LocalGov Drupal: A winning CMS for UK council websites
Annertech have been leading the way to help UK council websites to meet accessibility requirements.
What is LocalGov Drupal?
LocalGov Drupal is a version of Drupal pre-configured to the meet the feature requirements of a local council website in the UK (including Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) and Ireland. Being open source software, it’s free of charge and has no vendor lock-in.
It came about after new accessibility guidelines were first released in the UK. They stipulate that all government websites must meet WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standards. Many local councils realised that their websites were not compliant.
However, rather than each council rebuilding their websites, an idea emerged to share code across councils; similar to what Limerick City and County Council, Fingal Council Council, and Cork County Council have done in Ireland as part of the government's "build to share" initiative (with help from Annertech).
LocalGov Drupal Progress
Firstly, Brighton-Hove County Council who shared their codebase with Croydon Council, paving the way to show what was possible. Following that, funding for an “Alpha” stage of building a generic platform for councils was awarded and work began on what became called “LocalGov Drupal”. Drupal being chosen because of its rich heritage as a digital experience platform for government-level projects.
By the end of this alpha phase, a number of councils had joined the movement. They shared knowledge and resources to push what was possible for the platform. Earlier this year, more funding was became available for a beta phase to finish some features from the alpha phase and complete other features that hadn’t been started. Including a full rewrite of the frontend system which was awarded to Annertech.
In all, we estimate at least £500,000 of development time has so far gone into creating this amazing platform. Meaning, if your council decides to use it, you will already have saved over half a million pounds before a penny has been spent on any development.
What problem does LocalGov Drupal solve?
By and large, councils share similar feature requirements for their websites. Each council requires a news portal, and events portal, a listing of council services, etc. They also have the same requirement when it comes to complying with WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standards. LocalGov Drupal creates a best-in-class, fully accessible version of each of these and makes it available for all councils to use for free.
This approach means councils do not have to start from scratch. Furthermore, it stops repetitive spending on the same features Instead, if a council develops a feature that could be used by others, they share it.
We have seen this happen with the news and events portals, and the search features, directory listings, and step-by-step pages (to name some) were developed. If a council does not have a budget for developing and sharing these features, that’s perfectly fine; you are welcome to what other councils have shared for free.
What are the benefits of LocalGov Drupal?
1. Low cost
With no licence fees to pay, and being free and open source, LocalGov Drupal means you can have a best-in-class, enterprise-grade website for your council at a fraction of the price of a licenced, proprietary website. And remember, you’ll pay that licence before a line of code is written to develop the website to your brand guidelines. Meaning, with LocalGov Drupal, budget is freed up to spend on other services for the homeless, health, education, etc.
2. Rigorously tested
Since LocalGov Drupal is a collaboration between a number of councils and development agencies, it’s well-tested before any new feature is released. More, you have the reassurance of knowing that each feature has an automated test suite alongside it, developed by some of the best Drupal developers in the world.
As well as that, you can see for yourself websites built on the codebase – Brighton-Hove, Cumbria, Bracknell Forest, Croydon, and many more. And being open source, you can have your in-house developers download it and validate the codebase.
3. WCAG 2.1 AA compliant
LocalGov Drupal is built with accessibility at the core. Each feature is tested from a number of accessibility standpoints and WCAG 2.1 AA criteria. We want to ensure everyone can use our websites fully, whether they have accessibility requirements or not.
4. Faster development time
As the features you need for your council website are already built and ready to go, development turnaround time is much faster. Typically, creating a new council website can often take up to a year. However, LocalGov Drupal websites are typically launched in only 8 to 12 weeks.
And, with a shared feature set, the development budget is mostly used creating the look and feel of your website (called “frontend development” – fonts, colours, spacing, etc). Given Annertech were tasked with writing the base frontend system for the platform, who better to implement it on your council website.
5. No vendor lock-in
As an open-source product, there is no vendor lock-in with LocalGov Drupal. You do not need to sign up for a licence for any period of time. If you want to take your website and have another development agency work on it, you are free to do so. You own the codebase at all times. All you’ll need is another Drupal specialist.
6. Share features
Collaborating with others means we learn from one another. Through LocalGov Drupal you have access to people who have solved a problem you’re currently experiencing.
What if you want a feature that isn’t available yet? Simply send a proposal to the product working group. If your proposal is accepted (i.e., it’s a feature lots of councils will use), we will work on it. If it is not accepted (perhaps it’s very specific to your council), you are free to work on it yourself and maintain it for just your website. Also, you could share it with the smaller number of councils that will need that feature.
LocalGov Drupal was built to help UK councils publish better quality websites faster and cheaper. But councils may still need someone to implement this website with a custom look and feel rather than the default “out of the box” one.
This is where Annertech comes in. We know the codebase for LocalGov Drupal intimately. In fact, we were involved with LocalGov Drupal from near the beginning. Currently Mark Conroy, Annertech's Director of Development, is leader of the front-end working group of the LocalGov Drupal, as well as author of most of the code for the new base theme for the platform.
The Annertech team has vast experience when it comes to building council websites. Annertech have completed websites for many large councils in Ireland. This includes Dublin City Council, Limerick City & County Council, Fingal County Council and others.
As such, we understand the needs of the users who visit these local government websites. This could be the person who lives in the local municipality borders, to a business owner or organisation to the council itself. We understand LocalGov Drupal and what it means to councils.
Want to talk about LocalGov Drupal?
Great! We're always available for a chat. Just click the link below and we'll get a time scheduled.
Mark Conroy Director of Development
When not promoting sustainable front-end practices at conferences across Europe, Mark leads our development team to create ambitious digital experiences for clients, so they, in turn, can have success with their clients.