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

EffectiveUI, with the help of Microsoft, launched a new Website for the Navy's Blue Angels flight squadron using Silverlight, HTML5 and other popular Web technologies.

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.