Building a new core website for CERN

The web was born at CERN, but as early adopters, our own web presence now needs some love. With a new era of discovery ahead of us, the Communication Group is embarking on a project to develop a new core website for CERN that will make it easier and more enjoyable to access information in a timely way. The Bulletin catches up with Dan Noyes, who is leading this project, to learn more.


CERN’s online presence is currently spread across  many disparate websites, all separately managed. For example, there is no single home for news and announcements; the Bulletin is published every two weeks and, in between publications, news and announcements appear in a number of channels such as the users' page, Twitter, the Quantum Diaries blog, e-mails from Management direct to staff and users, and so on. "The idea of the new core website for CERN is to create a single place where one can find all this information," says Dan.

The project, supported by the DG and the IT Department, will look at redesigning the current public website, the Bulletin website, the Press Office website and the users' page. "It’s a big challenge to design a website to serve CERN's amazingly diverse community. There are thousands of CERN staff and users, each with their own requirements and opinions – not to mention the broad, global audience hungry for information about CERN and the research that takes place here. How do you design a great online experience that satisfies everyone? I think this will be a particular challenge when we look at improving the users' page," says Dan.

Dan’s approach to the problem consists in listening to the Lab’s audiences to understand their needs. “The very first step of the redesigning process is to announce the planned changes early on, and explain the processes and thinking that will guide these changes," confirms Dan. “It's no use closing the door and producing a new website after a couple of months and then releasing it – people would hate it!”

On the technical side, the IT Department has already done a great job putting in place a new infrastructure and service for web content management, based on open source software called Drupal. This was done through the 'ENTICE' consultative process involving experiments and departments. In addition, to help in the design process, the Communication Group is working with Mark Boulton’s web design agency – a company with a successful track record in open, consultative design projects involving large, diverse communities. "I'm really excited to be working with Mark and his team. I have followed their work for a number of years and I have been thoroughly impressed with their ability to engage with large, diverse communities in an open design process. This feels like a really good fit for us at CERN," says Dan.

Mark Boulton, the lead designer with the design agency working on this project, will be presenting an IT colloquium on 1 September entitled 'Designing for communities'. The project team will be blogging about the project here: All staff and users are welcome to attend Mark's talk at 11a.m. on 1 September in the Council Chamber. If you are unable to attend, a video recording of the session will be posted to the change blog. 

by CERN Bulletin