Embl.org: From so simple a beginning…

Abstract DNA inspired image.

For the past two years, the content, digital and design teams in EMBL’s Communications group have been collaborating closely with the IT team in Heidelberg and the Web Development team at EBI to prepare the way for a new website – embl.org – for the whole organisation.

Most of this work has so far been preparatory, consulting with various groups and departments around EMBL for help and feedback on design, content and structure as we put in place processes, databases, frameworks and designs to prepare for the new site. It has been a true team effort.

Today, we have reached an important milestone for the project: we can present to you the first page.

That’s right. Just one, single, webpage.

Why one page?

This is the very first landing page for the new website, embl.org.

Eventually, embl.org will be a much, much bigger website, incorporating content from all sites across the organisation in one place on the web. There will be news and jobs feeds; site editors will be able to access and edit their own content; search for people and jobs; even share content across the embl.org domain. We are working on all of this.

But we have to start somewhere. Today, we start with this page. A landing page is a crossroads – a way to get to other pages on the web. This landing page largely mirrors existing content for embl.org, and will link to existing pages across EMBL’s websites. You will notice that all of the links on the page point to existing pages on embl.de, embl-hamburg.de, .it, .es, and .fr.

This first page gives a taste of the new look and feel for embl.org – as signed off by senior management this week – as well as an introduction to new structures for the site. It also serves as a starting point for adding new pages to our new design.

This is small but fundamental step towards improved usability across all EMBL webpages. The new landing page improves the range, quality and readability of content; it is also the start of foundational changes to make content easier to find, navigate and reuse.

A quick look

A screenshot from embl.org
A screenshot of the very first page of embl.org. This page will continue to expand and change as we iterate on content and design (Image: EMBL Communications team)
  • The banner at the top proudly displays the EMBL logo and points people to information about why the organisation matters to society.
  • Latest news is fed in from EMBL’s news website EMBLetc. It will feature news from all EMBL sites.
  • Research, Services and Training currently point to mini index pages for users to find their way around what the organisation has to offer. We will work to add more usable, data-rich index pages in the coming months.
  • The Sites section of the page focuses on the unique elements of each of EMBL’s geographical locations. Content that is common to all sites will stay on embl.org, whereas subdirectories will host location-specific information in future. Expect embl.org/rome, and embl.org/grenoble for example.
  • The topics section is intended for general readership, to give an idea of the science at EMBL. It is deliberately not the same as the departmental structure of EMBL, which will exist on the website, but sit under embl.org/research/units. Topics are a flexible way for EMBL to bring together content that readers are interested in, and to showcase how EMBL research and technology may be relevant to them.
  • The Latest Jobs listing brings in content from our HR systems, formatted to be easy for users to scan and to find open vacancies. We have been working with HR to deliver a satisfying embl.org/jobs experience.
  • Finally, the About EMBL section and the footer link to more administrative or strategic parts of the organisation. The footer is a work in progress, and will expand and change as we build new, filterable indexes of sections of the site, and improve tagging for new content.

Further sections can and will be added to this page. This is just a starting point.

Migrating content

In the coming weeks we will be migrating content from the existing EMBL domains (embl.de, embl-hamburg.de, .it, .es, and .fr.) to live on embl.org. We will need your help with this. Please look at any content relevant to you on the EMBL websites. Is it well written? Is it up to date? Can it be improved, or should it be deleted?

We will be in touch with groups and departments across EMBL as we begin to migrate content across to the new website. The existing sites (embl.de, embl-hamburg.de, .it, .es, and .fr.) will stay live during this process, until we – and our stakeholders – are happy and convinced that the new embl.org is a solid web presence for the organisation.

Then, older sites will be archived; kept accessible online, though no longer updated, and for some pages, redirecting to newer, more relevant content on the new embl.org.

What is the timeline for all this?

We are aiming to go from this single page today to a nucleus of embl.org, with 20 or 30 pages of key written content, as well as people and jobs data (comprising several hundred pages) by the end of March 2020.

The website will still be far from complete at that stage, and we will need to migrate more content, and create some new material, to ensure all groups, departments and services are on the site. Bear with us – migrating content to the embl.org domain will take time, and require your help. But the immediate impact will be a live site that represents all that EMBL does, and will importantly also allow us to benefit from ‘real world’ feedback from real users.

Between July 2020 and the end of the year, embl.org should become the main destination for anyone wishing to find out about the organisation, its research, training, services, jobs and people.

By that stage, we will be focussing on upgrades and improvements to the new web presence that we have built. Editors will move from using the older Fiona content management system to more intuitive editing interfaces such as WordPress.

When will my department / group hear from you?

The Communications team will reach out to group leaders and departments over the coming months. Please be patient – there are many stakeholders to contact, and the migration of content will take time.

And finally…

Building a website is an evolving process. Note that the existing EMBL websites will stay live as we build embl.org, and we will be responding to suggestions and feedback as we go.

If you’d like to know more about this web project, I recommend you read some of the blogs marked ‘design’ and ‘digital’ on this site, or get in touch at digital-comms@embl.org.

We are sure the project will keep maturing, and, as the great man once said: “Thus […] from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful […] are being evolved.”

Quick questions

Is this the whole of the new embl.org?

No. This is only the very first of many more pages to come.

I like the design.

Thanks! It evolved over the years and is a collaboration between various design and web teams across the organisation. It was signed off by senior management. We like it too – though it will likely evolve and mature further as we receive feedback and continue to develop it.

I don’t like the design.

That’s a pity! The design has evolved over the years and is a collaboration between various design and web teams across the organisation. It was signed off by senior management. Give it time – we expect the design to evolve and mature as we receive feedback and continue to develop it.

Any constructive suggestions, politely and calmly worded, to digital-comms@embl.org.

What can I expect to see next?

We will work on the jobs feed, group pages, press pages, and organisational pages such as Mission and Programme next.

When will my pages be launched in the new embl.org?

We will be in touch with group leaders and department heads over the coming months to organise content migration.

Who will rewrite my content?

You will. The Communications team can provide limited help and advice with editing, but – given the size of the task and quantity of content – the quality of the content is ultimately up to you.

Who can I contact with queries or suggestions?

Please send your polite, considered, friendly feedback to digital-comms@embl.org.

I have found a bug – who should I tell?

Please send your polite, considered, friendly feedback to digital-comms@embl.org.

Author: Cian O'Luanaigh

Cian is the Web and Collaborations Manager at EMBL in Heidelberg.

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