Keeping a Website modern and up to date is a challenge for any organization. For “National Geographic Kids,” the trials and tribulations are magnified by the need to deliver online games, video and other multimedia content to discerning young users.
“As the Web has evolved and mobile devices, such as tablets, have moved into the mainstream, there was a need to build a more advanced environment,” says Jonathan Young, chief technology officer and executive vice president of products. “We wanted to add features, freshen up the look and move away from Flash, which doesn’t work well on iPads.”
National Geographic Partners, the media arm of the National Geographic Society, recognized a need to revamp the children’s Website in 2013. After extensively questioning and testing kids about their desires, preferences and interests—and using a series of focus groups—it launched a completely revamped site in 2014.
The organization worked closely with digital services firm Globant to produce “bite-size,” “snackable” content that would encourage children to explore, play and research. For instance, kids can now scroll through content blocks and pictures on the site to view stories, photos and videos. Once they find something that sparks their interest, they click on it and content in that same interest space appears.
Introducing a Mobile-Friendly HTML5 Website
The biggest change, according to Young, was the introduction of a mobile-friendly site. The transition to HTML5 made it possible to introduce more robust and complex games and other multimedia content.
Programming in HTML5 did present a few challenges: “It is not as simple to work in as Flash,” Young notes. However, the staff at “National Geographic Kids” worked through the issues and developed the Web code and a new quality assurance (QA) process to ensure that everything worked correctly. The organization also moved to a new content management system (CMS) and improved account administration tools and capabilities.
A cross-company team worked together to build the site from the ground up, with new hooks into existing platforms at “National Geographic,” including membership, taxonomy and video CMS. In the end, the group introduced all new templates, components, features and functionality—including content that better matches the age and interests of the audience.
One major benefit is that “National Geographic Kids” now has the ability to track sessions more effectively, so it can let kids resume games and access content from one visit to the next without starting over, Young explains.
“We have a core technology platform that we are able to leverage across ‘National Geographic,'” he adds. “So, we are now able to launch new sites and new businesses with the same core technology.”
Usage and customer satisfaction have risen steadily since the new platform went live. The modernization effort also has helped “National Geographic Kids” improve branding alignment and tie-in with other ‘National Geographic’ products and services.
“It is a much more flexible platform that allows us to tie together media, content and products far more effectively—including TV content,” Young reports. “We are not constrained by technology or geography, and we have a level of alignment and synergy that didn’t exist before.”