The GDCh story
The German Chemical Society (GDCh) promotes scientific work, research, and education while upholding high standards of quality and integrity. They facilitate the exchange and dissemination of scientific knowledge and support the creation of networks for interdisciplinary and international collaboration, as well as the continuous development of education and training in schools, universities, and professional environments. They also actively seek intensive and constructive dialogue with the public to enhance understanding of chemistry and its connections.
In practice, this means that they have access to a wide range of resources, including scientific articles, research papers, educational materials, events, conferences and much more and they share it with both their members and the public.
Now they were looking to build an app that could facilitate all these different kinds of resources to all of their target groups and could thus be the cornerstone of GDChs’ strategy for a more digital future.
The following challenges were identified in an initial workshop between GDCh and Hygraph solution partner Especial, which was hired by the society to conceptualize, design and develop the app.
Unifying content from multiple sources
The content and resources the GDCh had access to were provided by, stored or saved in various ways – most of which were incapable of delivering the information to a modern web application. Thus, they needed a solution to federate the content in a central content platform that is powerful and flexible enough to hold and provide this extensive amount of information – which Hygraph was quickly chosen for.
Distributing content to a wide range of audience
The members and target groups of GDCh are a rather heterogenous group. They are trying to reach primary school students as well as retired alumnis with their services and offerings. In the digital world, this means that service must be available through as many device types, operating systems etc. as possible. And this broad distribution has to be achieved with limited resources, as the GDCh has a limited budget to work with.
Providing future-ready e-learning services
As the digital beacon project, thinking long-term was important. The GDCh.app needed to have the bandwidth of incorporating future ideas like integrating training offers or the career service. The design, the system landscape and the technical structure of the app had to be equipped to handle these potential changes.
For the project to be a success, it was vital that the members will start interacting with the app and enjoy its benefits. Thus, the following user needs stood front and center.
Quality content at users' fingertips
The GDCh provides diverse and quality content for the chemical community and those interested in chemistry. Integrating their member’s magazine as a bookshelf, and numerous articles from other platforms like Typo3 and Twitter needed to be readily available in the app. Therefore, push notifications, bookmarks, and sharing options were incorporated to make content easy to access and share.
Create a social experience that engages users
It is vital that users of GDCh.app have an easy-to-map social network. Members should be able to share their interests, specialized field, and profile bio. Uploading a profile picture and linking to other social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn were also requirements. Additional communication features were planned to be incorporated in during the lifecycle of the app.
Easy access from any device
The GDCh.app needed to be effortlessly accessible whether the user was in the office, the laboratory, the breakfast table, on the train to the university campus or simply on-the-go. With these requirements in mind, a multi-platform app was created with full functionality on both the Web, and on desktop PCs, notebooks, tablets, and smartphones.
Simplicity with a headless approach
Thanks to an API-based approach and Hygraph, the frontend technology is compatible with data of varying quality, origins, and languages.
The utilized frontend technologies, such as static site generation, afford loading speeds that offer those on the move the best results, as attained in Google Lighthouse and Google Page Speed. Integrated social media tags make it easy for GDCh.app users to share content on various social media platforms and within the company.
Usually, a combination of various programming languages and systems has to be used for the Web, iOS, and Android. However, by using the latest technologies, the team at Especial was able to create a codebase that works for all three platforms simultaneously. This greatly reduces development and future maintenance expenses.
Floating on a cloud
As a result of the cloud, things have become simpler. Gone are the days of complicated hosting and maintenance contracts. Especial has proven that through using the most modern cloud infrastructure from AWS and Vercel, both the frontend and backend require little maintenance and run at minimal cost.
Microservices powered by the cloud
A combination of seven backend microservices were developed, which run automatically and are responsible for updating and upgrading the data for members, articles, images, videos, login, push notifications, authors and much more. Due to a distributed cloud-based microservice architecture, these services are autonomous, fail-proof and easily scalable.
The current setup
Multiple micro apps pull information from the original content sources into Hygraph.
The Next.js-based hybrid frontend app provides the functionality and user experience on all device types and pulls content from Hygraph’s content API.
Auth0 is the third-party membership login platform, which was easy to integrate and shaved additional efforts to develop a secure login and user database off the overall project scope.
Additional micro apps also take the content from Hygraph and distribute it to other communication channels, like the GDCh website, that runs on a legacy CMS.
This traditional Chemical Society needed an app that they could easily take with them into the digital future. With a largely cloud operated infrastructure, the GDCh.app is now a forward-thinking and flexible application that can be updated to include additional services in a matter of only a few weeks.
A modern tech stack for fast-paced development and cloud-like hosting, limiting operating- and maintenance cost
0 planned maintenance hours each month
30,000+ users registered in Germany and beyond
8+ Content sources federated within Hygraph and distributed to different channels
Technical flexibility to expand the scope of the app and its included services for GDCh members in the future.