Complex website project delivered for CRUK in Cambridge

CPL has delivered a new website for Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, part of the Cambridge University School of Medicine.

Established in 2007, the CRUK Cambridge Institute (CRUK CI) was the first major new cancer research centre in the UK for more than 50 years. It carries out research focusing primarily on tumour ecology and evolution and is vital to the efforts of the national charity, CRUK.

CPL has been providing technical web support to CRUK CI for a number of years and it was this relationship and the knowledge gained that helped us when the tender for this project was announced.

The main purpose of the project was to migrate all of the content from CRUK CI’s old Drupal-based website to a new version powered by WordPress. Some of the driving factors in choosing WordPress included:

  • Ease of use – the new site is accessed by more than 1,000 people so it has to be user-friendly.
  • Extensibility – there are countless plugins that can extend functionality quickly and without the need for custom development.
  • Security – with its nicely automated update process, the support team at CRUK CI has an easier time keeping things in order.

As specialists in both platforms, we were able to provide significant workflow improvements with an extensive redesign along the way.

Being part of the university meant there were several systems the new website had to integrate with – something with which the old site had always struggled. Starting with the template architecture, the new site had to accommodate the approved format of the university, with its header, footer and overall search functionality, while presenting CRUK CI as an independent organisation with its own unique content structure.

Some of the technical obstacles that had to be overcome included enabling all CRUK CI staff to login to the new site with their current university credentials via a system called Active Directory. More than 3,000 scientific research papers – published on a platform called Symplectic Elements and going back to 2007 – had to be made available and attributed to the right people. Each of the 41 specialist departments and teams where expecting to be able to create their own ‘micro sites’ within the whole framework. The list goes on...

The site handles recruitment, a news feed from the national CRUK charity and has a bespoke event and seminar management functionality that links to the university’s payment portal.

We built several custom plugins to help simplify the complex backend tasks and workflow faced by the site’s administrators.

The project was completed at the end of 2018 with the launch of the website and subsequent handover of codebase for the CRUK CI team to manage.

Matt Askam, head of digital at CPL, said: “This was a challenging project both in terms of scope and timescale but, through close collaboration with the team at CRUK CI, we were able to break down each obstacle and find a solution quickly and effectively.  The results speak for themselves – lots of positive feedback, rapid take-up by internal teams and very few support requests.”

Ann Kaminski, head of communications at CRUK Cambridge Institute, said: “We were delighted with the way CPL worked with us on this project. They listened carefully to what we wanted to achieve, challenged us when it was necessary and provided tailor-made solutions to some extremely complex requests.”


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