The Folger Shakespeare Library

All the world's a stage, so we gave Folger a revitalized digital stage presence powered by Drupal.

he Folger Shakespeare Library houses the largest collection of historical Shakespearian literature, manuscripts, and artifacts in the world. Folger is internationally recognized as a leader in the preservation of rare materials, digital humanities research and initiatives, and advanced scholarly programs. They also provide print and digital resources for academics and students of every age.

Project Mission

Folger originally sought to better digitalize and strengthen their digital footprint globally under a new director. They wished to revitalize their online presence with an updated site structure that better catered to their wide breadth of audiences, from the general public to knowledgeable research scholars.

What We Did

WDG partnered with Folger to give their web administrators a completely customized Drupal content management system using flexible Drupal layouts and a curated design to optimize traffic with 100% uptime. By building a better digital presence for their global audiences, WDG became an agency of record for Folger. We have continued our partnership with Folger through multiple ongoing events and projects, including additional web applications, exhibition digital kiosks/user experiences, and more.

Capitalizing on #SHX400


April 23, 2016 marked the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. As such, site traffic increased by nearly 1,200%. WDG adjusted the server resources to accommodate double the amount of average traffic in anticipation of this spike, resulting in increased prominence across the web. The Google Doodle on April 23rd also featured an interactive Shakespeare animation with a curated list of related results. To capitalize on this opportunity, we included targeted SEO in the metadata so Folger appeared in impressive 7th standing. The website was featured in The Boston Globe, The New York Times, BBC and C-SPAN with a 1,200% increase for Shakespeare Documented, while The Wonder of Will page had a 230% increase. We also created a digital book reader application and an exhibition kiosk of the first folio for a digital user experience.

The Wonder of Will: 400 years of Shakespeare for Folger Shakespeare Library

Targeting Folger's Audiences with Proto-Personas

WDG strategists began with an initial audit that uncovered an overly complex information architecture. Key stakeholder interviews and proto-persona exercises helped identify Folger’s diverse target audience needs, so we utilized card sorting and other exercises to complete a thorough inventory of the existing content. WDG strategists used an open card sort to reveal initial recommendations for terminology and affinity groups, then completed a closed card sort exercise to refine the site map. This helped determine which content should be migrated or archived. Auditing the large amount of content made it easier to organize a new, more intuitive information architecture to streamline the overall site structure with improved taxonomies.

Lord Ogleby examines the extra large sitemap for the Folger Shakespeare Library

Employing Custom Drupal Layouts

After vetting and consolidating Folger’s extensive library of content, we gave their administrators a more powerful and efficient method of managing content with Drupal. Moving away from the website’s original HTML structure and transferring the features onto a flexible WYSIWYG editor made it easier for administrators to curate their website with even limited experience. WDG developers also included custom features that allow Folger administrators to promote upcoming events and exhibitions, update a tailored Folger calendar, and create alerts for event cancellations or rescheduling.

Folger Shakespeare Library tablet design

A Bold Reimagining of Design

The reinvigorated design for Folger’s website matches the theatrical grandeur of the Bard’s works. A visually strong, dynamic image introduces viewers to Folger, continually re-engaging the user with each new call to action. The all-encompassing nature of available content, including theatre offerings, research, exhibits, publications, and historical writings, also required a robust navigation with a clean design to help users efficiently and quickly locate desired information. For example, the unique header visually balances the extensive logo with carefully organized page links, while the pagination and dropdowns within the nav employ custom imagery. The responsive multi-level menu system, a crucial tool for Folger’s world-wide mobile audience, was custom built to display on smaller screens successfully while maintaining the navigation’s user-friendliness.

Folger Shakespeare Library homepage mockup

Customizing the Bard

Custom features for Folger’s content portfolio were included in the design, including a specific “Donations” feature to help garner support for funded projects. The entire catalogue of Shakespearean texts were also carefully organized with multiple search options under the World Shakespeare Bibliography, a project which resulted from our continuous relationship with Folger and partnered with Texas A&M University and Johns Hopkins University. While our team created a suggested imagery design, flexible layouts allowed Folger administrators to easily choose and replace imagery as needed in the backend. The prominent events calendar can also be easily and quickly updated on the CMS in real-time. In tandem with this project, WordPress was utilized to power customized microsites for Folger’s various collection of blogs. Our team curated a uniform aesthetic for the blog feature which allowed for slight differentiations between individual bogs while ensuring a cohesive theme across the site.

Folger Shakespeare Library

Search Integration with Solr

We gave the Folger’s users the ability to find content easily by integrating Solr with their Drupal CMS. To maximize the use of Solr for Folger, WDG’s development team customized weighting fields and content types, enabling a more relevant search experience for users. Our team created a custom Drupal module that took into account individual content types and the page’s url for either boosting or removing terms from the search index based on importance. On the back end, we implemented WDG’s CMS search plugin, Jarvis, to aid Folger’s web content team in navigating their content management system efficiently. Our developers ported it over to Drupal to help the Folger’s administrators navigate their website, content, and menu items more easily.

Folger Shakespeare Library advanced search details

Server Optimization

In order to provide an efficient user experience, WDG implemented Varish Cache to accelerate requests to the Folger’s content-heavy website. We also implemented Alternative PHP Cache to prevent PHP from processing the same data repeatedly, and Memcached to store processed data and cached pages for quicker experiences. Caching the site created faster user experiences while preventing site errors in the event of downtime. To maximize the experience on and its corresponding digital properties, Blackmesh, an established WDG Partner, was tapped as the hosting vendor for the organization.

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Becoming an Agency of Record

Founded off of a successful relaunch of, Folger and WDG have continued this digital partnership. This has resulted in other digital property refreshes, joint partnerships with established universities for WSB project, and continuous other projects with the distinguished organization. In addition to and The World Shakespeare Bibliography, we have collaborated with Folger on Shakespeare Documented, The Wonder of Will, The First Folio Exhibition Tour, and several digital applications geared towards different exhibits and display platforms.

Folger Shakespeare Library Drupal responsive design details
Mobile design details for The Wonder of Will
Folger Shakespeare Library First Folio design details
Folger Shakespeare Library Wonder of Will design mockup on tablet

Receive a standing ovation with our Drupal-powered designs.

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Hubbard Radio

Created by Zaff Studiofrom the Noun Project