Introducing the CERN Website Redesign Project

Over the last decade the CERN website has broken the news of some of the most globally significant scientific breakthroughs of the modern era. In that time the site has grown and evolved as new departments, discoveries and experiments have taken form.

That growth has, of course, generated a phenomenal amount of incredible content but has similarly lead to some inconsistencies, duplication and occasionally rendered some content redundant or out of date.

The long view


Image by Flickr user hathome

Have you ever heard the story of the beams in the dining hall of Oxford's New College? The story goes that when the huge oak beams in the great hall's roof became infested with beetles the college was at a loss as how to source replacement oak timbers of sufficient size. The college forrester came to the rescue; it turned out that when New College was built, in the fourteenth century, oaks had been planted in forests owned by the college specifically for the purpose of replacing these beams. Five hundred years later they were ready to be felled and used in the great hall.

This story may be completely fictional, but I like it as an analogy of taking the long view – useful when building colleges designed to last for hundreds of years, but perhaps especially pertinent to building websites.

Taking decisions

CERN is a really great place to debate things. To explore, to discuss, to probe. It has a unique, stimulating culture where you can put up an idea and have it torn to shreds, or have it made better, or have it generate a thousand other ideas. It is a healthy, collegiate culture that is good for the research that takes place here. But sometimes it can be a really challenging place to take simple decisions. There are so many people here who are smarter than you – and who are you to decide?

In the context of creating a new website this is a big problem: who decides?

What should a CERN website look like?

I am proposing that we build a new website for CERN - a tightly-managed core website for official communications. Beyond this website will be many other sites, pages, and applications:

  • Experiment websites
  • Directories such as the greybook and the phonebook
  • Search interfaces
  • Department websites
  • ...

Should these have common design elements, share a common approach to user experience?

What homepage?

Part of my job is to keep the users’ website up to date. Many people call this site ‘the CERN homepage’ – “Dan, can you please post this to the homepage?” It has come to be known as the homepage because when you access from a CERN IP address this is the page you get. However, from an outside IP address you would see the CERN ‘public’ page.

So CERN does not really have a homepage – there are two separate entry points to

Why so blue?

Someone asked me the other day, "Why is this change website so blue and weird?" Good question.

When I discuss the redesign of the new CERN website with people, one of the most common comments I hear is something like, "Yes, about time! We have to make it look really snappy because right now it just looks so awful." This blue design clearly isn't the 'snappy' design of our future new website.


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