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A screenshot of Warrington and Co's About page.
The Warrington & Co Public Platform site

“We partnered with Zodiac Media for our main public facing website in 2019. Since then they have been extremely responsive and proactive in every area and importantly their hosting has been solid. When starting new projects, we’ve found Zodiac Media to be very knowledgeable and communicate in a very clear and down to earth way. Their support is exemplary and much, much better than other larger suppliers in a similar field. Nothing is too much trouble and their way of developing beautifully simple solutions to complex problems is refreshing.

They are very agile and practical. I have no doubt that they will point you in the right direction. Since our first site launched, we’ve built 3 additional microsites with them and there are more in the pipeline. It’s a pleasure to work with them, they are very forward thinking and genuinely have the success of your project at heart. Could not recommend them highly enough.”

Warrington Borough Council

The problem to be solved

Like many councils, Warrington Borough Council have a wide-ranging online 'real estate'. This has grown organically over the years, as organisations funded by the Council independently commissioned websites to support their service offerings. In light of new public sector website accessibility regulations, from September 2020 the Council has a legal requirement to ensure all websites they fund are compliant with WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility guidelines. Combining this with the fact that many of the websites were showing their age, and/or were running on old unsupported content management systems, led the Council to want to standardise these various "sub-sites" onto a common content management solution. The goals of this exercise were:

  • Ensure all sub-sites were WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility guidelines compliant.
  • Ensure all sub-sites were secure.
  • Ensure each sub-site could retain its own unique look and feel.
  • Ensure the administration system used by content editors was the same across all sub-sites.
  • Ensure the entire project, covering 5 sub-sites, could be delivered within a budget equating to 17 working days of time.

Public Platform to the rescue

The biggest challenge for the project was that Warrington had minimal budget for the project, equating to around 3 days of development work per sub-site. On the plus side, Warrington has a skilled in-house website management team, who have the capability to define the visual design for a site and then implement it via frontend development.

This scenario made the project ideal for Public Platform.

We have architected Public Platform so that the frontend of each site inherits from Public Platform's GOV.UK Design System based parent theme, but can be overwritten by a site-specific child theme. This allows all sites to benefit from the latest user experience research, design and development from across government, but for them to have their own uniquely evolved identity.

A screenshot of the Public Platform frontend development framework showing the GOV.UK Design System default theme.
Public Platform's default appearance follows the GOV.UK Design System

From the outset of Public Platform's development we wanted end users or third parties to be able to take responsibility for implementing the frontend of sites. The Platform would do the heavy lifting, but the appearance and content could be done by customers themselves, or their appointed agencies, if they wanted. As a result, every Public Platform site has its own frontend codebase which we can package up and share with customers. Third party developers can customise the HTML, JavaScript and SCSS style rules that apply to their site and change every part of its look and feel.

A screenshot of the Public Platform frontend development framework showing the Warrington & Co theme.
The default appearance of a Public Platform site can be overridden. The frontend development framework includes accessibility tests of frontend components as they are developed.

In order to stay within the project's budget the plan was for us to work more closely with Warrington to deliver the first Public Platform sub-site. This would then act as a "cookie cutter" example for re-use in creating the other sub-sites. This first site was Warrington & Co. The budget was such that even for this first sub-site the bulk of the design and frontend development work would be completed by Warrington staff. We provided Warrington with the codebase for the site's frontend, along with a 'staging' site for sandboxing purposes, and they were able to work independently to populate the site with content and implement the site's design.

The Result

Warrington were able to build a visually engaging site on a fraction of the budget you would expect.

The site could be described as a straightforward "words and pictures" type site, but that does it a disservice! The combination of Public Platform's Atomic Design System based frontend development framework, plus its block based WYSIWYG editing system, means the site is very consistent in terms of look and feel. This is a surprisingly difficult thing to achieve in content managed sites.

Warrington & Co benefits from some advanced functionality, all of which is standard within Public Platform, such as:

A dedicated News page along with Twitter Feed integration

A screenshot of the Warrington & Co News page.
The "Latest News" page complete with Twitter Feed.

A News content type along with a News listing page is a standard part of all Public Platform sites. Twitter Feeds can be embedded using the WYSIWYG editor, as can any number of social media embeds such as individual Tweets, LinkedIn posts, Instagram posts or Facebook posts to name but a few.

Full site translation using Google Translate

A screenshot of the Warrington & Co Home page translated into Chinese.
Full page translation in this case in Chinese.

Warrington is "open for business" and sets its sights on accommodating both domestic and overseas-based inward investment. To maximise usability of the site it has instant full text translation functionality powered by Google Translate. Whilst not as finessed as true native translations, (which Public Platform is capable of supporting), it is an effective way of communicating information to non-English language speakers at no additional cost.

A fully responsive "dropdown" main navigation menu

A screenshot showing the dropdown menu in use on Warrington & Co.
The fully responsive dropdown navigation menu.

Warrington required an accessible dropdown navigation menu that needed to be fully responsive for use on mobile devices. We extended the GOV.UK Design System to support this, and the result is a clear, highly usable navigation system.

A screenshot of the Warrington & Co main menu on a mobile device.
The same main menu when viewed on a mobile device.

Overall we're extremely satisfied with how the Warrington & Co site build went, and look forward to working with Warrington on the roll-out of their remaining sub-sites.