Kensington High Street station

Design-led Drupal for a local authority

In 2015, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea commissioned us to build a new website in Drupal based on a design created by the Clearleft design agency.

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (www.rbkc.gov.uk) worked with Clearleft during 2014 to create a new website design in line with the Government Digital Service design principles. This work led to a design manual for content production and site architecture, as well as a pattern library and html prototypes. The design work actually predated the decision to use Drupal as a replacement CMS for the ageing Alterian Immediacy system, hence the "design-led". We were really impressed with the rigorous way the design manual interprets and applies the user-centred model at the heart of the GDS principles. For example:

4. Reduce, reduce, reduce again

Every superfluous page we create is one more dead end for an angry, frustrated, confused user, and makes it harder to find the pages which are actually useful. Join up systems and journeys to avoid repetition.

Apart from the user focus, the other point that jumps out of the design manual is that the design principles are being applied to every aspect of the site: content creation, content organisation, navigation, and media assets (images, video, etc). This is such a refreshing place to start, if you've been working with customers who think that design is just what something looks like.

The choice of Drupal was partly driven by the fact that RBKC shares resources with two other London boroughs: Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham. Westminster had already made the move to Drupal, so the three boroughs decided to standardise as a way of reducing costs and maximising resources. In fact, subsequent to our engagement with RBKC, the Spanish-based Swiftcircle, with whom Code Enigma has a very close working partnership, built the Hammersmith site in Drupal.

Our development challenge at RBKC was to take the new design, including its content model, and work out how to apply that in Drupal. As it happened, the content model had a concept of 'topics' that mapped very easily to Drupal's taxonomy (tagging) system. Also, the internal web team had already started working on a beta version of their old Immediacy site where they applied the new design. That meant they were already doing a lot of thinking about how to repurpose and reduce legacy content, which made the migration task more straightforward.

The model we used for migration was a two stage exercise of exporting from SQL Server to CSV files, which ensured that the content was in the right format for then migrating into Drupal fields, using the Migrate module. The web manager  - Samantha Fanning - said that it was the least painful migration she'd ever been involved with.

As the Authority was concerned about being able to develop the new Drupal site after launch, we worked onsite much of the time, leading the development, but also training and mentoring the internal web team. This is a common model for us and we've written about it in detail on our Wellcome Trust and Oxford Council case studies.

The entire build and site launch was achieved in just over three months, and we now host this site on our Rackspace private cloud along with the sites of Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham.