Common Web Platform first update

Bene Anderson, product manager for the Common Web Platform (CWP), shares the first in a regular series of updates regarding the CWP.

Welcome to the first edition of the Common Web Platform (CWP) newsletter. By creating these posts I aim to keep agency staff and their web providers up to date with what’s happening on the CWP. I will be providing information about what agencies are doing, as well as work undertaken by DIA, SilverStripe and Revera.

I will publish a newsletter every 2 months. If you are a CWP user and have a story to tell, contact me at online@dia.govt.nz. I am particularly interested in new developments or approaches that can be shared to benefit other agencies. Let’s stop reinventing the wheel!

This edition presents case studies from the first 2 websites launched on the CWP. The first is from Nathan Wall, the information architect and instance manager of the beta.govt.nz website from the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA). The second is from Alex Herdman, the CWP relationship manager at the Ministry of Transport. I will also discuss the best way to set up video on the CWP, which has been a hot topic over the last few months.

Case study — beta.govt.nz

By Nathan Wall, DIA

We’re really excited to be building the new Govt.nz site on the Common Web Platform. We’re only in our beta phase of the project but we’re already starting to see the benefits and opportunities that the CWP will bring us.

Being on an open source platform is a big plus — our entire project is about openness, transparency, and greater collaboration. That applies to our code, too. We’ve taken open sourced code and designs from the Gov.uk site and used that as the starting point for the design of Govt.nz. This has saved us a huge amount of time and money.

We’ve been working on the beta for a few months now, and we’re not just building a new site, we’re building some tools and CWP modules that will be reusable on other sites, saving other agencies time and money as well. Here’s a line up of what we’re working on:

  • Replicant — this is a module that will enable developers to copy databases easily from one environment to another – really important when you need to get dev or test environments since all your publishing usually happens in your production database
  • Lucidity — this is a small module that plugs in all the necessarily code to get the most recent version of Google Analytics working on your site. All the scripts you need are included, you just need to work out what user events you’re going to track.
  • Children as grid — our content designers on the Govt.nz project love this module. Usually all your pages go into a folder on the site tree. If you get lots of pages in a single folder editing content can get a bit hard. Children as grid moves all the content in a folder into a table layout – its sortable, searchable, and we’re working on a drag’n’drop feature too.

There’s at least 1 more thing we won’t have to develop. The content review module built by the Ministry of Transport (mentioned above) is also a feature we need. We might need to tweak it a bit, but we won’t be starting from scratch. More time and money saved.

Case study — transport.govt.nz

By Alex Herdman, Ministry of Transport

We had known for a while that we really needed a new platform for our public website. The technology we were using was out of date, cumbersome and expensive to host and improve.

Moving to the CWP has given us a modern platform that is more flexible and so much easier to use, and the savings we’re making mean we’re on track to recoup migration costs in about a year.

A big appeal of the platform has been the great range of out-of-the-box features designed to meet government needs, as well as the ability to develop custom functionality, as and when it is needed.

We needed an add-on to remind content owners to review their content at set dates, so we had it developed, and now it’s already in use by at least one other agency.

It’s this ability to share what we develop and collectively invest in the platform that will make it really great, I think.

Using cloud-based services for embedding video on your CWP website

Agencies are recommended to use cloud-based services such as youtube.com to host their video content. It is easy to embed a hosted video into a content page using the content management system.

The advantages of taking this approach are:

  • Can compress a large range of video formats
  • Support for large and long files
  • Options to improve the quality of your video
  • Various security options (password, embed-only, etc). Password can be used as a form of embargo, which is hard to achieve with a CMS usually.
  • Web accessible player, including captioning
  • User can choose HD or normal quality
  • Works across all devices and when a new format is required they updated the player for you
  • Provides analytics specifically about your video content
  • Easy to publish to other social media platforms
  • Doesn’t use up the bandwidth or storage on the CWP infrastructure

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