A New Home for Transportation Software
AASHTOWare® -- a suite of software for designing and managing infrastructure projects -- has helped transportation professionals monitor costs, schedules, inventories, inspections, safety, and performance for more than 25 years. Authorized by the board of directors of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in 1986, the AASHTOWare technical service program provided centralized support and maintenance of legacy mainframe software used by multiple State departments of transportation (DOTs).
AASHTO bills the software as "designed by transportation professionals for transportation professionals." Developed and updated continually by experts from across the country, the software is used by transportation employees in all 50 States; Washington, DC; Puerto Rico; and Canada.
By 2011, both the software and the Web site promoting it, which launched in 2000, were ready for revamping.
Stronger Brand Identity
One of the major objectives of the Web site redesign was a better strategy for branding identity. The existing products -- with names like "DARWin" and "Opis" -- did not describe the software's purpose, and were hard for users to identify, search for, and understand. The corresponding icons were equally confusing.
The process of developing new names and logos for each product took a year, and a group of subject matter experts from State DOTs oversaw each product's revisions. A marketing consultant traveled the country, meeting with representatives from the State DOTs, to explain the updates and gain buy-in from AASHTO members on the changes.
"Our major objective was to streamline and improve the online experience for users," says Jan Edwards, AASHTOWare project director. "Users can find what they need faster and easier."
Under the new branding, the product name "DARWin" became "Pavement ME-Design" and "Opis" became "Bridge Design," for example, making the user's choice of products simple and straightforward. The site's home page now features prominent buttons for each of the software's five major application areas:
- AASHTOWare Project, a suite of products covering the entire life cycle of contract management for construction projects
- AASHTOWare Bridges, software tools for bridge design, analysis, load rating, and management
- AASHTOWare Pavement, an application for state-of-the-art mechanistic and empirical pavement design and analysis
- AASHTOWare Safety, analytical tools and data for improving highway safety
- AASHTOWare Right of Way, software designed to streamline relocation assistance
The rebranded AASHTOWare software line and its Web site launched in November 2012.
Another key goal in the redesign was simplifying the navigation and making it more accessible to a variety of potential users. "Our existing system was difficult for nonengineers to understand," Edwards says. "Our strategy was to simplify."
In particular, Edwards notes that the new Web site replaces jargon with copy written in layman's terms, and the revamped design presents the software products in a fresh, cohesive, color-coded layout that makes navigation simpler.
"Visitors now can get a better understanding of AASHTOWare and its many products," she adds. "Overall, the Web site clarifies what we have, how it works, and how to order."
The site also provides key product information, including fees, options, hardware and software requirements, and required forms. The left navigation on the home page features a menu of options for information about and access to AASHTOWare, including "Catalog," "Software Accessibility," "Standards and Guidelines," "Task Force Resources," and "Public Downloads." In addition, users can access links to "Project Solicitations," "RFPs/RFIs" -- requests for proposals/requests for information -- or "FAQ," for frequently asked questions.
AASHTOWare's revamped Web site is accessible at www.aashtoware.org/Pages/default.aspx.
Kate Sullivan is a contributing editor for Public Roads.