The End of an Era

After three years, 676 million COVID cases, 6.9 million deaths and 13.3 billion vaccine doses, Johns Hopkins University (JHU) has stopped collecting data for its Coronavirus Resource Center. The site became one of the pandemic’s most-visited resources for tracking COVID-19 around the world and was named one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2020

Capital in Context caught up with our Head of Digital Development Dan Stone, who led the team that built the site.  

How did this project get started?  

JHU had started a dashboard tracking cases and deaths, but it quickly became apparent the pandemic would not be contained and the need for actionable, real-time data was growing. FGS and Hopkins have had a long-standing relationship so when Hopkins decided to scale a website around the dashboard, they reached out to us to support the effort. 

They needed what our team is optimized for, which is rapid response digital and web communications. We very quickly became the production team backing the website we designed and constructed around the dashboard. The initial call came in on a Saturday morning and by the middle of the following week, we had a website up. 

What strategies helped drive the Resource Center’s prominent visibility?

The JHU dashboard became the number one result in all searches related to the pandemic. First and foremost, this is because of the quality of the work, the data and the tireless efforts of different teams across the university. But we wouldn’t have been able to give them the traffic and those billions of hits the way it was initially launched. 

We had to figure out how to make the website a hub, not just for the great work that the original dashboard team was doing in tracking the core effort, but also, what myriad other groups across Hopkins were doing to study, educate, and inform individual and public health decisions. Our team helped get the SEO strategy moving in a way that really was able to propel us to maintain a dominant position for a long time. And the communications side of our team helped drive earned media, including getting CNN to keep Johns Hopkins numbers on their screen every day. Having that integration and partnership across the board was key.

What do you need to pull off complex, high-stakes projects like this? 

Resilience, personal commitment, and a truly collaborative team. This is a project we all feel equal parts proud and deeply grateful to have been a part of.