When Number One Isn’t Enough

April 18, 2009

Like many people, I periodically drop various key words and phrases into Google to see how well my sites (this one, plus xmlpress.net and managingwriters.com) fare. If you run a business, the “vanity search” is no longer a question of vanity; you need to be near the top of the first page of results for keywords that matter to you and your business.

To that end, I dropped “technical documentation” into Google, and was a little surprised to see that the first hit was docs.hp.com, a site I know well because at one time I managed writers who contributed content to it. Probing a bit deeper, I found that it also comes up first if you search for “HP documentation.”

Good job, Hewlett-Packard…. But, wait a minute. At the top of the page, there is a note, in red, that reads, “Documentation moving March 2009.” Following the link, here is what I found:

In March 2009 the documents on this website will begin to move to the HP Business Support Center (BSC) website. The move will be gradual and conducted in stages. During the move, you can expect uninterrupted access to documentation. After a group of documents moves, you will be redirected to the new location on the BSC. Use the Feedback to webmaster link below to submit any questions.

Click here for more information about the BSC. At the bottom of the BSC info page, click Visit the HP Business Support Center. On the Business Support Center page under Resources, click Manuals.

So, being a dogged fellow, I followed the link for Manuals and landed on a page with a potpourri of product categories and a search box. When I searched for hp-ux (that’s HP’s Unix operating system), I ended up on a page that contains links to a somewhat random collection of PDF files. In fairness, this is a work in progress, but two things disturbed me:

  1. Why abandon a sub-domain (docs.hp.com) that gets superb positioning in Google? Companies pay big money to get good placement on Google (and often fail in the effort).
  2. Why abandon HTML as a format? In fairness, maybe HTML will be part of the new solution, but so far, I see nothing but PDF on the new web site.

docs.hp.com has never been a perfect site, in particular, it never fully cracked the very difficult problem of making it easy to navigate very large documentation sets, but it is very popular (Google doesn’t lie) and offers a wide range of documentation in HTML and PDF form.

Burying it makes no sense (and I mean really burying it; the site (memorably named h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/Home.jsp) where this information is going doesn’t show up on the first six pages of a search for “HP documentation”; I gave up after that). And, even with the smaller number of documents currently on the site, it is clear that they are no closer to cracking the very large documentation set problem. Abandoning HTML documents, if that is what happens, will just make things worse; PDF is great for print, not so good for online.

I’m no longer at HP, but I’m still disappointed that this is happening; I hope HP gets its act together and preserves both docs.hp.com and documentation in HTML (and it wouldn’t hurt if they took a serious swipe at the very large documentation set problem).


One comment

  1. I’m bemused by the fact that HP would eliminate an “institutionalized” URL that is well known and recognized for HP-UX users. It’s interesting that they would throw away an easy to remember address for something that is much longer and requires me to add it to my already long list of bookmarks. Usability be damned. It would be like Google changing their primary URL to something more obtuse – imagine what would happen to their business.

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