COP28 was a landmark climate change event. For four weeks, governments and organizations from around the world gathered in Dubai, UAE, to discuss the climate and pledge funding for a greener future.

Such a colossal event, both in terms of subject matter and sheer length, came with a hefty digital footprint comprising of a sprawling 170+ page website, alongside 44 different applications.

The journey to getting COP28 online started 12 months prior, when Sitecore Platinum Partner Omnia was entrusted with the mammoth mission.

Their technology of choice? Sitecore XP.

Adam Booth, Omnia’s Group Managing Director, and Jamie Graham, Omnia’s Director of Digital Transformation & Consulting, presented the story to the audience at Sitecore DX Dubai.

Under the microscope from Day 1

Building such a large-scale project comes with inherent pressures, but COP28 was a totally different ballgame. With oil revenue remaining a key player in the UAE’s economy at the time of the event, the Omnia team had the hard task of lowering some already raised eyebrows.

Many organizations were keeping a close and critical eye on the event’s buildup. Branding, messaging, and of course, efficiency, were all up for scrutiny from an abnormally skeptical sea of onlookers.

Furthermore, the UAE government had high expectations when it came to cybersecurity, adding another layer of difficulty and pressure to the project, as cyberattacks were very much expected during the event.

Following the sun

The primary deliverable for COP28 would be an app that would handle the event, online ticketing, payment gateways, travel and transportation guides, and multi-content workflows.

There would be 44 different products to be integrated into Sitecore to facilitate this. However, due to the nature of the event, Omnia would need to facilitate an approach called “Follow the Sun” with the organization running 24 hours a day to update content and components and then push to delivery.

Omnia used Sitecore XP’s headless content delivery capability to keep the COP28 mobile app filled with dynamic and compelling content throughout the event.

It was expected that the website would see multiple millions of visitors simultaneously, and yet it would need to stay live without suffering performance dips.

To keep the website running smoothly at all times while fulfilling the UAE government’s requirements, COP28’s 170+ page website was hosted on local cloud infrastructure – Azure UAE North.

During the four-week event, the COP28 website was subject to between 600,000 to 2.5 million DDoS attacks per day. AI-powered threat analysis and threat intelligence had already been integrated to help manage the sheer amount of attacks.

Accomplishing transient delivery

For an event as grand and politically prominent as COP28, Omnia prepared themselves for a constantly evolving project, and with numerous sub-events, brand changes, and messaging evolutions leading up to COP28, that preparation was vital.

Omnia embraced a transient delivery approach, which takes into account projects that continue to morph without a set scope. Selecting Sitecore XP early in the process enabled them to commit and prepare for this approach.

In the buildup to the event, partnerships with different integrations for the ticketing, booking, partnerships, sponsors, SMB setups, CRM integration, and the catering portal were being defined and re-defined as needed.

To make it all possible (not to mention manageable), the agency used Sitecore’s API layer as a sponge to absorb and integrate with hundreds of third-party products.

Lowering COP28’s carbon footprint

If the goal is to keep carbon emissions low, you’d probably steer clear of building big things. Omnia accepted the challenge, regardless.

As the world’s most climate-conscious event, fulfilling the UAE government’s commitment to sustainability was vital for the success of the project — and compressed image files weren’t going to cut it.

Omnia’s carbon-curbing efforts began at the design phase.

A robust Figma design system would serve as a single source of truth and remove subjectivity. Pages and other assets could be built as white-labeled components within Sitecore that could be adapted as needed. This would enable Omnia to quickly roll out digital experiences even if they only received the required content an hour or two before.

Omnia took things a step further by incorporating a CDN, which helped optimize content and delivery, but multilayer caching also facilitated energy saving, CPU reduction, and Green Hosting.

Finally, Omnia unveiled something intriguing to the crowd at Sitecore DX Dubai – their “Low Carbon” version of the COP28 website.

With a simple toggle button, website visitors could simply remove images and video content from the website in totality, greatly reducing energy consumption as they browse. Typically, such a move would also greatly reduce a website’s beauty and user experience, but Omnia’s solution made the switch seamless. They incorporated subtle color gradients to replace any and all imagery, making the website look different, but certainly not worse.

Far from being a digital stunt, Omnia demonstrated the impact of their innovation, with the low carbon mode saving the equivalent of 1.9 million full phone charges during the event alone. The success of the feature drew attention from global news organizations.

Impressive performance on-site and in the cloud

COP28 was a resounding success. It raised over $85 billion in commitments from governments and organizations around the world to combat carbon emissions globally.

Throughout the month-long event, 1,000+ live events took place, with ticketing, catering, and promotional content working seamlessly alongside each one.

Despite the high stakes, Omnia didn’t succumb to the pressure. Instead, they leveraged their wealth of expertise to execute a website and mobile app experience that was local, low-carbon, security-hardened, and incredibly beautiful — with or without imagery.

To read a full recap of Sitecore DX Dubai, check out our summary blog.

Jason Masini is Senior Director of Content Marketing at Sitecore. Follow him on LinkedIn.