In a previous post, Josh mentioned that we’d added over 100 small enhancements to the site since January. We aren’t slowing down either. As one of the developers that’s working on delta.com, I thought it would be a good idea to explain some of these enhancements as well as provide a bit of insight into life “behind the scenes.”
Within the first six months I started working at Delta, I wanted to add flash components to our home page for numerous reasons. Last week I finally got to see that happen. Flash as a technology solution for content delivery has always been abused, especially with “intro pages” on sites and those animated banner ads all over the web. So why did I want to add flash to the home page?
Flash enables us more flexibility to provide a better experience to you when visiting the site. We built a reusable “engine” that facilitates better communication with you. The reason is that it takes into account what might be most relevant to you. So now all the messaging on the home page is delivered in flash (from the large photo and below until the footer).
“But it looks just the same! Where’s the increased relevance you told us about?”
That was exactly the point. We hope that the experience is better. In the past, if you searched for flights to Seattle on a search engine and followed one of the paid links, you were presented with an experience that didn’t respond to your search. During the test phase, we included the city you were searching for in the main message. In the area below “Airfare Deals” we provided the three lowest fares at that time going to the location you provided, based on your location as the departure point. If you clicked the link you were put directly into the process of booking and searching for that ticket. For me, it was the “killer application” on the home page. For many of us the biggest surprise was that it wasn’t as successful as we hoped. Maybe it wasn’t what you wanted, not knowing the airport codes (versus the city names), or that it was “below the fold” (meaning it was out of what could be seen without scrolling). The support is still there, it’s just deactivated.
There is one interesting story about this launch. As we prepared for the launch, I got the phone call asking me if I’d seen the home page. Not quite the call I was expecting at 3pm. Turns out when we did our preproduction move to get all the files that wouldn’t impact the site, we accidentally put out the new version with flash. I tried to finish the job while a couple other coworkers helped to prepare a back out. It worked out perfectly because within 30 to 45 minutes it was gone until Friday morning. That’s when we found out that line 56 was out of memory (see #6). There is also an issue depending on your version of the flash plug-in. Please visit the link and make sure it says Version 9,0,115,0. Yes its the most recent version available. I’ve updated our Browser Compatibility page to reflect the change.
This is just the start too! Last week we also added predictive text to the home page to make looking up destination airports much easier. We added it to Award Ticket at the same time. The previous week we updated our servers to reduce the size of pages at delta.com in order to speed up browsing the site (and there are more enhancements coming to speed it up even more).
If you are someone that just doesn’t like flash, I’ll make sure we add a preference panel to the site so you can turn it off on the site with the next face lift. For now, you can follow this link (it turns off flash on the home page for that visit).
So, what do you think?
delta.com GUI Developer