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The new North Herts Council website

North Herts Council's situation

North Herts were running their primary website at using the Content Management System (CMS) Drupal 7. Drupal 7 is set to reach “end of life” status in November 2022 and North Herts knew that they would have to replace their site prior to this date for it to remain secure. Their Drupal 7 site was launched in 2015 and was showing its age, so to avoid a time pressured migration, North Herts chose to take the initiative and replace their site well in advance of the November 2022 deadline.

Having provided hosting, support and development expertise for the North Herts website since 2017, we knew their existing site well and were able to offer North Herts a clear pathway from Drupal 7 to a Drupal 9 based site using Public Platform.

Production ready from Day One

Public Platform comes with so many features and functionality that it covered all of North Herts Council's requirements and offered some innovative new functionality on top, such as integrated accessibility auditing, a super flexible WYSIWYG editor and map based Directories. This meant North Herts didn't need to invest in bespoke development and could opt for a zero-cost implementation of Public Platform.

As Public Platform is "software as a service", it is production ready from the get-go, removing the risk, long lead time and large internal resource commitment required by a bespoke site build. We created a North Herts Council branded "sandbox" Public Platform site for their staff to evaluate. This was an opportunity for them to "look the gift horse in the mouth".

Low cost and low risk

The zero-cost implementation meant there were no up-front costs to North Herts Council. As an early adopter of Public Platform, the product licence fee was waived for North Herts, meaning they only pay for hosting and a support package of 12 days of call-off support per year.

This gave North Herts a production ready, Drupal 9 based site, with minimal cost and time commitment. When compared to similar projects and services listed on GOV.UK's Digital Marketplace and G-Cloud respectively, this has allowed North Herts to achieve considerable cost savings.

Significant cost savings

As Public Platform is used by multiple sites so its operational costs are reduced due to economies of scale. Driven by a combination of quality, cost, time and risk, North Herts Council signed a 5-year long contract to use Public Platform.

As we work on new and existing Public Platform sites, the features developed for them will be made available for all Public Platform clients, meaning the new North Herts site will see continual improvement and feature expansion despite minimal spend.

Full content migration

Like many council sites, North Herts had a huge content inventory that needed to be recreated on their new site. It would have taken a large team a very long time to manually recreate the hundreds of pages of their site.

Listening to North Herts' needs, we developed an automated migration tool for Public Platform called "Rapid Start". This tool maps files and data in an existing site to the content types of Public Platform. It requires a custom setup for each site, but once in place it is a repeatable process that can be re-run with minimal time costs.

Rapid Start took 21.75 days at a cost of approximately £13,000 to implement for North Herts and was able to migrate:

  • 1,150 pages and their hierarchy
  • 1,200 news posts
  • 18,000 links
  • 11,000 files
  • Over 100 user accounts with mapped user roles
A new map Directory page created by the RapidStart migration of an old map location page

Using Rapid Start allowed North Herts Council to migrate to Public Platform more quickly, focus their efforts on the new site rather than the old, and allow content curation to continue using Public Platform's vastly more user-friendly WYSIWYG editor. All content uses the GOV.UK Design System styles, ensuring the site is WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility compliant on launch.

Phased Beta site launch

Rapid Start can be configured to only refresh selected parts of a site. This allowed North Herts to use a "phased beta" launch strategy for their new Public Platform site.

A "phased beta" involves selective publication of specific sections on the new Public Platform site, accompanied by implementation of a redirect system that seamlessly passes traffic between the old and new sites. We recommend starting a phased beta with low profile sections to minimise risk. This allows gathering of feedback from stakeholders and end users via Public Platform’s feedback forms and third party analytics systems. Feedback can then be implemented before going fully live.

North Herts initially launched the "Parks and Open Spaces" and "Leisure" sections of their new site in Phase 1 of their beta release, Phase 2 expanded to include "Community" and "News", and Phase 3 was the full launch.

Total costs for a content-populated, Drupal 9, accessibility-compliant council website

The total time spent supporting the phased migration was 17.5 days at a cost of approximately £10,500. The phased beta launch process ran over 1.5 months and the total time from the beginning of working on the Rapid Start process to the site going fully live was just under 3.5 months.

In total, the full cost of migrating from Drupal 7 to Public Platform was £23,550, which included the automated migration of all useful content. The ongoing spend for support and hosting is £8,640 per year.

This will save North Herts Council thousands of pounds over the course of the contract's lifetime compared to other alternatives. In addition, the time commitment and disruption to North Herts’ internal resources was minimised to weeks not months, offering considerable further savings.

By signing up to Public Platform, North Herts also benefits from 24 hour support, offsite backups, and the use of our Publica11y accessibility scanning platform.