22nd November, 2006

The business benefits of Microformats

Phew! I’ve got a right sweat on down at the pixel face this month. My axe is almost blunt, and my torch is dimming, but I’ve just enough energy to share a snippet from the field.

Assorted business cardsFigure 1: A few of the real-world business cards on my desk.

Specifically, I have only recently realised that Microformats are something that Mr. Client (or Mrs. Client) not only understands, but also loves, needs, wants and will tell his/her associates about. This is a cast-iron business benefit and a serious commodity.

It is simple. Use Microformats and you can seriously wow your partners, and win new work!

I recently demonstrated the “click on this person’s name… wait… and now add to address book” approach of hcards to a potential client and his eyes just lit up. He instantly understood the benefits of this to his database of suppliers and almost hugged me. We got the job.

Obviously, Microformats are a business benefit, and it is about time we were more vocal about them to clients - they do get it if you demonstrate it. In my limited experience of discussing Microformats with clients, it is the doing and not the talking that sells them as a benefit. Under no circumstances do I assume using the word “Microformat” will get them turned on, but a quick demo certainly will.

It can be hard to “sell” web standards without going into all sorts of detail or firing up the Web Developer Toolbar and running through all sorts of Firefox extension demos, but Microformats are a different commodity. There is a visible, understandable process that strikes a chord with the client.

Microformats re-used across a site with targeted CSS based upon a <body> ID are a wonderful thing to work with. For the EE folks out there, just create a hcard for each person as a new embed (or even as a “weblog” using custom form fields), and then sprinkle them around the site, displaying what you need when you need it with cunning CSS.

Be sure to make the hcard downloadable by creating a link to the page it is on through Technorati. Something like http://www.technorati.com/contacts/http://www.colly.com will do it. I’ll cover all this in more detail soon.

“This is old news”, you wail - but it isn’t to your clients. I’m working on a full-length article about all this stuff, centred around a huge new site I just launched (more next week), which I’ll post soon. In the meantime, I’d be interested to know how you lot are using Microformats, and if you know of any cool implementations not listed on the wiki. If you are using them, drop a link below.

Back to my cave.

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