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Lowering the barrier to govCMS — a visual whitepaper

Salsa Digital worked with Acquia and the Department of Finance to design a concept called ‘govCMS Express’, an automated system that works like a wizard to create a govCMS website, instantly.

Salsa Digital 22 February 2018


The Department of Finance (DoF) launched govCMS as the preferred and approved content management system (CMS) for government websites in March 2015. Based on Acquia’s cloud platform and Drupal, govCMS provides a robust, enterprise-grade CMS that’s also open source so modules can be re-used across federal, state and local governments (and the wider Drupal community).

Despite all the benefits govCMS has to offer, the onboarding system involves cumbersome forms, which means agencies need to spend time on the set-up procedure. It’s a rather clunky process that unfortunately creates a barrier to adoption (although the uptake for govCMS has actually exceeded expectations).

The vision

What if it was possible to streamline this clunky process and take a government agency through a guided user interface (wizard) with a set of basic inputs like colours, fonts, logo, etc., to create a site instantly? Awesome, right?

And of course not just any site… it would be a highly compliant, clean, modern, user-centric, uncluttered, responsive, accessible and content-focused site based on a newly created default theme (also created by Salsa Digital). And when we say highly compliant, we mean totally compliant with the Australian Government’s design service guidelines led by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA).

Just add water… well quality content.

That was the vision. The process needed to allow departments to get information out to the public quickly, while ensuring that the site was accessible from different devices (mobile, tablet and desktop computers) and fully compliant with design and technical requirements.

And so the concept of govCMS Express was born, a guided UI/wizard-style website onboarding tool that takes a government agency through a series of simple questions to identify their website requirements and set up their new website instantly.

The design brief

govCMS Express needed to deliver sites that were:

  • Accessible
  • Secure
  • Reliable
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Open source
  • Responsive
  • Aligned to policy

govCMS Express also needed to save agencies time and reduce risks.

govCMS Express needed to work with the new default visual and theme design that we created for DoF and be set up so users simply specify brand colours and upload brand assets and a logo. These elements will then proliferate across the theme design in key areas. Thus every site can be customised to each department’s requirements.

The final govCMS product also had to be compliant to all government requirements so departments only had to focus on content production.

The govCMS Express process

Working in a multidisciplinary team, and in close collaboration with the client, Salsa Digital crafted govCMS Express, a simple onboarding user flow to facilitate quick and easy site generation. In designing the wizard we had to understand and map existing user experiences across a vast user base, and vast user needs of government services, analysing existing service delivery operation.

How govCMS Express was conceptualised

Government agencies don’t want an expensive, long process to design and build a new website. However, they need to comply with best practice (accessible, responsive on all devices, etc.). govCMS Express will deliver sites quickly and easily, following a simple step-by-step process.

This step-by-step process allows users to customise their sites, accessing global features such as:

  • Commonwealth crest or agency logo
  • Website name/brand
  • A clear description of the site
  • A search box
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Social media links/icons
  • A footer that includes:
    • Links to standard mandatory content (accessibility, privacy, copyright, terms of use, about, help, site map, etc.)
    • Links specific to the agency website.

These features are set up as part of the seven-step process detailed below.

Throughout each step govCMS Express will provide clear and descriptive information that lets the user know what they’re doing. Alongside each step, a large image example helps set the context of the requirements. We also understand that many users may want to preview their new website before going through the entire setup wizard, and thus have provided the option to ‘skip’ each step (or all steps) at any point.

govCMS Express: Welcome screen

The wizard experience starts with a welcome screen.

Step 1: Name my website

The wizard starts with defining the website name and, most importantly, defining the website type — ministerial, departmental, annual report, blog or a campaign site. This option is key in determining what content is important to display and feature on the website, and also helps to define the layout of the homepage (such as displaying feature articles, news, or services).

This name will appear on top of your website, so users can easily see the agency name.

Step 2: Describe your website

To describe the website, users simply state what the new website can do for the customer. This creates the website’s metadata, which will appear as the description of the website/agency for search engines. govCMS Express will also provide helpful instructional copy to help guide the user and provide an effective description.

This content will be displayed under your website’s name in search results (e.g. Google’s search results).

Step 3: Add your logo/crest

Add your logo as a first step in branding. The uploaded logo or crest will appear at the top of the website – in the header – for all pages. When you click the ‘Upload’ button to upload a new image, the Express Wizard presents the user with an image preview.

During the uploading process, the gov CMS Express will provide you with a live update of the uploading process, notifying you once it’s complete.

Step 4: Select colour theme

Select a colour scheme that reflects your brand or customise the colours (all colour combinations are designed for optimum user experience and accessibility).

These are not the only colour choices...the user can also manually enter their own colours.

Step 5: Select a font family

Select the family of fonts you’d like to use on your site.

Similar to selecting the colour palette for the new website, gov CMS Express lets you choose from three paired family font options (defining a font for headings, and a complementary font for body copy). This can be changed later within the CMS settings, however the goal (as previously mentioned) is to get a custom site up as quickly as possible. Again, all font combinations are designed for optimum user experience and accessibility.

Step 6: Install sample content

This sets up the content types you’ll use, such as a homepage, ‘standard’ content pages, events, publications, blog, contact us, etc.

Sample content can be useful to see how content will look on your website, and the wizard allows you to install sample content by ‘checking’ the pages you’d like to add. This sets you up with a more complete website, and lets you preview the various page templates available within the CMS.

Step 7: Launch site

This ‘launches’ the site ready for you to add in your content and customise your navigation.

At the final stage of the wizard, you’re presented with exactly what steps have been performed, and what may have been skipped (such as sample content). From here, you’re taken to the completed website.

Final step: Site preview and helpful tips

If it’s the first time you’ve seen your new site, govCMS Express will highlight key features of your new homepage, such as: the logo, the selected fonts, and an alternative option to go straight into the CMS’s admin area.

If you’d like to see what a website would actually look like, check out our other blog on the New design template for govCMS to see the govCMS look and feel in action.

The end result

Working with Acquia and DoF, Salsa Digital has helped produce a conceptual tool that will reduce the barrier to govCMS uptake. Specifically, we’ve designed a wizard that would ultimately streamline and significantly speed up the on-boarding process. This complements the work we completed on the new govCMS default theme, to make the govCMS look and feel more modern and citizen-centric.

When implemented, agencies could get up and running fast, and will need less customisation to create a visually appealing and WCAG 2.0 AA-compliant website. Agency sites will look good but the technical complexity will be taken care of behind the scenes, enabling departments to set up a site in a matter of hours.

Current status

As the company that designed the new interface and govCMS Express, Salsa Digital is looking forward to working with the DoF again to actually build the design concept. We’re also excited about what govCMS Express could do for Australian government — lower the barrier to create awesome sites that enable agencies to focus on producing quality content for citizens.

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