Six Flags came all the way from their corporate HQ in Texas to work with NEWMEDIA’s website design team in Denver for a complete website redesign and complex, multi-site ecommerce web development. They wanted a modern look and feel, a new strategy to present related content, a better way to add and edit content, and of course a better overall experience for mobile and desktop users. All of which needed be defined, designed, and delivered within a very short timeline in order to have the new site up and running before their parks opened.
We accepted the challenge and worked daily with the Six Flags team throughout the entire process to not only make sure that every page of the site was exactly what they wanted, but to also add our years of website design and development expertise to the overall project. When Six Flags traveled to Denver to meet our team, they discovered a highly motivated group – flexible enough to be fully dedicated to the project and willing to collaborate with their team on a daily basis, but also stable enough to absorb the large scope of work and complete it on time. Six Flags was dedicated to using Drupal, and they knew we were Drupal experts with a proven track record of successful large Drupal projects. They also needed to completely redesign the look and feel of the site, and based on our previous projects and experience they were confident our designers would deliver an amazing product.
Measure Twice, Cut Once.
The challenge with every project is to take ideas, goals, and vision for a site and turn it into a real application that functions and looks great. The Six Flag’s project was no different, but perhaps more challenging than most projects due to amount of content and short timeframe in which we needed to discover, design, and build the application.
In collaboration with the Six Flag’s team we performed a thorough discovery process for every piece of content they would include in the site and defined how it would fit into the overall strategy of organizing content and presenting content to the end user. We created interactive wireframes that defined and illustrated the functionality, layout, and user interface for every page of the site. The wireframes were interactive and linked together so the Six Flag’s team could click through the mockup of the application and gain a better understanding for how their content fit together as a cohesive application. This process played a key role in helping both teams understand which ideas and concepts were going to work and which needed be refined some more, and ultimately led to a website that organized and displayed related content in a manner that exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Content. Lots of Content.
Think Six Flags, and you think rides—big rides—roller coasters, water slides, being strapped into a seat, feet dangling 300 feet in the air. You don’t necessarily think shopping, dining, events, press releases, online sales, and season tickets. While highlighting rides was an obvious goal, we also needed to present and relate all the content so it was easy to find, manage, and discover.
We organized the content by groups of categories and subcategories. So within each park all thrill rides would be grouped together, same with family rides or kid’s rides. Also dining and shopping content was grouped together to give users an easy predictable way to find a ride, restaraunt, or ticket deal. On the rides pages we presented related content such as nearby dining and shopping, similar rides, related articles, and customer testimonials. This gives users the ability to find the content they need for while also discovering other content they did not know existed, but are probably interested in.
Who Says Long Distance Relationships Don’t Work?
The level of effective communication needed to successfully deliver this project is difficult for a team in the same building, let alone different states. Working together, and under a short deadline the two teams needed to simultaneously:
- define the site architecture
- establish an appropriate hosting environment
- design the user interface as well as a completely new look and feel that met their brand requirements
- develop the application
- train the Six Flags team to administer the site as well enter content
We are used to working with clients, developers, and teams across the country as well as the globe, so the geographical barrier was not the problem so much as the shear amount of information that needed to be continuously shared between the two teams to ensure everyone was on the same page and working toward the same vision and goal. To define the site architecture, user interface, and overall look and feel of each page, we held daily morning video conferences with Six Flags team to demonstrate our previous days work, collect feedback, and discuss the goals for the current day as well as any upcoming deadlines. We were also available throughout the day for any questions or suggestions on any of issue that did not surface during the morning meeting, but still needed to addressed as soon as possible. This lead to a great collaboration between both teams, which ultimately lead to a better overall end product. Perhaps the greatest challenge of this project was not only getting the site developed on time, but also giving the Six Flag’s team enough time to enter all their content on time. Before we started any development, we decided we would break the site into smaller features that could be more quickly developed, delivered, and trained. This allowed the Six Flags team to begin entering their new content in bite size chunks for each piece of the site as it was completed, instead of waiting all pieces of the project were complete and ready for content. While designing and developing the project is a critical process, we also needed to define and establish an adequate hosting environment for a content rich site with lots of traffic.