Friday, April 13, 2012

A Little History

I wrote, “You were our pride, and will always be on our minds.” on his Guest Commemorative book before I left the Memorial Hall.

I was in Beijing on 10th April, attending the 6th anniversary ceremony to commemorate the late Professor Wang Xuan (1937-2006), the founder of Peking University Founder Group, and who was also a great scientist.  But most of all, he was my mentor. Without him, PUC Founder of Malaysia wouldn't exist. Without his encouragement and support, we will never venture into biometrics technology.

Professor Wang Xuan (1937-2006)
He invented the first Chinese Laser Typesetting System, helping China to abandon the conventional typesetting system. I still remember in the 80s of last century, English Electronic Publishing System had already been widely adopted in the printing industry. But for the Chinese language, it was still at the research level, to contain the large amount of character sets (more than 10 thousands) by using the 26-Roman character keyboard, or on the verge of the Chinese input method, not to mention the printing press that required high quality fonts. How to convert the jagged Chinese characters into a smooth vector font? How could Founder achieve the same output speed on the then computer for the same size of page that contain an average of 100 times more different Chinese characters than an English page? How to paginate a Chinese content on a computer? Besides, unlike the A to Z of 26 characters, to create the Chinese font, every different typeface has to be crafted approximately to 10 thousand separate characters.

If all these hurdles remained unsolved, the Chinese nation that once invented paper in the 1st Century and movable clay typesetting in the 11th Century would have been trapped forever in the conventional way of lead-cast Chinese typesetting that was being used for the past hundred years. The Chinese publishing industry would have fallen untimely behind in the computer era.

Manually picking every lead-cast Chinese characters to construct a pre-print page
Started as an academic research project at the University in 1975, with all the hardship Professor Wang underwent, eventually his invention had helped revolutionize the whole Chinese printing industry. The commercialization process of his research work also helped to expand the entities owned by Peking University into a very large and successful enterprise.

Today, Founder Group has an annual turnover of USD 5 billion, and a staff force of 20,000, diversifies businesses in real estates, hospital, securities and etc in China and some other countries on top of its core Electronic Publishing System and other IT products.

Founder Group headquarters in Beijing
With the guidance of Professor Wang, I co-founded PUC Founder in Malaysia in 1995. The company was later developed and listed in Malaysia Stock Exchange. He knew that the Chinese electronic publishing industry might not sustain our long-term growth in this region. He then introduced to us two researchers that worked on fingerprint verification algorithm from Peking University, and he encouraged us to take on the new challenge that finally initiated our new venture.

That’s how FingerTec began its long march, and the rest is history.

Overall, I'd like to think he had a great influence over me not because he was a great scientist, but rather because he was a great man. He once said, "You have to be a respectable man to build a respectable business." And, true enough, he did lead an exemplary life.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Monday, April 2, 2012

FingerTec Website’s Facelift

After 6 long years of having the same look, for the first time our website went through a total facelift. Let me walk you through its major changes. We consolidated the initial two front page contents into one page, and rearranged the scattered icons in a more orderly manner. We also adopted SEO (Search Engine Optimization) concept and integrated its elements holistically.

Our website never had a conventional structure that incorporated our company profile as one of the major features, even when its appearance was minimalistic. When we first started the simple look, I even calculated to reduce the total wording for the front page just like Google’s striped bare search page. I also removed the lengthy company achievements, investors’ relationships and the content I felt was unnecessary.  I wanted the website to be a fully useful and straightforward e-commerce site. And I did all these for another reason: to reduce the burden of translations for our multilingual contents. 

My SEO consultant friend who is famous in his profession once reminded me that our website was not SEO-enabled. After I explained the rational, he agreed that our website should stay as it is. The unconventional design had attracted more customers than what I had expected. We prosper in business, and I attributed the success to the practicality of the webpage and its component sites. 

The Old
The New
Unlike many B2B websites that focus more on resellers and particularly sales but with minimum support, our major efforts went into technical support for resellers, and it has been extended to the end-users as well. 

Our contents swelled over the years. More functional icons were created. The initial simplified design could no longer accommodate our advancement, resulted in some new icons landed on unsuitable spots. It had also becoming difficult to keep pace with various translations. And to maintain simplicity on the first page, we have to expand to the second page. But it had cost users a few more clicks to get to the target. Eventually our website’s concept of simplicity had lost its original appeal. The worse part is, this is just the present, how about two years down the road when our contents doubled?

Hence, the restructuring of our website became inevitable in our case. This time, we had to embark in a different direction. We had to fix the existing weaknesses. We had to sacrifice some ideologies. We had to consider conventional wisdom. But we still have to uphold the ultimate objective of providing sufficient service to the resellers and end users. The consolidation and restructuring should help us enhance our objective to a greater extent.  

In the process of creating a new front page, we debated endlessly about the new order - what would be primary, and what should be secondary? What would be the buttons with reduced point size, and what should be kept as icons? What would be in the drop-down menu, and what should take center stage? We had brainstormed extensively to come up with this new look. And Tamy Phoon, who has been assigned to head this revamping project, had, and still has to take care of the SEO efforts at every turn taken. 

Replacing the old with something new is always an excuse for pride. But for a website that had done so much for us and carried a houseful of meanings and oversaw the growth of our brand, I felt nostalgic for the farewell too. 

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ