Sebastian White wanted to insert a comma into a piece of content on the JetBlue intranet.

“It was a holiday, and I started to count the steps,” the director of corporate communications at the New York City-based airline told CMSWire. “It took me 15 steps and 15 minutes.”

For White, the experience last year confirmed what he already knew: It was time to revamp the aging intranet, which dated to the company's founding in 2000. (JetBlue celebrated the 17th anniversary of its start of operations on Saturday.)

A New JetBlue Intranet

The goals were to make the intranet more user friendly for the company's workforce as well as the team that manages it —or, as JetBlue puts it, "to tap into our fun value and playful brand voice while at the same time living up to the personal, helpful and simple experience that we are known for by customers and crewmembers alike.”

JetBlue claims more than 20,000 global employees (which it refers to as crewmembers). About 15,500 work full-time, according to the most recent 10-Q report the company filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Fast forward to this year: The only thing left of the company's old intranet is the name.

“The name — HelloJetBlue — is the only thing we kept,” White said. The JetBlue intranet has a new design, improved administration and enhanced search capabilities. It now features daily news updates, social components, easier access to tools people need to do their jobs and more personalized content — "The old site said 'Hello' but it didn't know your name."

Nielsen Norman Group Awards

And if anyone doubts how much the intranet improved, JetBlue has an award to prove it. Nielsen Norman Group recently named the JetBlue intranet one of the top 10 in design for 2017.

“Supporting a very strong, positive company culture, HelloJetBlue offers a combination of resources, tools and news packaged in a friendly, imaginative way," concluded Jakob Nielsen, principal of Nielsen Norman Group. The intranet keeps JetBlue’s employees "motivated and firmly grounded, even while soaring above the clouds," he added.

Nielsen Norman Group defines a good intranet portal as one that provides easy access to all enterprise information, resources and tools. Intranet portals can also effectively consolidate applications, connect information, drive governance, change communication, and reduce fragmentation, the company stated.

Along with JetBlue, nine other intranets supporting companies with 160 to 400,000 employees made the Nielsen Norman Group winners list:

Back to JetBlue

HelloJetBlue was redesigned by Imarc, full-service digital agency with offices in Santa Cruz, Calif. and Amesbury, Mass. According to the agency, The JetBlue intranet had "stopped representing the brand, became difficult to navigate and lacked the personalization the airline prides itself on. Simply put, it wasn’t JetBlue."

The new design provides provides JetBlue employees with easy access to tools, resources and information, while encouraging collaboration and communication, Imarc said.

Imarc's design team.
Imarc's JetBlue intranet redesign team: Standing, left to right: Jared Laham, Paul Kelley, Thomas Saraceno, David Tufts and Marcel Moreau. Seated, left to right: Katie Desmond and Jeff Turcotte.

JetBlue tackled the intranet redesign in two phases:

  • June 2014 to December 2014: Discovery, strategy, UX, creative
  • May 2015 to April 2016: Development, QA, launch

White described the old intranet as “complicated” and “fragile” — a site where users could “mess things up very easily.” The team could not delegate administrative privileges because of this, and the corporate communications team did the lion’s share of the work.

“When I started 11 years ago, part of my job was to redesign the intranet,” White said. “At the time it was a very long URL —this 75-character thing that you would never remember.”

JetBlue's old intranet before its redesign.
JetBlue's old intranet before its redesign.

Adoption was never an issue. People always used HelloJetBlue, in spite of the fact that it wasn’t easy to find things and was not responsive on mobile devices.

“You can’t get away with working here and not coming on the site,” said Kate McMillan, manager of content for JetBlue. “We needed to make it a more user-friendly experience, give people access to tools quicker, be more clear and concise with content and have more fun. The previous site wasn’t categorized well and had no search function. We wanted people to be able to have time to read the content on the site rather than searching for tools forever, becoming disgruntled and then logging off.”

Design, Use Concerns

To clarify and align its team with the JetBlue vision, representatives from Imarc attended the airline’s two-day new hire orientation at JetBlue University. It also surveyed 2,300 crewmembers in various roles. The findings:

Learning Opportunities

Imarc interviewed crewmembers and key stakeholders to understand their pain points with the current intranet
Imarc interviewed crewmembers and key stakeholders to understand their pain points with the old intranet.

“One of main complaints was that it was hard to use and wasn’t mobile optimized,” said Dave Tufts, managing partner and chief technology officer for Imarc. “And it also just didn’t feel like JetBlue, which has such a recognizable brand.”

While design was a top concern, so was use. Imarc replaced the HTML based content management system with created a custom CMS built on PHP and open source. “We chose to do a custom app with more of a web-based CMS,” Tufts said.

JetBlue's Results

HelloJetBlue continues to get 50,000 visits per day and 1,500 posts per year, Imarc noted. But all those users can do more in less time now, the agency said.

JetBlue's new intranet features an improved resources page.

People Finding

JetBlue’s White and McMillan recalled the days when you needed to know a person's exact name to find them on HelloJetBlue. New search functions make it much more manageable. Each employee has a picture, title, the airports they’ve been to/worked in and when they started working there.

“We kept search really simple,” Tufts said. Users can add search filters, such as departments, airports and file type.

Social Mentions

Intranet users can @mention fellow employees in comment trails on articles and other places, cutting down on email clutter. People can “that’s fly” pieces of content, HelloJetBlue’s equivalent of the Facebook “like.”

Smooth Tool Access

HelloJetBlue defaults to the tools and resources section that most people use. Users can save tools and bookmark specific tools, highlighting the most relevant for them.

Daily News Emails

The JetBlue news teams sends out daily emails with links to new content on JetBlue, industry news, leadership news and other relevant content. It averages close to 10 pieces of content daily.

Better Admin Access

Users can get better access to specific pages at different levels. It allows the communications team to focus on what they do best: communicating, and not updating links and other administrative chores.

Resource management remains one of the major reasons JetBlue went on its intranet reconstruction project in the first place.

“We knew at that point something had to change,” White said speaking of his 15-minute comma nightmare. “You multiply all that by all the content we have and the admins on the site, it’s just ridiculous.”

The new intranet is winning lots of praise ... from everyone associated with it, including the agency that designed it. As Imarc concluded: "With a more efficient system in place, JetBlue now has a connected and empowered digital workspace that embodies its brand, stimulates its culture and drives (or should we say, flies) its business."

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