Day 1

Day 1 saw the Salsa staff hit the conference rooms, starting with an enlightening keynote from Zaidul Alam, the current board director and national data lead of GovHack Australia Limited. He spoke about GovHack including its relationship with open source and some of the projects that have come out of the GovHack weekend hackathons. 

Below are some key takeaways from some of the other day 1 sessions.

Managing a managed service: An exercise in automating the D8 to D9 upgrade for over 170 websites 

By Alistair O’Neill & Yvonne Norris from GovCMS/the Department of Finance

This session reflected on the work automating the move for 170+ GovCMS websites from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9. Lessons learnt will be fed into the next project, moving 280+ sites from D9 to D10. Key areas of improvement identified include: 

  • Build earlier, build often
  • Automate more
  • Clarify scope
  • Targeted communication
  • Plan, plan…
  • Engage both up and down stream
  • Plan for the worst, aim for the best
  • Help customers help themselves

The challenges of designing a HCD component-based design system and Drupal 9 theme

By Akhil Bhandari 

Not surprisingly there were a few Salsarians in Akhil’s session. 

Key takeaways: CivicTheme is a design system (Figma) and Drupal 9 (and 10) theme. It was built to extend on the Australian Design System (AuDS). It solves the problems associated with building websites, such as: 

  • High costs
  • Long project timelines
  • Lack of consistent UX that meets accessibility standards
  • Repeated patterns
  • Repetition of basic development (costs)
  • Lack of flexibility in ongoing management

The top 5 challenges were also presented: 

  • Designing for the user
  • Make a meaningful improvement to the AuDS/GOLD
  • Fitting product development into a busy agency
  • Choosing a basic colour palette
  • You can’t be everything to everyone

Better user and editor experience – exploring open data on GovCMS 

By Julia Topliss (Morpht) & Matthew Pirani (IPEA)

This project moved a 5 year old GovCMS PaaS site to the GovCMS SaaS platform. Key areas for project success were: 

  • Revised IA and content model
  • Content more discoverable
  • Editors to manage content better
  • Data discoverability

Mobile accessibility: building accessible mobile sites and native apps

By Gian Wild, AccessibilityOz

This was a fascinating look at accessibility!

With WCAG 2.0 created in 2006 and big changes in mobile technology since then, there was a gap. WCAG 2.1 was supposed to address mobile, and while it does include guidelines that relate to touch screens it still doesn’t address everything. A global group of accessibility specialists got together and developed a new methodology to better cover accessibility for mobile sites and native apps. 

The outcome for mobile was the Mobile Accessibility Guidelines, which were released in January 2020. The guidelines cover a five-step process. Gian also talked about five common traps that users with accessibility issues encounter. 

Day 2

Day 2 was another busy Drupal day! We started with the keynote, Sarah-Jane Peterschlingmann (Managing Director and owner of ATech) talking about leading talented teams. She had some great insights around what makes talented people happy in an organisation. She also presented some questions you should be asking at an organisation-wide level to gauge happiness. 

Using Drupal as a content store for Service NSW apps

By Michael Caddy

Michael provided some insights into Service NSW and its digital journey. Service NSW provides 1300 services, with many transactions now digital. It’s seen significant growth in the past 2-3 years and currently gets 4-7 millon site visitors per month. 

The system uses Drupal 9 (was Drupal 7 but now Drupal 9) and also React, Java and APIs. It’s also heavily customised and partially decoupled. The site uses the Microcontent module (built by Previous Next) and also uses Workflow and Workbench for custom workflow.

Building QA Dashboards in Drupal

By Arijit Dutta, Srijan

Arijit presented a QA dashboard that aggregates: 

  • Security testing
  • Performance testing
  • Functional testing

The dashboard is an internal product (for Srijan). It highlights the power of a consolidated approach to testing, particularly having testing metrics to track each project and show project health. 

A case study about location-based search on nsw.gov.au website

By Jibran Ijaz, NSW Customer Service 

Jibran introduced NSW’s OneCX program, which is trying to consolidate NSW Government sites. In total, there are/were 750 NSW sites that could be consolidated. As part of this consolidation, the OneCX team has tackled the problem of location-based searching using different spatial concepts such as regions, local government authorities, suburbs, postcodes, etc. 

The nsw.gov.au site uses Australia Post’s public dataset for geographic information for postcode and suburb. This data is used to tag content, allowing proximity search to work across various use cases.

Beyond plain language 

By Diana Campbell, Oxide Interactive 

Dianna started with a definition of content as being all the pixels that appear inside a frame (words, images, forms, etc.). 

Key takeaways include:

  • Bring content people into projects at the start
  • Reduce word count — think of word count as ‘effort’ score (more words equals more effort)
  • Remove FAQ pages — they’re often duplicating content 
  • Use a tool like Hemmingway to review text for readability
  • Break up the page into manageable chunks using things like:
    • Summary text
    • Anchor links
    • Video
    • Call to action panels
    • Bullet points
    • Tables
    • Numbers and facts panels

Dianna also introduced the concept of user stories for content, especially when communicating complex processes. As an X I want to Y so that I can Z. 

Building a secure, authenticated federal agency Drupal platform

By Julie Erben & Alex Skrypnyk

Julie and Alex spoke about a large project for a federal agency that can’t be named for security reasons. The project built a new, user-authenticated portal including a complete redesign. 

Key project management takeaways covered:

  • Carefully consider the content data model 
  • Ensure accessibility is dealt with early on
  • Make sure stakeholders have truly considered the design 
  • Faceted search is hard — make sure you allow enough time and budget for it
  • The right team is paramount

Key technical solutions included: 

  • A dedicated AWS account and managed Lagoon cluster
  • A secure internet gateway and fully managed next-gen web application firewall (WAF)
  • Nightly migration runs from scratch within a dedicated environment and migration validation process 
  • Nightly automated task to sanitise production database (GDPR Drupal module) and export it (using gdpr-mysqldump package) to AWS 
  • Initial migration of external 1.2TB of searchable content and assets and future-proofing to support 500GB data storage increase per year via storage in AWS OpenSearch
  • Visual design based on CivicTheme component-based design system
  • Secure analytics system with Matomo

By Sean Hamlin, amazee.io 

Sean took us through some enlightening stats on CMS use for Australian government websites. He started by looking at states and then looked at federal government sites. Below we’ve included the Drupal % for each jurisdiction:

  • VIC — 29.5%  (includes SDP sites)
  • NSW — 18.7% 
  • SA — 6.9%
  • WA — 18.6% 
  • TAS — 3.8%
  • QLD — 9.3%
  • ACT — 12.9%
  • NT — 18.2%
  • Federal (excluding state-based sites) — 41.4% …with a nod to the head of GovCMS Sharyn Clarkson, who was in the second row

Averaging out these figures, 27.2% of government websites in Australia are built with Drupal. Or as Sean said: “Drupal powers over a quarter of the websites in Australian government.”

And in case you’re interested, the next top contender is Squiz, with 12.1% of government sites in Australia. 

Sean also compared open source and proprietary systems:

  • 41.6% proprietary
  • 58.4% open source

That’s a wrap

We loved DrupalSouth but we’re all exhausted now! With such a long break between in-person events, we all need to get used to the pace of a busy conference (and socialising) so much. Having said that, bring on DrupalSouth 2023!


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