Houston Airports Connect

The Houston Airport System relies on a bustling intranet site to communicate effectively across four city airports. Connect, as the site is fondly known, was the result of extensive user research and analysis conducted by Spiritous information architects.

About the Client

Houston Airports

The Houston Airport System provides a safe and dynamic air services network that fosters economic vitality for the transportation industry and facilitates a strong level of global connectivity for diverse and growing population living throughout the greater Houston region. The three-airport system, which includes the Houston Spaceport, served almost 55 million passengers in 2016. Together, Houston Airports form one of North America’s largest public airport systems and position Houston as the international passenger and cargo gateway to the south central United States and a primary gateway to Latin America.

3 airports
1 spaceport
55 million passengers
80+ years

About the Project

The Houston Airports project stakeholder team had formulated a clear idea as to what they wanted from the very beginning. They heard the requests from airport employees asking for mobile device support. They took support calls helping users unable to find the information they were looking for. They maintained an increasingly disorganized intranet that had started to show its age.

Partnering with Spiritous, technology and business leaders at the airport system painted the picture of a newly envisioned intranet web application that brought thousands of disparate employees from across the airport network into a single unified channel.

Discovery and Planning

Houston Airports Connect site map

The initial site maps and interface wireframes created by Spiritous information architects sought to provide a remedy for these and many other unseen issues that were found in the existing system.

After a period of user research, audience segmentation, personas, and content inventory, it was clear that patterns existed in the vast web of content found on the old intranet website. The information architecture team created site maps and wireframes to organize content into logical taxonomic classifications.

Houston Airports Connect wireframes
Houston Airports Connect wireframes

The overhauled system would provide at-a-glance information to thousands of employees across the airport system. From upcoming events, to news, to a weather alert system, the design presents information in an organized and easily navigable tile-based structure.

A new logo and name helped create a unique sense of personality in the new intranet design.

Lending a sense of intimacy to the new system, these creative assets were materialized in order to distance the new project from its marginally successful predecessor, which was largely referred to as SharePoint. The final logo utilizes elements of the Houston Airports brand in conjunction with simple typographic variations to create a sharp and recognizable symbol for the newly designed app.

Connect logo

Several style tiles were drafted to explore the creative design aesthetic used to render the complete interface as it would be built on the SharePoint platform.

Colors, typography, and other aesthetic variables were defined early in the project to reduce revision time and facilitate discussion regarding creative direction. The chosen tile that emerged employed a bright and crisp design style that would later define the look and feel of the entire intranet.

Houston Airports Connect style tile

Development

Houston Airports Connect mega menu

Everyone involved with the project knew that creating a simple solution for navigation would be a challenge in such a sprawling intranet.

Using the polished taxonomy and site maps created earlier in the project, consultants at Spiritous designed and built a truly unique three-tier “mega” navigation menu control.

This control was built to be accessible and functional on device screens of all sizes. Smaller screens render the navigation options as a touch-friendly off-canvas vertical accordion menu. Larger screens use a more traditional horizontal drop-down menu style as space allows.

Houston Airports Connect search web part Houston Airports Connect performance web part

Improving small-screen device support was a must-have feature for the new web application.

The development team at Spiritous used responsive design techniques to allow content throughout Connect to adapt and display seamlessly on smartphone, tablet, and desktop screens.

On each device, SharePoint templates and customizations transform out-of-the-box list information into stylized controls that look just as good as they function. Using a combination of simple SharePoint management features and front-end template customizations, the team was able to create something that looked entirely unlike the platform on which it was hosted.

Connect lives up to its name.

The newly designed intranet application allowed the Houston Airports IT and communications teams to communicate with employees from throughout the organization through announcements, events, and alerts. In addition, each organization department was given the ability to push their own announcements, events, and alerts out to their own department pages, where a personalized mix of organizational-level and departmental-level content is displayed in tandem. This elegant balance of flexibility and editorial control created a framework for channeled communication through which all employees could participate.

Houston Airports Connect news and announcements feature

The development effort ended with the launch of Connect to thousands of employees throughout the airport system.

As many employees were eager to share during the user research phase, the old intranet application was largely regarded as disorganized, dysfunctional, and extremely difficult to use. The new system, while drastically different, was welcomed and regarded by many users as a game-changing improvement, enabling users to once again utilize the great features of the SharePoint platform to foster collaboration and innovation everywhere in the organization.

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