Crossrail is the new high frequency, metro railway for London and the South East. From 2018 Crossrail trains will travel on the Elizabeth Line from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, via new twin tunnels under central London.
Long Term Digital Partner
We have been the digital partner for Crossrail since 2009, when we we were awarded the contract after a competitive OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union) tender. We successfully renewed the contract in 2013 when the project went back out to public tender.
The initial project was to support Crossrail’s existing website and hosting platform, undertake maintenance work and work towards a full site redesign. We successfully managed Crossrail’s existing website and hosting platform for 18 months before the new site launched, we provided support to their team, managed the Rackspace hosting account and added value to the site by increasing performance and adding functionality.
In 2010 we planned a complete redesign of the Crossrail website. The project took around six months to re-launch the site. Following this, we worked with Crossrail to enhance and add functionality to their website to help them effectively communicate the project and its benefits to a range of users and stakeholders.
As mobile traffic doubled year-on-year we undertook a responsive redesign of the entire site, which was launched in 2013, using agile project management techniques to help prioritise work. A further redesign of the homepage and other key areas of the site followed in 2016.
Evolution of the website on a solid CMS platform
Throughout this time the underlying CMS platform remained the same, even though we made major changes to the design and layout of the website.
In 2010 Studio 24 developed a custom CMS based on the open source Zend Framework. We designed a system with a sophisticated content model, which enabled us to manage any type of content on the site. It also had good support for multimedia and geo-tagging content (which helped us build an interactive map).
The custom CMS approach is not one we tend to take these days, instead preferring to start with existing open source CMSs such as Drupal 8 or WordPress. We now focus our efforts on adding value to existing, powerful CMS platforms.
Key project timeline
The need to constantly evolve and reflect the progress and stages of the infrastructure project was important to the success of the Crossrail website. An iterative design and development approach was essential in making this happen efficiently. Key project milestones included:
- June 2009 – Support and maintenance for existing CMS and hosting management transferred to Studio 24
- Feb 2010 – Near You interactive map launched alongside existing old site (tunnel boring machine locations, work site locations)
- July 2010 – Used Varnish Cache to improve performance and deal with high traffic spikes (reduced peak load time by 85%)
- Jan 2011 – Relaunched new, redesigned Crossrail website on new CMS platform
- Jan 2013 – Responsive redesign launched (27% of traffic was mobile)
- Dec 2013 – Multi-tier cloud hosting platform launched on Rackspace Cloud
- July 2015 – Redesign of Near You map (mobile friendly, full-screen map, route map, journey planner)
- Feb 2016 – Major redesign on key pages (new homepage, station pages) to reflect changing focus of Crossrail project (moved from construction & tunnelling to stations & benefits for customers)
- May 2017 – Crossrail Archeology website launched