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A new Drupal 7 site and AWS hosting

Chelsea bridge

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) commissioned us to build a new Drupal website. They wanted it based on a design created by design agency, Clearleft.

What we did

The design followed the Government Digital Service design principles. The work led to a design manual for content production and site architecture. Additionally, as a pattern library and HTML prototypes. The design work predated the decision to use Drupal as a replacement CMS. Because the Alterian Immediacy system was ageing. We were impressed with the rigorous design manual interpretive. Consequently, we applied the user-centred model at the heart of the GDS principles.

Every superfluous page created is a dead-end for a user. Essentially, it becomes hard to find specific content. We join up systems and journeys to avoid repetition.

It was great to see design principles being applied to every aspect of the site:

  • Content creation

  • Content organisation

  • Navigation

  • Media assets (images, video, etc)

This was a refreshing difference to customers who think design is purely visual.

Why Drupal?

Drupal was chosen because RBKC shares resources with Westminster, and Hammersmith and Fulham. Westminster had Drupal. So, the three boroughs decided to standardise to reduce costs and maximise resources. Swiftcircle actually built the Hammersmith site in Drupal.

Our challenge was to apply the new design (including content model) in Drupal. The content model had 'topics' that easily mapped to Drupal's taxonomy (tagging) system. Also, the internal web team had started a beta version of their old Immediacy site. Here, they had applied the new design. They considered how to repurpose and reduce legacy content. This made the migration task straightforward.

The model used for migration was a two-stage exercise. Firstly, exporting from SQL Server to CSV files. This ensured the content was in the right format. Making migrating into Drupal fields easy, using the Migrate module.

The authority was concerned about developing the new Drupal site after launch. We worked on site a lot, leading development. Also, we trained and mentored the internal web team. (This is a common method for us).

What else?

The entire build and site launch was achieved in just over three months. We now host this site along with the sites of Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham.

We provide our hosting customers with a 99.99% hardware uptime guarantee. Courtesy of our highly available configurations and AWS managed infrastructure.

This is an attractive proposition for any local government. Mainly because their digital presence is their most important interaction with people. Particularly when it comes to providing services to residents. North Yorkshire County Council were no exception. opting to host the Selby District Council website with us.


Due to contract delays and a service deadline from a previous supplier, we helped quickly.

Firstly, we moved their code to a new version control system (Bitbucket by Atlassian).

Secondly, we shaped the repository so it was ready to work with our automated testing and deployment systems.

Finally, we provisioned a new AWS account and servers. Following our usual rigorous QA and testing, we deployed a copy of the Selby website. This was so they could check for teething problems to resolve before launch.

Once set, we helped them through the process of setting a launch date. Then we programmed a content freeze and handling the DNS cutover to our services. The website was moved seamlessly. Also, invisibly to website users.

This was the least painful migration I have ever been involved with.

Samantha Fanning - Web Manager

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