Talking about the North American Eagle for the first time to someone often means that you really have to impress upon them exactly what it is designed to do. Breaking the World Land Speed Record, well that sounds really cool, but how difficult can that really be? It means that the car is going to go supersonic, but to most people, that has very little meaning. When you finally explain that it will entail going over 750 MPH, sonic boom included, it all begins to become a lot clearer. Suddenly, it all becomes a lot more interesting.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with the story, when I originally joined the North American Eagle team, my first real job was in redesigning the website. As it stood, the site had been building up for over ten years, with a LOT of content accumulated in that time. It was special in such a way that you could browse across the site for hours, just reading through everything. It really was a joy to read. With that much content though, came a problem, you could never find it again. The navigation across the site had become so convoluted with all of the material that it was near impossible to find anything, even what should be relatively straightforward.
Another issue that quickly became clear was that the styling was difficult to maintain. Because all of the pages had been created over time, many of them used somewhat different styling. This meant that to change the look of the entire site, each page had to be fixed individually.
I set out with a couple of goals in mind, that stood above all else with regard to the final result.
- Easy to use and navigate to any page
- Beautiful media rich content
- A homepage that immediately drew attention
Before anything else, it came down to the question of what content really mattered for the new website. At the time, there was not even a design to go with it, just the content itself. Each piece of it was re-shaped to be easier to read, so that you could really get into the meat of it a lot faster. Once all of this content had been accumulated, the question became of how a person would want to arrive at each piece of content.
To make it clear where you would go, a single menu was created that would cover the entire site, with only the essentials listed. The categories split it between Project, Sponsors, Media, and Blog. Each of these was meant to be very clear, with little ambiguity as to where a page might be. For those wanting to learn about the project, the vehicle, or the team, the project section would be the fitting choice. For all of the companies that help to make it possible, or how to become one, the Sponsors section brought that information together. Media grouped pictures, videos, and press releases that had been accumulated into one place. And finally, the blog was the center of continually updating content on the website, granting it a central place in the menu, encouraging people to return.
The content was of course the cornerstone of what made this site great to visit. But it needed to be in a new form that still kept the central idea of sharing what was going on, while integrating new mediums, such as photos and videos. By including all of these features into the website, it meant that the passion behind this project could be shared in entirely new ways, and with photos that looked beautiful on all devices.
Over time, these weekly updates evolved, adding new sections such as featured sponsors, and the inclusion of more media. It became a significant departure from what had been previously done by the team, so it took some time to see the full effect of these changes. But the basis of these updates continued to remain the same. We wanted to be able to share what we were working on each week with all of our followers, and the Project Updates remained the basis for that.
With a great basis in both navigation and content, it came down to creating a design that really fit with the focus on great content. From the moment that you land on the home page, it is designed to give you as much information about the vehicle, as fast as possible. The bold image that occupies near the entirety of the screen, giving an immediate understanding of what the vehicle looks like, and the scale of what is being done. From there, the stats beneath the image bring to life some of the incredible numbers that form the foundation of this project.
Scrolling farther down the page, an introduction section helps to introduce those that are not familiar with the project to some more details of how it was started, and what the end goal really is, as well as resources where they can go to read more. The Project Updates section immediately makes all of the latest information about the project available, supporting more than ever the drive to have a website that really shows all the work that is done.
Redesigning the North American Eagle website was only the first step in a long journey of transforming how technology is thought about within the team, but it was in some ways a landmark, because it proved just how powerful it really could be. This is From Speed to Sound, join us on our journey to break the World Land Speed Record.