Our council has joined the LocalGov Drupal code sharing collaboration. It is a key building block in redeveloping our website in 2021 as we transition from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9. In this post, I’d like to share why we joined and our experience to date.
What is it?
LocalGovDrupal is funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government. It is an open-source collaboration between UK councils and Drupal developers. Its aim is to provide better publishing platforms by pooling knowledge, expertise, and research.
The aim is to create a shared codebase that would otherwise be costly, resource intensive and time consuming for most councils. As councils, we fundamentally have the same responsibilities and deliver the same core services. And digital councils broadly prescribe to the GDS design principles set out in the Service Standard on gov.uk.
With Drupal being open source and pervasive across government, LocalGov Drupal is a compelling idea.
In its first year, Croydon, Brighton, Bracknell Forest and Lambeth councils all joined the collaboration in the alpha stage. Now with second year funding confirmed, we have joined alongside Cumbria, Westminster, London Councils, Lambeth, Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham, for the beta.
Our experience so far
LocalGov Drupal theme and installation
Our developers were able to install the theme with ease. The process is clearly documented.
As content and UX designers, we have been impressed with the out of the box theme. The service landing page and service sub-landing pages content types meet our user needs. Feedback from our service teams has been positive and we will be user testing with residents and local businesses in the coming months.
Product group meetings, slack channels, roadmaps and more collaboration
The group is supported by:
- product meetings (to review the next phases of the project)
- lively and responsive slack channels
- a public roadmap
- that sense of community of councils working together.
Waltham Forest has been welcomed warmly into the fold. We have been given opportunities to raise agenda items and workshop our progress in product meetings. Where we encounter problems or lack data or research, we’ve put them to the Slack channel. And within a few hours, get useful insights and the experiences of others.
We’ve also recently been able to put our user needs, stories, and requirements straight into the next stage of the build. Something that every council has the opportunity to do too.
Control over our code base and ability to follow a continuous improvement model
For Waltham Forest, while Drupal is in our technology stack, we haven’t always had the control over our codebase, being reliant on third parties for changes to our website.
We now are committed to having control by developing our website in-house. With LocalGov Drupal, we get the best of both worlds – a small team of Drupal developers in-house and an outside pool of expertise, knowledge and resources from Drupal developers and other councils.
What’s more, as the collaboration grows, we can take advantage of improved functionality as code is shared. As the LocalGov Drupal product improves, so should the digital services we offer at Waltham Forest.
Thoughts on the future and advice for other councils
As with anything in life, it is by no means perfect. For example, it can be challenging to navigate the needs of all the councils involved. But so far for Waltham Forest, there have only been positives.
We look forward to collaborating and sharing our experience with other councils as our new website project ramps up and will continue to update on the progress of the collaboration with LocalGov Drupal.
Our advice for other councils: Come along to the next product meeting! It’s the best way to get a flavour of what the collaboration is all about. There’s nothing to lose, but a hell of a lot to gain.
Written by David Siddall on 10 May 2021