webpick of the week
Driving the redesign and relaunch of Virgin.com was a vision to become more connected to its customers.
Some of the site’s core features revolve around community and social networking. Creating a profile/account on Virgin.com allows the user to send messages, befriend other members of Virgin.com, and comment on and rate articles. But some of the more unique features include integration to Facebook using Facebook Connect, which allows users to import profile information and let friends see what they’re doing on Virgin.com. Virgin companies actively participate in this community, responding to questions and comments, networking and creating and managing company profile pages
Since Virgin.com serves as more of a content and community destination than it does a conventional corporate site, the navigation and organizational structure is geared toward topics and categories—the companies related to each topic of interest are listed so that users can quickly navigate to corresponding company pages and content submitted by customers. One notable navigation element is the “global hat” at the extreme top of the site. Containing a large amount of functionality without seeming overly dense or cluttered it remains viewable as users scroll down to the bottom of each page. From the top left users are able to select where they live and to see all of the Virgin companies that operate in their region.
The site’s primary purpose is to serve as a lead generation portal driving customers to all Virgin companies. It also allows users to freely submit content—an incredibly bold move for a company the size of Virgin but a critical decision for establishing the site as a consumer-driven destination and for taking “corporate communications” to an entirely new level.
• Virgin.com took exactly one year and fifteen days to complete; nearly every person at ROKKAN, in New York and San Francisco, worked on it at some point, but the core project team included over 20 people from account management, project management, information architecture, design, development and QA.
• The background illustrations were done in-house by one of ROKKAN’s art directors, Vicente Silva.
• The urls that a user sees in the browser do not represent the file/folder level of the site on the server. “Nice” urls represent the hierarchy of the content, making it SEO friendly and making the links easy to remember and share.
• The code base itself is reasonably large because of the amount of functionality the site has; in addition to current functionality it accommodates future planned functionality and allows for the rapid incorporation of ideas and community feedback.
• There are 20 different types of content modules across the site with plans to add even more to give users additional ways to consume the site's content.
• Virgin.com was built on ROKKAN’s Rokkit Framework leveraging the Zend PHP framework.
• Virgin.com has received an unprecedented amount of buzz all over the Web. Tweets were pushed back and forth about how a corporate site should be and how Virgin was doing what most other companies should have been doing a long time ago.
• Since Virgin is one of the most recognizable brands in the world among the more telling moments of success is how the site illustrates just how far the Virgin brand extends—from airlines to space travel to finance to wine.