Proprietary Website Migration for Government Sites
This week, I attended Experience Acquia 2022 in Washington, D.C. The all-day event covered essential perspectives on the current digital experience landscape, along with various aspects of government website design and development.
Honored for the opportunity to serve as both a panelist and a presenter, I shared a success story concerning Promet’s work with Orange County, Calif., in completing a proprietary website migration that resulted in a transformation to a Drupal CMS that can flex and bend with the evolving needs of site owners from 41 separately managed sites.
Below are selected excerpts from my Question and Answer presentation with Lynne Boudreau from Acquia.
On the Orange County Proprietary Website Migration
Acquia: Given that Orange County is one of the most dynamic counties in the U.S. with a population of more than 3.2 million—the 6th most populous in the country—we can assume that the design and development of this site was a this was a massive undertaking. Can you give us a top-level overview of what this project entailed and what Orange County was looking to achieve?
Andy: Within an 18-month timeframe, we migrated 41 separate county sites from a proprietary software platform to a Drupal 9 site. Each site had a different site owner and set of stakeholders. The project was divided into 12 waves, with six weeks devoted to each wave.
While each of the 41 sites is utilized the same code base, every department’s site has a distinct database, with a cohesive design language and brand guidelines. A foundational success factor proved to be the deployment of atomic design practices enabled by Provus, which is Promet’s component-based design platform.
There were many factors within Orange County that sparked the migration. Fees for Orange County’s previous proprietary web software and hosting relationship had become cost prohibitive relative to the services provided. And in addition to getting out from under a locked-in vendor relationship, Orange County was looking to achieve:
- A CMS that enabled content editors to easily update content, switch up layouts, and even create new pages;
- Consistent navigation across all 41 sites;
- Excellent search functionality;
- A clean, uncluttered, modern design; and
- UX that encouraged engagement.
All of the above and a lot more was achieved.
On Atomic Design
Acquia: Can you elaborate on "Atomic Design" for those of us who are not familiar with the term?
Andy: Promet envisions complex web design and development projects within a framework of five factors that roll up into each other toward the construction of a cohesive whole. We begin by breaking down the project into the smallest building blocks and visualizing incremental steps toward completion. From atoms to molecules to organisms to templates and on to pages.
- Atoms constitute the smallest building blocks of a web project. Examples of atoms within a website build include: Typographic styles, icons, and link buttons
- Molecules are more complex entities that consist of several atoms and serve as components that can be leveraged repeatedly throughout the site. Examples of molecules include: dropdown menus, breadcrumbs, and card components.
- Organisms refer to the truly functional parts of a web page and are made up of groups of atoms and molecules. Examples of organisms (also referred to as components) include: tab bars, progress indicators, and carousels.
- Templates are essentially preliminary pages that are not yet populated with content. Like a wireframe, they combine organisms to create a layout design system.
- Pages follow the creation of a template, enabling the configuring of organisms such as a menu sidebar, headers, footers, and the body.
Acquia: Interesting perspective. So what kind of ROI has resulted from Orange County's atomic design driven Drupal migration?
Andy: Most recent estimates we received were annual cost saving in excess of $100,000, primarily due to open source and elimination of proprietary licensing fees. Migrating the website to the to Acquia Cloud hosting has compounded the cost savings, along with with the confidence and peace of mind concerning scalability and ongoing infrastructure support.
So we’re talking significant cost savings, scalability, security, and an uptick in efficiencies as a result of individual departmental content editors being empowered to update content, revise pages, switch up layouts, and even add pages.
A six-figure cost savings, year after year, is significant for many reasons, but what’s most exciting for us is the fact that it represents taxpayer dollars that are being spent more wisely for a greater return.
Post launch, one department reached out to us for additional development work that they had budgeted 200 hours for. We completed the work in 20 hours due to the inherent efficiencies we’ve built into the site—one-tenth of their original time estimate.
Acquia: Migrating 41 sites, which each had separate site owners, within an 18-month timeframe, and staying on schedule throughout the process sounds like a story unto itself. Can you give us some insight into your project planning and other success factors?
Andy: Adept execution of agile project management processes is a particular strength for Promet. There’s no substitute for tightly orchestrated project management when migrating 41 sites to a new platform within an aggressive, 18-month timeline.
The project was divided into 12, six-week waves, each with a different sets of site owners. Every one of the 12 phases began with a discovery session and included weekly meetings, multiple UAT checkpoints, extensive documentation, and training.
Provus, which is Promet’s open source, component-based design system, proved to be a defining factor in the success of the project. Provus drove a high degree of development efficiency, due to the ability to access a robust library of content editing components as the foundation for every site build.
Another essential success factor was the solid alignment between Promet and the impeccably managed team from Orange County. Our project lead from Orange County diligently managed to set expectations among stakeholders from 41 separate departments, and they did not miss a beat.
Acquia: It sounds like Promet’s Provus platform played a significant role throughout the process. Can you tell us a bit more about how Provus factored into design and development?
Andy: Provus was, and continues to be, foundational to the success of ocgov.com. The drag-and-drop component based design system was redeployed for each new build, allowing for multiple variations within a well-defined structure and set of options.
Post launch, we were able to turn the keys to the sites over to more than 100 content editors, who have the tools to easily manage site content with the confidence of knowing that as they mix and match components and switch up layouts, it will all be within preset brand and design guidelines. That's to say that creativity will occur within a framework that ensures new pages and layouts will continue to look professionally designed and laid out.
As Orange County is now a support client, our recent investments in Provus enhancements, what we’re calling Provus 2.0, are compounding Provus benefits for Orange County. Provus 2.0 leverages Drupal’s ability for creating distributions, enabling us to maintain a central upstream and facilitate the deployment of ongoing updates.
Acquia: Andy, I’ve heard you like to "talk trash," and that leads me to a question about what I've heard is one of your favorite pages developed for the Orange County site.
Andy: We seem to have carved out an interesting sub-niche within the waste and recycling space.
No one expects a waste and recycling site to be gorgeous, with an engaging user experience and has you clicking around wanting to learn more. The fact is, though, a surprising number of visitors to county and municipal websites are looking for answers to questions concerning recycling, landfills, and even just trash pickup. So we set out to ensure that OC Waste & Recycling was the best waste and recycling site in the country.
Several months later, we had the opportunity to do the same for the Wasatch Front Waste & Recycling District site, which recently launched. And now we have a few other waste and recycling sites in development.