Railinc Corporation is a for-profit subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads (AAR) that delivers both data as a service (DaaS) and software as a service (SaaS), offering a compelling suite of commercial and industry products, as well as valuable information resources to employees in the freight rail space. The Railinc website attracts two different types of customers: Industry users (comprised of Class I Railroads and other authorized organizations) and Commercial users (all other organizations seeking to leverage Railinc’s unique tools and data). The access to Class I Railroad data and targeted tools for both types of customers sets Railinc apart from other players in the fright rail technology space.
Before development on the industry website began, Railinc contracted DesignHammer experts to do a 14-week long, comprehensive assessment project on the existing site to identify its pain points, potential, and to provide recommendations for the future website build. This data-driven analysis of the assessment project findings became a fundamental building block in the Project Plan, which DesignHammer collaborated with Railinc to compose. The primary goals outlined in the Project Plan were to create a new, modern website with improved linking of content, better information architecture, and an updated look and feel to make a more effective marketing tool. A key component of this website build was to migrate a large amount of existing content (including 1500 total files, 40 product pages, and 15 supporting resources) from Railinc’s existing CMS in order to preserve tagging and redirect URLs that were already used within supporting documentation.
Discovery: Meetings were held with various Railinc stakeholders and teams to capture details of existing functionality and workflow. DesignHammer and Railinc collaborated to determine areas where improvements could be made and to determine if any functionality was no longer necessary. These discovery meetings covered design and user experience; content entry, support, and maintenance; hosting; and content migration.
Design, Theme, and User Experience: DesignHammer and Railinc collaborated to determine desired design features, user experience, and look and feel. It was important to Railinc to stay connected to their existing customers by maintaining their brand identity, but it was also important to reach out to new potential customers by modernizing the look and feel, and overall statement of the brand. Railinc wanted to emphasize their position as a technology company that supported railroads. One of the unexpected challenges in the design phase was the wide variation of trains! An early iteration of the design had a European train in the hero image, and as Railinc supports the North American railroad system, this was not desired.
Once the look and feel and user experience were well defined, DesignHammer produced a custom theme for the Railinc website that reflects their identity as a modern software and technology provider supporting the North American rail system.
Content Entry, Support, and Maintenance: Based on the conversations with the Railinc Technical Writing team DesignHammer implemented a system of content types and modules to support content revisions, attached file versioning, redirects, and approval workflows.
Hosting: Contegix was selected to host the new sites. DesignHammer has worked with Contegix often in the past. Contegix set up two servers, one for the development and test environments, and one for the production environment. To satisfy additional security requirements from Railinc’s Security team, access to the servers was restricted via a VPN with two-factor authentication.
Content Migration: The most complicated part of the new website build was migrating the content from the existing Liferay site to the new Drupal site and maintaining the relationships between pages and content as well as the tagging on the existing content. DesignHammer configured a custom migration process that was able to parse archives from the existing Liferay site and import the data, complete with tagging, into Drupal content types. Redirects were also programmatically created to provide consistent access to the newly migrated files to support existing applications that used these files for documentation.