American Bonanza Society

Collecting and preserving the history of a brand that dates back to the 40's through modern design and functional content implementation.

What we did
  • Discovery and Strategy
  • Responsive and Mobile-First Design
  • Custom EPiServer Integration
  • Migration of Web and PDF Content
  • Taxonomy Implementation
  • Ongoing Support
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Preserving History With a Modern Redesign

With the American Bonanza Society — a type club for owners and enthusiasts of the Beechcraft brand of small aircraft — there wasn’t just a need to modernize and make fresh. There was a need to literally collect and preserve, in a way that was searchable and categorizable, the entire collection of repair manuals, updates, and past magazines — the very history of the brand itself, dating back to the 1940s.

Our goals for the project: develop a content model that would allow for automatic category sorting and filtering, create templates that would eventually replace the traditional print magazine, and preserve the history of the American Bonanza Society for current and future members. Not a small feat, at all.

Content Strategy and Design

The new American Bonanza Society site needed a design that was easy to read, easy to navigate and was able to showcase the sophistication and knowledge of the organization, all while using flexible content structure and media queries to create a single site that can be viewed on any device.

We designed a site that allowed visitors to clearly understand what, exactly, American Bonanza Society does, presenting a value proposition of community, safety, and support for Beechcraft owners and enthusiasts — which instantly positions American Bonanza Society as the reputable organization it is.

This also meant building a content model that made sense to the small team of curators at American Bonanza Society — people who not only run the website, but run the organization. Developing connections within content that allowed categories to rule (and allowed facilitation of content in lists and model-specific pages to be created and curated without an advanced degree in content management).

Integration and Development

In addition to the traditional site, we were also tasked with re-creating a custom community management tool in the form of a forum — a community that needed both the ability to link and categorize based on the forum topic’s related aircraft mode and also the ability to stay connected.

Within Episerver, we built a custom forum model that allows for freedom in user-generated content. Form posts are easy to create and manage, all within a content tree so editors can maintain post threads, content relations, and images. Editors and community leaders can promote quality posts to a “featured” level for better engagement and visibility. Beyond this, content is curated and published seamlessly, and the community is able to police itself through a handful of trusted superusers and forum moderators.

The site serves a wide variety of users — members, non-members, owners, prospective buyers, mechanics, flight instructors — who need the ability to find support, training, articles, and content easily. We built a specialized search with Solr that helped them do just that. The site is set up to track what pages a user interacts with, and then (optionally) skews their search results to be more like the pages in which they’ve shown interest in the past, making their time on the site personalized and relevant. Additionally, registered members who have assigned themselves a Beechcraft model will find those results boosted for a more personalized set of results.

Migration and Taxonomy

Finally, we made the biggest transition: moving decades of PDF-trapped magazine content and mechanical updates into the main site.

With mechanical updates, we simply uploaded, categorized, and named each PDF file, with a nod toward keeping them historically accurate and relevant for anyone with that particular model of aircraft. For magazine articles, however, we pulled content from the PDF to repurpose in HTML on the site, incorporating a common taxonomy of aircraft models, issue categories, and other topic groupings. This allows articles and documents to be pulled automatically into relevant feeds and topic pages. By tagging pages with keywords, we allowed the CMS to understand it’s context, which makes the system an ally instead of a burden — the perfect relationship for both the content and the editors.

What this allowed was a document library that was automatically filtered for the user’s relevant aircraft model, forum posts that are tied to relevant interests, and even magazine articles separated from their original issue and presented to the site user in a more relevant way.

Taking Flight With a New Site

It all came down to shifting direction. We were excited for the challenge of taking decades of content, dozens of special content types, and an audience of focused fans and bringing them together in a new place, where the history and community of the aircraft itself could shine.

From migration to strategy, implementation to launch, we worked with American Bonanza Society to freshen up not just the website, but the feeling of excitement that surrounds air travel. And while in the end, it's just a website filled with literally everything you need to know about Beechcraft aircraft, it's also an extension of that community itself.