Redeveloping the Airport Website

Sponsor: Nantucket Memorial Airport IMG_9963
Sponsor Liaison: Noah Karberg,
Environmental Coordinator
Student Team: Robert Esposito
Karl Kuhn
Benjamin Rogers
Vincent Sabo
Abstract: The previous Nantucket Memorial Airport website did not effectively engage community members or showcase the airport’s innovative environmental practices. Our goal was to design and develop a website for the airport that would meet the changing needs and expectations of various user groups. We researched the content displayed on other airport websites and gathered opinions from various stakeholders in order to construct a library of suggested content for the airport website. Using stakeholder feedback, we organized this library into a hierarchy that would form the overall structure of the website that would be implemented by the Town website vendor, CivicPlus. We offered recommendations on how to improve content organization, accuracy, and design in order to promote usability.
Links: Airport Website Project Final Report
Airport Website Presentation

Executive Summary

The community outreach efforts of the Nantucket Memorial Airport pose some special challenges. The community on Nantucket requires airport services and depends on the economic contributions of the airport, but also demands thoughtful environmental stewardship. These two sometimes conflicting goals have to be carefully balanced by the airport management. The efforts of airport staff to effectively manage environmental impacts are significant but have not always been communicated to the public effectively. To help the airport communicate, our group facilitated a redesign of the airport’s website to turn it into an effective platform for sharing information with pilots, visitors, and community members alike.

We focused on three main objectives:

  1. Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the current website compared to existing airport websites and published guidelines,
  2. Collecting and analyzing stakeholder opinions, and
  3. Developing a prototype website.

Evaluating Selected Airport Websites

Halpern and Regmi (2013) conducted a systematic analysis of 451 European Union airport websites in order to determine what content commonly appeared on airport websites. Our sponsor, Noah Karberg, provided a list of websites that he considers examples of effective design for smaller, regional airports. We evaluated and compared these airport websites using the content evaluation list provided by Halpern and Regmi (2013).

We also performed an evaluation of their overall effectiveness and motivational quality using a tool, WebCHECK. We used the WebCHECK instrument to perform our evaluations as it is designed to measure the motivational quality of websites. Motivational quality is a measurement of a website’s ability to attract users, hold their attention, and encourage future visits (Loh & Williams, 2003, p. 352). We used this tool along with the Halpern and Regmi (2013) analysis in order to identify the usability aspects and content that need to be added to the new website.

Collecting and Analyzing Stakeholder Opinions

In efforts to gain opinions and suggestions from stakeholders, we used surveys as an instrument to determine which website features and content were important to the members of the different user groups. We also conducted interviews in order to gain a sense of the more detailed needs of the community and how the airport can act as an outreach tool for the specific user groups we have identified.

Developing a Prototype Website

Following an easily-adaptable design process, we first translated our interview and survey data into discrete chunks of information and transferred this list of items to notecards. Maintaining a tangible stack of notecards enabled us to select and organize content in a visual and intuitive manner.

Culminating all of the collected background research and stakeholder opinions, we moved forward to begin designing the new airport website. As the Town of Nantucket website was recently redesigned using the services of CivicPlus, we chose to work with them as well to design the new website.

CivicPlus provided us with three possible options for a new airport website, and we ultimately chose the department header page option. This option gave the airport the appropriate amount of design choices and distinction from the town website. It also met the airport’s budget and fit the appropriate time frame.

For the initial step of creating a mock-up of the homepage of the redesigned website, CivicPlus requested that we provide them with several different pieces of information that would be shown on the homepage. This included our global navigation, which would be the five main categories of our decided hierarchy, as well as other information that needed to be easily accessible such as popular links and permanent buttons on the top of the homepage.

visually simplified model of the website structure

Screenshot of the final wireframe

The popular links and header buttons were determined largely from the feedback obtained from our survey and interview responses. Our stakeholders emphasized the importance of receiving flight status and airline information as quickly as possible, so we made sure these were made into graphic buttons. They also expressed that parking information needed to be easily accessible on the website, but because we could not easily incorporate parking information in a global navigation button, we created a header button that would take the user to the page containing parking information. Following this same thought process, we were able to justify our decisions for the popular links and header buttons and combine this with the global navigation to create our mock-up of the homepage shown in the graphic below.

Along with the structural layout we presented to the airport, we also created a table of all recommended website content and whether or not they needed to create, update, or migrate that content from their original website. The majority of the content must be created because the previous Nantucket Memorial Airport website was relatively lacking in content. We expect that much of the content we recommend be created could be repurposed from the airport’s Master Plan document. A portion of the content only requires an update, meaning the airport should supply more information on this content than was available on their previous website.

We also recommend that the airport place a live updating display of current flight information on the arrivals and departures page of the website. Our stakeholders emphasized how, especially in inclement weather, it is crucial to know well in advance if they will have to search for another way off the island. Satisfying this need for immediate information in case of delays was a major motivation for featuring “Arrivals and Departures” so prominently on the airport website. We recognize that the airport does not always receive current information, so we recommend encouraging air-taxi companies to update Flight Information Display (FID) data regularly so it can be included on the website.

We identified the proposed noise inquiry form as a key feature of the new website. The airport regularly communicates with local residents by phone to identify and spread information about the cause of potential occurrences of noise. Many of our interviewees expressed that they would like to see information on the efforts that the airport takes to alleviate noise. We recommend developing an electronic form that can be used to initiate these inquiries to make this process easier and more efficient for both airport staff and interested local residents. The feature would be most beneficial if it could automatically provide some information about recent events which may be relevant to the inquiry, as the resident would receive some instant information while the airport staff has time to prepare a more detailed set of information.

One common complaint regarding the previous website was that its information was not frequently updated. In our analysis of the previous website using the WebCHECK tool, we determined that the website was updated less frequently than the five other airport websites we evaluated. Based on this evaluation, as well as various comments from our survey and interviews, we recommend that the airport update the information on their new website with higher frequency than they had done on their previous one. Certain sections, such as news and announcements, need to be updated on a regular basis, while others, including statistics, can be updated annually.

The steps described above comprise the research and development stage of the project. After we handed the project off to airport and town staff, there were still design and implementation steps left to finalize. We arranged a timeline with CivicPlus so that the airport has a structured outline of the remaining steps of the project. The plan calls for airport staff to create and update website content as specified in Appendix F, concurrently with iterative review of the visual design work being completed by CivicPlus. The timeline expects content development to finish by early February, 2015 at which point CivicPlus should apply the finished design to the new website. Finally, CivicPlus and Nantucket Memorial Airport planned to deploy the new website on February 27, 2015. We were excited to hand off the project to the airport with such a detailed plan in place, and were are optimistic that the new website should eventually be deployed in a reasonable timeframe.