CWP update: vaults, carts and managing the pool

I want to share 2 case studies from agencies that are using the Common Web Platform (CWP). I'll also tell you a bit about the co-funded development pool and give you some general updates.

The first case study is from Stephen Moore, Manager Channels at the Ministry for Primary Industries. Their redevelopment of mpi.govt.nz has some neat features that other agencies could reuse. The second is from Kerry Sunderland, Website and e-Marketing Coordinator at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT). NMIT’s case study shows how they have extended CWP.

Case study — mpi.govt.nz

By Stephen Moore, MPI

MPI was formed from the merger of Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) and Ministry of Fisheries (MFish). We are rationalising the six main websites from these legacy agencies into a single, modern, seamless website for the new Ministry that enables our customers to successfully achieve their goals.

It’s not just about migrating the existing websites and content onto a new platform — the new website is being completely re-designed to focus on our customers’ most important needs and written in plain English. It is highly task-focused and aims to clearly help customers through the core compliance processes they may need to follow. We’ve also made consumer information more easily available for people travelling, visiting and taking part in recreational activities like fishing and hiking.

The new website is also fully responsive so it will work on all mobile devices. Once the new website is up and running we will look towards enabling our customers to do more of their transactions with us online.

Being able to access the Common Web Services panel and using CWP has meant development of the site has been easy to manage. The web team are very positive about the SilverStripe content management system (CMS) compared to some they are using at present.

As one of the first agencies to build a relatively large website on CWP, we’ve had to invest in developing functionality that wasn’t available out of the box. In saying that, we’re really pleased with how the site looks and functions, and there’s been plenty of interest and positive feedback from other agencies who will hopefully benefit from the work we’ve done to date. We’re also keeping a keen eye on what other agencies are working on and there certainly seems to be a willingness amongst agencies to share and collaborate which is great.

We’ve developed four features that we think will be of interest across government.

We built the Document Vault to provide a more manageable and rich document repository. It allows us to save documents centrally, to easily manage versions, and have website links find the most current file every time. The admin interface lets us tag the document content object with digital and print metadata, such as keywords, author, ISBN, and a cover image, and provides an advanced search feature so we can find a document from any one of the metadata attributes. The Document Vault uses the Taxonomy module to tag the documents for improved searching and browsing.

Building on the Document Vault module is the Document Cart. This is like a shopping cart, but without online payment. The user browses for documents and adds them to the cart. They then click on the cart, define the number of documents they require and provide their contact details. An alert is then sent to our team who then post out the publication. The documents are often brochures for public awareness campaigns such as the recreational fishing guide.

The Quickfind feature is available on every page of the website and allows users to quickly access content by filtering on tags and categories. Quickfind is an alternative to search and is more user friendly than the advanced search options that websites often include. It supports the dynamic information architecture of the website which is about tagging and browsing, rather than fitting content into a traditional tree structure.

We have also modified the Subscribe to updates module. This allows users to choose topics that they want updates on. For example, updates about forestry or biosecurity. The user can change the topics they are subscribed to and unsubscribe through the website. It works by integrating the SilverStripe CMS with a software-as-a-service email campaign tool called Campaign Monitor. Campaign Monitor manages the lists of subscribers, sends out the updates and provides analytics.

Case study — nmit.ac.nz

By Kerry Sunderland, NMIT

In 2013, NMIT migrated its website to the Silverstripe CMS just before the launch of CWP. The focus of this phase was on upgrading the back end CMS so that it “talked to” our new student management system. While we now have a website that is much more functional, up-to-date and easier to manage, user experience design is the focus for the first quarter of 2014. We have already implemented a number of information architecture changes and the next step will be a new interface design, including a much friendlier and easier to use online application form.

NMIT benefitted from the many out-of-the-box features provided by CWP. This effectively enabled us to migrate our old website in a really short time frame, because we didn’t have to start from scratch. Critically, scalable responsive design was embedded within the new CMS, which enabled us to deploy a responsive website very quickly and easily. Building a site on a “work in progress” platform was a challenge, but this opportunity allowed NMIT to provide valuable feedback which has since been added to improve CWP.

The website contains 90+ pages which are generated by a third party application called ebs4 (our “master database” or student management system). These pages can automatically pull in NMIT programme and courses content from the ebs4, ensuring this content is accurate and up to date.

We used the sub-sites feature to really cost effectively create a simple new website for the Top of the South Trades Academy.

We have also launched a version of the NMIT website in Mandarin using the Translatable module, which enabled us to launch our China website without any significant additional investment in development. We’re hoping that future enhancements to the CWP CMS will include the ability to embed YouKu videos, given that YouTube is blocked in China.

Managing the co-funded development pool

Built into the monthly cost of using CWP is a contribution to the co-funded development pool. The pool can be used in range of ways including building new features and themes, adding features built by agencies into the standard CWP website and making improvements to the SilverStripe CMS. As usage of CWP and contribution to the pool grows, so do the expectations from agencies as to how it is managed, and the value it delivers.

We started with a simple approach to prioritising the backlog with agencies. We received feedback from the agencies that they wanted to know more detail about how it works. They also agreed that a proportional approach should be taken, giving agencies that are using more instances more of a say in how the hours are used.

So we have run workshops to provide clarity, visibility and transparency. Clarity relates to all the processes being clear, documented and available to participating agencies; visibility as to what is logged, underway and completed; and transparency as to the decision-making and the planning. All of this information will be available to participating agencies through the CWP shared workspace in March 2014.

News and updates

Since my last CWP blog post, New Zealand Blood Service, the Treasury and the Financial Markets Authority have signed up. There are now 19 participating agencies.

New websites launched on CWP include:

2 comments

  1. Comment #1. Nishant:

    Good article and lot of useful information.
    re: mpi.govt.nz
    how do you choose your content platform? was there any set criteria?

  2. Comment #2. Stephen Moore:

    We had developed a set of criteria/ requirements for our new website, which included things like search, functionality, accessibility, publishing content, reporting and analytics, mobility/ responsive design, usability etc. The detailed requirements were based on user research.
    However, MPI has always been supportive of all-of-government initiatives, so rather than evaluating a range of content platforms, our starting point was to evaluate our criteria against the CWP and use CWP unless there was a good reason not to – which their wasn’t.

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