Microsoft and EffectiveUI Mix Silverlight, HTML5 to Deliver Navy's Blue Angels Website

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2011-04-28

Microsoft and EffectiveUI Mix Silverlight, HTML5 to Deliver Navy's Blue Angels Website

Who said using Microsoft's Silverlight or HTML5 was an either/or decision?

EffectiveUI and Microsoft teamed up to launch a new interactive Website for the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, using Silverlight, HTML5 and motion graphics.

In an interview with eWEEK, EffectiveUI and Microsoft officials said HTML5 and Silverlight deliver an immersive user experience (UX), bringing viewers a Blue Angels air show in a way that's never before been seen except by the pilots. The Blue Angels Website gives the U.S. Navy and Marines the ability to create compelling, effective content that reaches a wide audience at a low cost, said Anthony Franco, president of EffectiveUI.

EffectiveUI, Microsoft and Blue Angels representatives showcased the new Blue Angels' Website at the Microsoft MIX11 conference in Las Vegas in mid-April.

To create the most engaging experience to reach the widest number of people, platforms and devices, the site was built in HTML5 with Canvas and jQuery, and optimized for Internet Explorer 9. Silverlight and IIS Smooth Streaming provided a seamless HD video playback experience that reduces the need for buffering and dynamically adjusts to provide the best possible quality based on the viewer's connection speed. This combination of technologies allowed the EffectiveUI and Microsoft teams to push the performance of the site to a high level.

Using the Silverlight technology with HTML5 also allowed the team to make the Website accessible for persons with disabilities, which is critical for this government entity, said Chad Bakeman, technical lead at EffectiveUI. The site was built using Microsoft ASP.NET technology, making it easy to maintain and leaving the Blue Angels organization to focus on the goals of the site, not site maintenance, Bakeman said

The site also integrates with Bing Maps, giving viewers a bird's-eye view of air show locations and dates, Bakeman added.

"When we first engaged in this project, we knew we had to collaborate with a team that really understood emotive user experience, as well as Microsoft technologies and how to use them to create a technically precise and inspiring Website for the Blue Angels," said Mike Downey, principal evangelist for Platform Evangelism at Microsoft, in a statement. "The EffectiveUI team rolled up their sleeves and created an immersive, high-performance site that delivers the same adrenaline you get from a live air show."

Some industry observers had depicted an internal struggle at Microsoft over whether to promote Silverlight or HTML5, prompting a blog post by leaders in the Microsoft Developer Division to explain that the company's strategy is simply to provide the best tools for the right situations.

When deciding to create a new site, the Blue Angels wanted to capture the intensity of the organization, as well as the precision and accuracy that goes into flying the F/A-18 Hornet and C-130 Hercules. Each year, more than 14 million spectators watch the Blue Angels perform at air shows across the country, said Lt. Katie Kelly, U.S. Navy Blue Angels. Now, even more can witness the thrilling flight demonstrations from the perspective that, until now, has only been available to the pilots themselves, Kelly said.

Since the home page makes the first impression on every visitor-regardless of platform or device-the team employed HTML5 with dynamic content and social media integrated via ASP.NET, while Canvas and jQuery provided the structure for the site's main navigation, Franco said. The performance of this content is optimized with Internet Explorer 9, particularly with regard to animating the user interface over a large, high-quality video.

Microsoft and EffectiveUI Mix Silverlight, HTML5 to Deliver Navy's Blue Angels Website

title=Inside the Cockpit} 


Moreover, within the site, a section titled "Inside the Demo" includes high-resolution, interactive video that brings viewers right into the cockpit with the Blue Angels squadron. The site features footage of the Blue Angels performing 37 different maneuvers, giving viewers an inside perspective. Three different camera angles are shown for each maneuver, and users are able to select and switch camera angles in real time. This interaction was made possible with Microsoft Silverlight and Internet Information Services (IIS) Smooth Streaming technology. 

Telling the complete story of the Blue Angels organization, the site also includes an interactive, 360-degree view of the F/A-18 Hornet and the C-130 Hercules. The user can spin the aircraft for a full, up-close view and learn about the aircraft's specifications, configurations and the various modifications the team makes to the jets, Downey said.

Also, to meet its goal of providing a hub for recruiting and enlisting, the site provides easy access to information on applying to the Blue Angels squadron, as well as general enlisting information for the Navy and Marine Corps.

"It's inspiring to see government agencies taking user experience seriously," Franco said in a statement. "The Blue Angels invoke great emotion through their air shows-by successfully translating that experience online and using a wide-encompassing technology, the organization will be able to reach many more people in a truly engaging way."

The Blue Angels were created to showcase naval air power and increase morale among its officers, and the organization now serves to recruit new service men and women in the Navy and Marine Corps. The organization saw a need to evolve the way it interacts with new recruits and to reach them where they are-online. The Blue Angels collaborated with EffectiveUI and Microsoft to provide a powerful, engaging experience that taps into the excitement of a Blue Angels flight demonstration, but goes a step further to offer a unique perspective on the show itself-previously seen only through the pilot's eyes.

The Website will allow the Blue Angels to more effectively achieve recruitment goals with a presence that engages and informs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Franco said. Prospective recruits, fans and enthusiasts can go in-depth on the organization's history, its team, the operations and the jets themselves. The immersive site also brings them inside the cockpit and gives them control over the aspects of the air show they see and how they see them. 

"The Blue Angels are excited to launch a new, state-of-the-art Website that will allow us to more effectively accomplish our mission of enhancing Navy recruiting and credibly representing Navy and Marine Corps aviation to the United States and its Armed Forces," Kelly said. 

Rocket Fuel