Case Study

Master Design System: Global website unification


Unify a global company’s total web presence on a single platform – ensuring brand alignment and simplify web content creation


A master design system that provided more control, correctly expressed all brand identities online, and met the requirements of all local markets


All 800+ websites were replaced in one year, and all 80+ markets are using the system for faster, more efficient content creation


A major global pharma company decided to unify its entire web presence with a modular approach run on a single technology platform.

The company, like many pharma businesses, had built hundreds of websites over the years, running on multiple CMS systems, or coded in different ways. This made for a highly complex environment in which web content was hard to overview, slow to update and wasn’t always uniform in brand expression.

In some cases, the websites local markets were ‘locked’ into relationships with agencies that had designed or coded the websites. This effectively removed control of websites from local markets and made changes slow and often expensive to implement.

Anthill was asked to develop a process to completely rethink the company’s web presence, ensuring much greater control and flexibility, and provide the content management solution that would deliver it.

Anthill was also requested to manage the process, engaging hundreds of stakeholders – local markets, technology partners and creative agencies – and enabling them to understand, support and implement the new system.

Master Design System strategy was applied to 800 websites in 80+ countries.

Tor Kristensen




The first step was understanding the company’s full global web presence. As websites had grown organically, there was no central overview of what was published or what the technical requirements and content functionalities were for the new system.

To solve this problem, Anthill created a ‘web crawler’ that identified, visited, and took screenshots of every single company webpage around the world. This research material was then analyzed, and hundreds of existing design elements and content functionalities were catalogued to ensure that all local market requirements would be met.

A ‘spoke and wheel’ strategy was developed for the company’s entire design presence. This enabled the creation of core technical elements centrally – for all brands and websites.

This core system was then used by brand teams to create master brand sites for each product. Local markets then used these master sites to create all the product websites for their markets.

In this way, the company gained the efficiency benefits of centralization, while brand teams could ensure the correct online representation of their brand’s identities. Local markets also benefited from a system that was easier to work with, gave them control, and could speed up the creation and adaptation of websites – while meeting all their specific functionality requirements.

The technical solution for the Master Design System was built using Drupal technology, which was further configured – providing a level of refinement that enabled all products to be properly represented online.

Beyond the technical and creative solution, a major part of the project was managing a complex global project with a great many stakeholders. This was achieved by providing a clear process, continual communication and direct engagement with affiliates, technology partners and creative agencies around the world.

To achieve the speed and scale that the project required, more than 30 agencies were trained in the Master Design System. Webinars were continually run for many months. And detailed documentation was provided together with numerous training videos on all aspects of the system.

Anthill also worked on all areas of the ‘spoke and wheel’ strategy supporting other stakeholders to get the project completed on time.

In addition to specifying and developing the core solution, the agency worked closely with brand teams to ensure that their global brand master sites correctly expressed the products’ visual identities and provided all the functionalities required. Anthill also supported local markets and agencies around the world to create their websites and become confident with the new system.

Client workstream delivery & cross-agency collaboration


The Master Design System was rolled out to all 80+ markets in just over one year – from the initial project scoping to the re-launch of all local websites. All of the company’s 800+ websites were replaced in this time.

While all these sites have a unique ‘look and feel’ and offer very different functionalities, they are all built with the same common Master Design System.

This has enabled local markets and their agencies to exercise more control over the web content – ensuring more frequent content updating and the freedom to create sites and pages much faster while precisely matching all branding requirements.

A unified web presence also enables the company to continually update and expand their web presence. Web content can now be easily shared by global and regional brand teams.

Pages that, for example, provide indication updates are now released to every market simultaneously. Likewise, new functionalities can be added to the Master Design System and immediately accessed by all markets.

With a clear governance process and the investment in local market and agency training – these changes are now implemented without delay around the world.

  • All 800+ of the company’s websites were replaced in one year
  • All 80+ countries are now using the common Master Design System
  • Online brand identities now aligned in all markets
  • Faster, more efficient web content creation
  • New functionalities & product updates released to all markets simultaneously

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