EMBL Communications

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


The Digital team in the Communications group are improving and updating EMBL’s web presence

In order to best serve its scientists, students and the wider life-sciences community, it is a strategic and reputational priority for EMBL to optimise its performance on the web. The Digital team is responsible for delivering modern, well-designed, high-performing websites to facilitate EMBL’s work and showcase it to the wider world.

Example projects

Modernising embl.org

Starting in 2018, the Content, Digital and Design (now Creative) 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.

A screenshot of the embl.org homepage taken on 13 October 2021.

One driver of this project is to update from a dated content-management system called Fiona, to the more modern WordPress platform, with a devolved publishing model. Devolved publishing allows EMBL content owners more control over their content, and a the ability to react and publish content quicker.

A new intranet for EMBL, in WordPress

As in many growing organisations, information accumulates on the intranet when it has nowhere else to go. One digital project is to update, modernise, and migrate internal information for EMBL to a new content management system, WordPress.

Much like embl.org, a devolved publishing model will allow staff in groups across EMBL to publish and edit their own content. The users who best know the content become its editors. The new intranet, built in WordPress, has new editing tools and bespoke themes for an EMBL “feel”.

Screenshot of the new intranet homepage, in development, October 2021.

The intranet project will help to avoid silo-ing of information, with a “one intranet for all sites” approach – except EMBL EBI, who recently upgraded their intranet(s), and will be sticking with their modern Drupal system until further notice.

The Visual Framework – a digital design system for the life sciences

The Visual Framework (VF) enables good defaults and technical flexibility for life science websites. This codebase makes hundreds of EMBL websites look and feel consistent, and work seamlessly together. It makes these sites accessible and intuitive to use. The VF is a service for the whole organisation, and a key branding element that preserves EMBL’s credibility online.

The code is organised into components – visual and functional elements used to build websites – which are designed to integrate easily with many of the digital tools used across the organisation.

Combine these components into a website, and it will look and feel consistent with other websites regardless if they exist on the embl.org, EBI.ac.uk or other domains.