Dept of the Environment: Multilingual Government CMS

Dept of the Environment: Multilingual Government CMS

Multilingual, Structured Content Website, and a Large Migration from a Proprietary CMS to Drupal.

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, one of the largest government departments in Ireland, has a remit for promoting sustainable growth, supporting citizens in safe and sustainable communities and protecting the environment. They had a website created with a proprietary and license-based CMS and sought to replace this with a free, open source, enterprise-level CMS: Drupal was the choice of CMS and Annertech the vendor to provide it.


The Department of the Environment's website had a number of issues they wished to rectify. Some of these included the site not being responsive on mobile devices, and the general design and layout being very much out of date. Our task was to come up with a fresh, modern design, build a multilingual CMS based on Drupal which would allow for easy editing of content for admins complete with a fully-fledged revisions system and, more importantly, easy access to content for site visitors, and then migrate all the content and files to the new system - about 1,000 pages and 10,000 file attachments covering, and a few hundred categories (in both languages).

Dept of the Environment: Multilingual Government CMS - approach image

We spent a lot of time with the Department's project team going through their present setup. It was very important for a project of this nature for us to complete this detailed research to best come up with a plan that would satisfy all the needs of the Department. Once our research was complete, we made a proposal: let's create a search-driven website; basically, all of the content can be found via filtered search options (as well as the standard method of using menus and other hierarchy mechanisms). When it was agreed that this was a very clever approach, we set about working out how this might operate in practice - we created some wireframes, then some lo-fidelity designs, and finally a working prototype.

After workshopping these ideas with the client and getting buy in from all sides, we set about building a CMS to the proud of! Drupal's core search feature was certainly not going to be up to the task, so we used Apache Solr for that aspect to leverage all the power of an enterprise search feature in a free, open source solution.

It became clear quite early on this was not going to be an easy build. Drupal + Panelizer + Multilingual + Revisions + Paragraphs is no walk in the park. Let us explain: we used a Drupal layout system known as 'Panelizer' and created custom templates that would easily allow the Department to create landing pages and then drag and drop page elements into place. Page elements could include snippets from other pages, lists of links, video feeds, slideshows, chunks of ad hoc content, and lists of other content types (such as news, statistics, and legislation).

To allow the above to happen, Mark, our lead site builder and front end developer, used Drupal's 'Paragraphs' module to create a suite of paragraph types, which he called 'Structured Content Blocks'. What was even more cutting edge about this was that we took what we called 'The Russian Doll' approach, whereby we could place 'Structured Content Blocks' inside another container. This outer container allowed the client options to set background colours and other variables. This meant that the website would retain a core design but elements of it could be changed on a per-chunk basis to allow the client to highlight certain parts of the text at will. We applied a variation of this to the landing page items as well, so any section on a landing page can have a chosen background colour.

The migration was very complex as we didn't have a database to work from. Instead we were provided with a folder of HTML files to work with and some CSV files for category terms and their translations. Tommy, our master migrater (he moved here from Denmark!), took control of this and created some very intricate migration scripts which allowed us to move all content from the existing website to Drupal, apply translations if they were available, and attached the hundreds of taxonomy terms to their respective pages and files.


Wow! We're pretty chuffed with ourselves. There was nothing in this project that, on it's own, was outside of our comfort zone. However, the website is much greater than the sum of its parts, and was quite a delicate project to get all of the attendant parts working together. We're delighted that the Department of the Environment, Community, and Local Government now has a modern, scalable CMS to work with, and a design that rivals that of any other government department in Ireland.

Dept of the Environment: Multilingual Government CMS - results image
Testimonial Migration Testimonial

We worked with the team in Annertech to redesign and rebuild the website for the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and then migrate all our legacy content over to Drupal. Throughout the process we found Annertech's approach to be fantastic; they have a great ability to distill requirements into manageable chunks, to make sense of very complex requirements, and to deliver a great product on time and on budget. We look forward to continuing a great relationship with Annertech.

Who Said It: 
Eddie Kiernan
What's Their Position: 
Communications Unit