Monday, December 07, 2009

Anatomy of a Website: The story behind SEPTA's online makeover

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It was a high-tech feat more than a year in the making - all leading up to a moment that came with a fairly simple act.

"It was basically flipping a switch," Brian Anderson, manager of communications for the Philadelphia area transit agency, said when asked to describe the launch of the redesigned septa.org. While turning on the website - "going live," in techie terminology - may have appeared easy, the work leading up to the public debut was the exact opposite.

Unlike many major transit agencies that turn to outside specialists to handle their online needs, SEPTA utilized the talent of its own employees to tackle everything from the overall design to the smallest word of written content. Much of this was handled by a four-person Web Team from the Communications Department. Anderson, who in his role as Webmaster spent many days and nights readying the redesign for public consumption, tapped Multimedia Specialist Bijan Molayi to help him get everything up and running.

But it all started with the foundation laid by Graphic Artist and Designer Angela Zippi, who gave the site its eye-popping new look.

"We wanted a website that was fresh, clean and easy to use," said Zippi, who received an assist from fellow Designer Adeola Fadeyibi in handling this massive task. "We believed we had the capabilities to do this in-house, and we put our heads together and came up with a design and a plan."

Besides the obvious savings in costs realized by having employees handle major tasks such as design and content production, keeping website management internal gives SEPTA much-needed room to continue to grow online. With its own Web Team in place, the transit authority has the flexibility to make constant updates and improvements aimed at meeting the needs of customers through septa.org.

"We keep all of the control and creativity," Anderson said. "The sky really is the limit."

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