Creating a Fast, Secure Digital Home for the Science City

Top WordPress agency Elementary Digital builds a dynamic online presence for the UK's leading science and innovation campus using WP Engine's enterprise platform.

Industry: Science & Technology

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Challenge: Create a scalable WordPress site that encourages organizations to conduct cutting-edge research at the UK’s leading science and innovation campus. Tell Harwell’s story and foster a community of like-minded individuals through a fast, secure online experience.

Solution: Custom WordPress design and development led by Elementary Digital, built on WP Engine’s enterprise WordPress platform for high performance, speed, and security.

Results: A captivating online experience with impressive, user-centric results. has achieved Good (green) scores for all Core Web Vitals and Google Lighthouse metrics with media-rich pages loading faster than ever before. A 9% increase in traffic has boosted visibility for the campus through a secure, performant site.

The Harwell Science and Innovation Campus is evolving, introducing an updated kit of communications to reflect the role they play in powering up the UK science and innovation community. The campus provides facilities for teams of municipal, academic, and private sector experts to come together and work on issues ranging from nanotechnology to quantum and climate science.

Elementary Digital is a WP Engine Agency Partner and one of the leading digital agencies in the UK. Its team specializes in WordPress design and development, digital strategy, and eCommerce solutions.

“We knew we needed the site to be able to support a lot of media because the imagery is what was going to bring the campus to life, and with WP Engine, we knew we could deliver something that was going to give Harwell the scale and stability they needed, even with all that content.” 

—Gyles Seward, Managing Partner, Elementary Digital

An Online Reflection of a Real-World Community

The Harwell Science and Innovation Campus has ample room for big ideas at a location perfectly positioned near Oxford University. 

Founded more than 70 years ago, Harwell’s vision has always been to provide a place where those big ideas can become solutions to real-world challenges.

Today, the “Science City,” as it’s affectionately known, provides the perfect backdrop for leading researchers in their respective fields to come together and engage in the conversations that will lead to tomorrow’s innovations. 

Harwell’s legacy website, however, did not reflect the esteemed intentions of the campus.

While the site offered clear information about the Harwell campus and its origins, it lacked the functionality needed to truly reflect the campus’ potential and attract new tenants.

To help them transform their online experience into one that both incentivizes new organizations to bring their research to the campus and makes that process easy and accessible, Harwell’s leaders contacted Elementary Digital, a Leeds-based WP Engine Agency partner that specializes in custom WordPress development.   

“Harwell’s campus is near Oxford, but the research that’s conducted there has a global impact,” said Elementary Digital Managing Partner Gyles Seward. “They needed a site that supported that level of renown.”

Because Harwell’s previous site was built on WordPress, its web team wanted the new site to provide a similar back-end experience, but it required wide improvements both from a design and performance standpoint. 

The new site also needed to quickly and effectively display information about available working spaces on the campus as well as media-rich content detailing the cutting-edge research being conducted there.

Building a Home for the Science City Online

Seward approached Harwell’s stakeholders about using WP Engine’s enterprise WordPress platform as the hosting solution for the new site. 

“We introduced Harwell to WP Engine because Harwell is a well-recognized organization across the globe, and it’s important that their information is presented quickly whether it’s being pulled up in the UK, the U.S., or China,”  he said.

Leveraging WP Engine's platform and server infrastructure for speed and security, Elementary Digital rebuilt the site entirely and provided additional functionality allowing visitors to sort through available workspaces while maintaining all the valuable information from the old site.

Harwell’s new site shows interactive renderings of available space on the campus, helping researchers determine which developments will work for their specific projects.

The advanced developer tools available to Elementary Digital as a WP Engine Agency Partner, combined with WP Engine’s award-winning 24/7 support, made it possible for the Elementary Digital team to design and develop an engaging, secure website. 

“We needed the site to be able to support a lot of media because the imagery is what was going to bring the campus to life," Seward said.

"With WP Engine, we knew we could deliver something that was going to give Harwell the scale and stability they needed, even with all that content.”

The Results

With secure hosting that detects and protects against threats while delivering lightning-fast speeds for end users the world over, WP Engine gave Elementary's team the ability to focus on the Harwell site’s aesthetic and functionality. 

This ensured any uptick in traffic was met with the best possible performance and illustrated the campus’ position as a leader in science and technology research.

After launching the new site, Harwell’s visibility increased dramatically, and performance indicators blew past expectations.

When testing on desktop, Harwell’s new site now achieves a Lighthouse performance score of 98 and it’s in the green across all of Google’s Core Web Vitals.

During the site build, Elementary Digital utilized an in-house Google Pagespeed Insights approach in conjunction with WP Engine’s industry-leading enterprise WordPress platform, which helped improve all important metrics outlined by Harwell at an astonishing rate.

Core Web Vitals metrics for Harwell's new site are all within the Good or green threshold

“Because we followed the Pagespeed Insights best practices and we had a quality hosting partner in WP Engine, we knew the results would look great," Seward said.

"Even still, our counterparts at Harwell were shocked at how quickly the site improved in rankings. Safe to say it’s been very well received.”

Traffic has increased by 9% year on year, attracting even more eyes to the Science City.

Now, Harwell has the digital real estate it needs to tell stories about the cutting-edge research happening on the campus and attract even more innovators to join in the community that’s blossoming there.

Moving forward, the site will be used as a marketing tool and digital showcase for the campus as Harwell brings even more expertise onto its campus.

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