Croydon Council is sharing a publishing platform with Brighton & Hove
Rather than reinventing the wheel, Croydon Council has agreed with Brighton & Hove City Council to re-use its web publishing platform and work on updates together
A few months ago I wrote a blog post about government’s obsession with building publishing platforms. I’ve worked on 4 such projects to date, and I know council veterans who’ve done far more.
Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper if we just used someone else’s work? Provided they let us, and they’ve covered the basic user needs, of course.
I’m delighted to say that Croydon is doing just that. We’ve just started redesigning the main croydon.gov.uk website and, rather than starting from scratch, we’re adopting Brighton & Hove City Council’s new Drupal 8 site as a starting point. Our two councils have met and agreed to work together on new features.
Here’s what we’re planning to share:
- A “store cupboard” of custom Drupal modules, initially developed by Brighton & Hove, that both councils will work on and add to. Both councils will be able to choose the modules they need
- User research findings and techniques as we believe our citizens often have similar needs
- Blog posts explaining what we’re doing and how we’ve developed new ways of working together
What we’ve done so far
Our Croydon project is a few weeks old now. Sprint 1’s goal was to decide whether the Brighton & Hove Drupal 8 set up was the best starting point, or if we should look at something else.
Our content designers and user researchers took the platform for a spin, building landing pages and typical content and linking to them from the homepage. We wanted to find out if the needs of the 2 councils’ internal users were the same or similar. Could we simply re-use the same publishing formats, or would they need tweaking? What would we share? And so on. At our first sprint review we decided that there’s plenty of great stuff in the platform, and we should definitely use it.
In Sprint 2 we looked at the changes we need to make to “Croydonise” the site. We also popped down to Brighton to talk about technical architecture and the logistics of sharing a platform.
Sprint 3 starts tomorrow and we’ll be having our first conversations with Brighton & Hove about actual code changes on the platform. Our sprint backlog includes a look at how content formats are named, and an investigation of the Link It module.
Both councils will benefit
Our councils will save time and money by working together. Croydon will get its new website months earlier than planned. Brighton will get the benefits of new formats such as GOV.UK’s award winning step by step navigation which we’re going to implement very soon. It’ll also free up time to get to the good stuff – we’re very keen to follow up on Adur & Worthing’s Open Referral work, for example.
This project also shows both councils’ commitment to Local Digital Declaration that calls for the “reuse [of] existing user research, service design, common components… before starting to design or procure something new”. Our new website is also an important plank of the Croydon Digital Strategy which launched earlier this week.
I’m acting as Delivery Manager for Croydon, with Tom Steel as Product Manager (pictured above). We have a top notch team of developers, content designers and user researchers in place. Also Design Dave, the creator of the Brighton Design Patterns Library, is working with us in Croydon which will make our adoption of their work all the easier. Our Brighton & Hove colleagues will introduce themselves soon.
We’ll be blogging as we go. Please do ask us questions and share your thoughts. We’d particularly like to hear about website rebuilding projects, and examples where you’ve shared work with other councils.