Digital communications update: July/August 2018 – EMBL Communications

EMBL Communications

Informing, inspiring, and engaging society with EMBL’s research, services and training

Digital communications update: July/August 2018

Every month, for a few months, we’ve been sending an update to our department an update in a simple format: what we did last month, and what we’re planning to do next month. Of course, as the team grows, this makes for a longer update but we think the detail is important. It helps us paint a picture of the status of projects and how they may connect to others. And often, the detail in our work is where we find common points of pain, or opportunities to collaborate, with our colleagues.

Here’s August’s update. It’s long, I’m afraid. TL;DR: We did some great stuff. We’re doing some more great stuff next month.

Last month



  • Visual Framework: Core approaches, defining success
  • Visual Framework: Developer outreach, poster
  • Visual Framework: released V0.2.0 of the developer patterns: http://dev.beta.embl.org/guidelines/visual-framework/dev-docs/
  • Content Hub: Initial prototype, testing, stakeholder engagement
  • Content Hub: Pre-rendering of content by Chrome Puppet
  • Infrastructure: Decided on WordPress as our platform for blogs and microsite.
  • Process: Agreed we will use EBI infrastructure, and work with Jonathan Hickford’s team at EBI, on the EMBL.org and Intranet projects.
  • Process: We had our second Web Retreat and reached agreement and stakeholder support with Heidelberg IT, EBI Web Dev, and Digital comms to collaborate on EMBL.ORG, Intranet, and EMBL Enterprise Data.
  • Begun the process of building an editorial style guide
  • Trialed Abstract for design asset management between Digital and Design teams.


  • Pantheon for alpha WordPress and Drupal sites
  • Static page templating with Hexo
  • Presented landing pages to Heads of Unit meeting
  • Content audited top 500 links for embl.de, notes to show where content gaps are
  • Refined rules for subdomains on EMBL.org
  • Canonical tagging on press releases is done, which will help with Google rankings on news.embl and EBI news
  • Taxonomy ‘service’ for our content. Cian and Ken prototyped.


  • Springboard: Scaled back launch plans. Beta launch following user research
  • Comms microsite: Continued our prototype for a Stratcom microsite


  • TEAM: Stuart Robson, a freelance Front End Developer, started in our team for six months working on the Visual Framework with Ken. Stu is based in the UK and is working remotely.
  • SOCIAL: Supporting LGBT Stem Day on July 5th
  • SOCIAL: Predoc Mariana Alves took over EMBL’s twitter account while at the Nobel Lindau meeting. The activity boosted the visibility of @EMBL.
  • SOCIAL: #LGBTSTEMday: EMBL was an official partner. On the day, @EMBLs tweet announcing our support on the day was seen by over 14k accounts and in total we reached over 40k accounts during the day.
  • SOCIAL: August saw our most viewed tweet to date, announcing this round of group leader recruitment.
  • BYNDER: Bynder is now operational with organised images from our server with complete core metadata. Licensing is still pending.
  • ANALYTICS: Felipe thinking about web stats for all our web properties.
  • USER RESEARCH: Filipe leading interviewing for Landing pages and Springboard
  • USER RESEARCH: We’re evaluating a user tracking survey to be implemented on our websites to give us baseline user demographics and segments.
  • NEWSLETTER: Been/are working on newsletters to improve how we deliver content, do user research to optimise what people want and also move to mailchimp
  • SOCIAL: Next month Laura will be working on running a Wiki-edit-a-thon for Ada Lovelace Day and we have some retreats
  • TRAINING: Spilios conducted a ton of training on Stratcom systems for newcomers and the wider organisation.
  • BYNDER: Guidelines created (soon to be shared)

This month



  • Process: Our 3rd cross team web retreat will be held at EBI mid September.
  • Visual Framework: Developer outreach
  • Visual Framework: Core use case tests
  • Visual Framework: First beta pages
  • Content Hub: Expanded content types, metadata, content importing
  • Establish a Visual Framework Working Group and establish governance processes through existing Web Guidelines Committee.
  • Begin work on a boilerplate Group website (pilot with Sharpe Group)


  • Information Architecture: Demonstration of meta data for dynamic looks, navigation
  • Beta of http://beta.embl.org/communications
  • Further definition of global header and footer
  • Initial draft of pan-EMBL user tracking survey.

Springboard: Private beta of Springboard launched at Heidelberg and EBI. This will be to a small group of users as we phase this out.


  • BYNDER: Integration of Bynder into the department processes.
  • BYNDER: Training for EBI and Photolab (TBA)
  • Mark will be in HD week of the 17th September
  • Digital team will be at EBI 25/26th September

What did we learn?

Despite illness and vacations, it has been a busy and productive time since I last sent an update.

As a team, we continued our foundational work as we build delivery capacity in the team. I firmly believe this is time well-spent in ensuring a sustainable digital portfolio for EMBL’s future. And we’re making great progress:

  1. The big news has been the agreement and support for our cross-site collaboration with EBI technical services, Heidelberg IT and our own team. This collaboration enables us to scale our efforts across EBI’s existing web infrastructure and ensure we have the resources to deliver our projects by the end of next year. Massive thanks must go to Jon at EBI, Matthias in IT at Heidelberg, and Dan for their perseverance and patience in getting us this far.
  2. We’ve concluded the awful hard work in auditing our content (thanks Cian!), our URLs (thanks Cian!), and our taxonomy (thanks Cian!). We now *know* what we have, and what we’re lacking.
  3. We’re knee-deep in prototype production for our landing pages for EMBL.ORG. This continues to be a huge team effort. Special thanks to Laura for the content design on the project so far.
  4. Our DAM (Bynder) is operational pending some licensing work. This is great news and thanks for Filipe, Spilios and Cian in pushing it over the line. Now we just have to use it!
  5. We’ve started work on a critical, large project that fits in our PLATFORM project strand: the Visual Framework. As you may know, this is being led by Ken and is an expansion of EBI’s Visual Framework to encompass all of EMBL’s digital products. Ken and Stu are making fabulous progress.

There are a million and one other things as you can see above –– and I’m sure we’ve missed lots –– but this last couple of months has certainly felt like we’ve turned a corner and become more delivery-focussed.

That’s about it. Of course, if you have any questions, let us know.

— Digital Comms
Laura, Cian, Filipe, Ken, Spilios, Stu, and Mark