Case study - United Airlines Can Revisit the Past, Thanks to Hanzo’s Dynamic Website Archives

| August 13 2020

Objective

United Airlines has a massive, complex, ever-changing website. Because it was spending too much time creating archives that often didn’t meet its needs, United needed a dynamic capture method that would operate automatically and preserve all of its website content in a functional, future-proof format. 

Key Issues

  • Capture hundreds of webpages and all daily site changes

  • Collect dynamic data that would allow a replay of interactive content and multiple site languages

  • Archive those sites in a future-proof format that would be accessible anytime

Approach

With Hanzo Dynamic Capture, United now has the ability to collect, preserve, search, and share immutable, future-proof dynamic archives of every one of its webpages—without trying to manually screenshot every change or permutation.

 


Situation Overview

Founded in 1926, United Airlines has grown to become the third-largest airline in the world. You don’t run that kind of business with a simple website. 

Sara-Hetland-United-AirlinesSara Hetland, United’s Senior Manager of Brand Design and Editorial, explains, “We have several hundred webpages that we need to keep track of and archive. Our web content needs to uphold very specific DOT [Department of Transportation] standards. It also needs to reflect the correct policy information for important programs such as the MileagePlus® program.” United’s website—like most today—is also built around dynamic content that adjusts to each user. For example, it will display flight information from each user’s nearest airport. 

Periodically, the United team encounters questions about what the airline had offered or promised in the past. To answer those questions, they needed a way to rewind the clock and revisit their past websites. In short, Hetland said, “We needed to be able to look back at past content to see how that content had changed over time or what our content looked like on a specific date.”

United tried a few different methods to preserve its past content. For one, the content teams tended to keep Microsoft Word documents whenever they created new copy-only changes. Those documents occasionally came in handy for checking past statements, but they weren’t a definitive source. To capture exactly what the website looked like in the past, United had also tried manually screenshotting its webpages and saving them to a shared drive. Usually, the company only undertook this effort when it knew there were going to be major website changes or items that it needed to catalog. Unfortunately, both of these methods fell short. 

 

Challenges 

According to Hetland, archiving the United website was a challenge for several reasons, starting with the number of webpages on the site. She noted, “We needed our archives to be fairly extensive. We have hundreds of pages, and we needed for all of them to be accessible in our archives.” 

The frequency with which those pages change was another challenge for archiving. Hetland said, “We’re generally making site updates every weekday, and there isn’t just one stakeholder making those changes. Instead, we have multiple departments that work to keep the site updated and multiple editors and digital producers who help them do that.” This widespread responsibility for the site meant that it didn’t work well for United to put a single department in charge of website archiving. 

United also needed to be able to collect and preserve its website content in a way that allowed team members to interact with the archived site the same way that a customer would have. To guarantee that the marketing team could confirm what a customer had seen when they visited the site in the past, they needed to have usable archives that would dynamically capture all of the interactive elements of their website pages. Ongoing brand management relied on this complete capture as well to ensure that messaging and brand presentation remained consistent. 

As a global company, United also needed to have an archiving method that would capture all of the languages used on its website. 

Most importantly, though, Hetland explained, “We needed to know that our archives would be future-proof: that they would work today, tomorrow, and anytime we might need them in the future.”

 

The manual screenshot method that United initially used did not meet these goals. There were two significant challenges associated with doing everything manually. First, Hetland said, “It just isn’t always possible to anticipate every need that will arise when we need to look back. Sometimes we wanted to refer back to past content to see what we had said or how we had said it, but we didn’t have that content archived in the right way to access it.” Second, “The manual capture process was time-intensive and boring. It took too long to collect information that might not be what we needed anyway.”

It was time for United to find a better answer for its website archiving needs.

 

Solution

With Hanzo Dynamic Capture, the United Airlines team now has the ability to collect, preserve, search, and share immutable, future-proof dynamic archives of every one of its webpages.

The Hanzo web crawler investigates the entire United site, identifying new or changed pages and capturing their content on a predetermined schedule. This ensures that United has a consistent, predictable archive. Hanzo’s archives collect all of the source code from webpages, allowing the review team to “replay” those sites and interact with all of their dynamic content. This allows United to effectively revisit the past, viewing exactly the same site that their customers did on any date in the past. Plus, Hanzo’s archives are preserved in the immutable, future-proof WARC (Web ARChive) format, which is backed by standard ISO 28500:2017 and guaranteed to work today and forever.

Hetland reported that “The Hanzo web archives are easy to use. It was definitely rewarding to have a system that worked so much better than our manual captures.” 

 

Benefits

Now, when either the United brand team or an individual stakeholder has a question about what any given webpage looked like at any point in the past, they can use Hanzo to rewind the clock and look back at their content. 

 

 “With Hanzo, United Airlines’ teams can confidently preserve and review the appearance and contents of our website as they were on any given day.”

Sara Hetland, Senior Manager, Brand Design and Editorial at United Airlines

 

Hanzo’s archives have saved Hetland and her team considerable time. Now, she says, “I don’t need to worry about manually archiving site updates as we make them—which is a good thing, because we update our sites all the time.”


Learn more

If you need to archive a complex, dynamic website, Hanzo can help. Contact us today.

 

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