With 8 Nobel Prize winners in its rich history, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) stands tall in the field of biological research and education, as the 125+ year old proving ground for innovative research and education programs that have fostered game-changing discoveries and advanced healthcare, modern agriculture, and environmental sustainability.
In February 2017, CSHL asked AG Strategic Design to completely reimagine and rebuild CSHL's public facing website, elevating its web technology and presence to match the world-class status of this organization. After working with CSHL's internal communications and technology teams for eight months, AG helped launch the new responsive site on the WordPress managed hosting platform Pantheon.io.
CSHL tasked AG to help it achieve a compelling redesign of its core public facing website while meeting these minimum requirements
- Represent CSHL's excellence digitally
- Employ an advanced approach to content management and DevOps
- Make the administrative back-end experience of managing the site as delightful as the front-end experience.
CSHL is a dynamic institution on the leading-edge of cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology research. Home to a scientific community of 600, with a total of 1,000 faculty, students and employees, CSHL required a web presence that allowed them to focus on conveying their great breadth of work while eliminating any friction in delivering such related content to the web. Thus, AG focused on making the delivery and management of information about the institution's advances as easy as possible.
From a technological standpoint, this made WordPress the ideal choice for a content management system. WordPress's strengths include a well-developed PHP-based core and user-friendly out-of-the-box admin panel. WordPress also remains flexible enough to serve as an enterprise level content management system that can be customized to any institution's needs. As such, this allowed for a highly collaborative and iterative custom design of both front-end and back-end features for the site.
Further, we wanted CSHL's internal teams to be able to focus on creating and managing content instead of being bogged down managing the servers and codebase that hosted the site. To this end, we leveraged Pantheon.io's managed WordPress hosting platform.
Under CSHL's previous content management system, whenever content creators wanted to refresh the design or, in some cases, even update copy, they had to make a change request to a back-end web development team. Frequently, the development team had to push the whole site again any time a change was made. This meant that both developers and content creators were unable to focus on tasks that benefitted the institution as a whole. Specifically, for content creators, this meant creating new compelling content that showcased the institutions achievements and, for the development team, this meant updating product features and making performance enhancements. Pantheon's managed hosting development, staging and production environments allowed us to separate code from content so that each unit could focus on its core competencies.
Over the course of eight months AG reconstitued over 1,000 pages of content, wrote 10,000+ lines of custom code and created 50+ custom layouts. These are just some of the features:
Compelling First Impressions
With a fully responsive design, the site looks great on any device.
Cross-promotion of various types of content where virtually any piece of content could be featured in other areas of the site at the click of a button with a customized WordPress administrative panel.
Related Content feeds that help visitors continue on their user journey by surfacing content topically relevant to pieces he or she might already have self-selected
Faculty profiles integrated throughout all content-types and pages. This allows content producers to connect profiles to pages that promote each faculty member's research focus areas, publications or other interests
A completely re-imaged Newsstand section of the site integrating dynamic content such as videos or podcasts
What this equates to practically is a system that elegantly pulls together content and resources from all areas of the site and covers the breath of work of the institution in a very easy to administer way and, more importantly, compelling way.