:

<div class='hService'>
	
	<h1 class='title'><span class='brand-name'>Intelligent Brochure Design</span> for Medical Manufacturers </h1>

	<h2>What You Get</h2>
	<p class='description'>
		<img class='image' src='pics/intelligent-brochure-design-process.jpg' title='Process diagram - how we design your brochure' /> 
		This service creates <span class='outcomes'>a single printed brochure, which delivers exactly to your brief.</span> You can choose from 8 to 64 pages, and a paper-type from a stock of over 300. 
		We like to take a <span class='brand-value'>thinking</span>, <span class='brand-value'>careful</span> approach to the creative work, and this is what makes it special.
		<span class='differentiator'>We combine aesthetic AND competitive requirements all into one delivery, unlike conventional design which merely delivers a look.</span> 
	</p> 
	
	<h2>Video</h2>
	<p>Gordon Strachan on our approach to brochures:</p>
	<div>
		<object width='500' height='315' class='video'>
			<param name='movie' value='http://www.youtube.com/v/1234567890&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0xe1600f&color2=0xfebd01&border=1'></param>
			<param name='allowFullScreen' value='true'></param>
			<param name='allowscriptaccess' value='always'>
			</param>
			<embed src='http://www.youtube.com/v/1234567890&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0xe1600f&color2=0xfebd01&border=1' type='application/x-shockwave-flash' allowscriptaccess='always' allowfullscreen='true' width='500' height='315'></embed>
		</object>
	</div>
	<p class='video-transcript'><strong>Transcript</strong> (creative director Gordon Strachan): Well the customer gets a pretty smooth experience throughout the project, but where we spend most of the effort is in briefing. Because getting the brief right is really half the battle. 50 per cent. And my role is to ensure that the brief gets upheld and turned into reality in the studio with guys you can see behind me.</p> 
	<p><a class='video-url' href ='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=123456789'>Watch Gordon Strachan on our YouTube channel</a></p>
		
	<h2>Who Should Buy This Service</h2>
	<p class='ideal-buyer'>This service is for medical manufacturers who meet their customers in person. It also suits those customers or investors are less comfortable with digital materials.</p> 

	<h2>How You Benefit</h2>
	<p class='benefits'>The main gains are in customer desire and enquiry rates. During the project, we'll also offer free analysis of your company's visuals.</p>

	<h2>Prices</h2>
	<p>
		<span class='price-guidelines'>Prices are £650 per day for the first draft design and £85 per hour thereafter.</span> 
		Design projects range from <span class='currency-symbol'>£</span><span class='price-minimum'>1,000</span> to £</span><span class='price-maximum'>5,000</span>, a typical total fee being around £<span class='price-typical'>2,250</span>.
		Prices are in <span class='currency-code'>GBP</span> (<span class='currency-name'>Sterling</span>), <span class='sales-tax-included'>exclude VAT</span> and are valid until <span class='expiry-date'>31 January 2010</span>.
	</p> 
	<p class='financing-options'>Financing over 24 months is available for this service. You'll need to apply for a formal credit agreement.</p>
	
	<h2>How to Enquire</h2>
	<p>You can <a class='enquiry-url' href ='http://the-intelligent-brochure-design-company.co.uk/contact.php?service=intelligent-brochure-design'>get in touch to explore your project</a> or call us on 020 7123 4567.</p>
	<p><a class='permalink' rel='self bookmark' href ='http://the-intelligent-brochure-design-company.co.uk/intelligent-brochure-desgn.php'>Bookmark this page</a></p>

	<div id='footer'>
		<p><a href='index.php'>home</a> | <a href='terms.php'>terms</a> | <a href='privacy.php'>privacy</a></p>
		<p>(c) copyright 2009, page last published on <span class='live-date'>27 March 2009</span></p>
		<p><span class='merchant-name'>The Intelligent Brochure Design Company</span> serves <span class='territory'>South West England</span>.</p>
		<p>Contact details: <span class='merchant-phone'>+44 20 7123 4567</span>, <span class='merchant-email'>info@the-intelligent-brochure-design-company.co.uk</span>, <span class='merchant-address'>123 High Street, Salisbury, England, SY1 1AA</span></p>
	</div>
</div>

Feedback

We'd really welcome feedback and debate - I'm sure our proposal could be improved on by others - we've merely approached it from our own business point-of-view.

--Wowitim 17:23, 28 March 2009 (UTC)

service-brainstorming was last modified: Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

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