Common Web Platform

Background

The Common Web Platform (CWP) is a Platform as a Service offering for delivering New Zealand government websites. SilverStripe Ltd is under contract to Department of Internal Affairs to provide the platform. The platform was announced in February 2013 and will be available by mid 2013. Consult ict.govt.nz for a broader context and for details on how to purchase the service.

Summary

The platform includes:

  • A managed hosting infrastructure jointly provided by Revera and SilverStripe, including backups and disaster recovery.
  • SilverStripe CMS, tailored and enhanced for New Zealand Government use.
  • Templates and modules to quickly build websites.
  • The facility for agencies and their suppliers to fully customise website design and features, and CMS functionality.
  • A source code management and sharing platform, and release deployment tools.
  • A commercial service solution including online management portal, helpdesk, professional services, code reviews, software upgrades, and service levels.

Use Case

CWP allows a website to be built quickly due to providing out of the box templates, content, and functionality, together with a preconfigured hosting environment. It is antipated that tools to aid migration will be provided, for instance to upload sitemaps, content from documents, and importing pages from other CMS packages.

If a government agency is to deploy a site, it’s generally expected they would create their own theme (templates), either by refining the current default theme, or by designing a unique theme using standards-compliant HTML. Likewise, the feature set of CWP out of the box should be sufficient for a typical site, and only optionally require an agency to spend time creating new templates and features. Extension modules will be available, with agencies and their suppliers able to construct new modules and share these across government, and to do so with confidence where they seek certification of the code.

One outcome of CWP is that agencies with larger budgets and timeframes now have an option to create their base informational website functionality at low cost, and apply their focus instead to design, usability, information architecture, or complex technical features. This increases the quality, consistency, and ROI of government websites. Smaller agencies and websites that need to be stood up quickly or efficiently can simply run CWP more or less untouched, saving considerable time and money.

Screencasts

Please watch the following introductory business and technical summary of the Common Web Platform which was given to audiences over February - March 2013. The video is presented by Bene Anderson (DIA) and Sigurd Magnusson (SilverStripe). It has a demo of the CMS with a voice over. This video will be updated once the solution is available to reflect changes and further detail.

Watch an overview or try a Demo of our current content management interface. This is also found in the video above however the one below has no voice over.


Watch how our software supports being used in New Zealand's indigenous language, te reo Māori:

silverstripe te reo maori vimeolink 

Technical Architecture and Capabilites of CWP

Detailed documentation and resources will be made available closer to the availabilty of the platform. Please contact SilverStripe or online@dia.govt.nz if you seek information.

Open source technology will be a feature of CWP, with the architecture including Debian Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP5, and SilverStripe CMS, with source code managed using Git. The solution will be hosted in New Zealand using Infrastructure as a Service.

Detailed current technical capabilities of SilverStripe CMS

Prior to the announcement of CWP, a suite of New Zealand Government specific features already existed, dubbed SilverStripe Express. While many other features will be added to form CWP, the following current capabilities are also likely to be provided: 

  • Core SilverStripe CMS offering
  • Default Look and feel
    • Desktop, tablet, and mobile friendly, using “HTML5 responsive” design
    • Navigation menu and footer menu update automatically from CMS
    • Use CMS to update header logo, site name, footer links and footer logo
    • Contains links to social media
    • Print friendly view
    • Meets W3C WCAG 2.0 and New Zealand Government Web Standards

express responsive4

  • Default pages, sections, and site content
    • Homepage template, including image carousel and news feed
    • Generic page template
    • News templates, listing 10 articles per page, and able to navigate by categories
    • Sitemap template - content automatically generated from page structure
    • Accessibility page template (lists access keys used to navigate the website)
    • Search results template (including highlighting matching phases in content)
    • Contact form
    • Te reo Māori page including written te reo content to showcase multilingual capability
    • Meets New Zealand Government guidelines for required pages, sections and content:
      • Homepage, linking to Contact, About This Site, built-in link to nz.govt.nz
      • About This Site and Privacy
        • Re-useable Legal and Policy content
      • Contact page
  • Features
    • Search
    • Google Analytics
      • Easy non-technical setup (just type an ID into the CMS)
      • Provides user friendly, comprehensive visitor statistics
      • Explains search phrases typed within the website
      • Alternatively, an on-shore, open source analytics tool can be used
    • IFrame page type
      • Allows an author to embed a page from any other website
    • Non-technical form builder
    • Multi-lingual
      • Any page of the website can have te reo Māori or Chinese translations
      • Other languages possible with a simple change to settings
      • The editor provides an easy Insert Macron button on the toolbar
      • Use the software in te reo Māori and many other languages
    • Importing capabilities
      • Upload word documents to produce HTML pages. Option to automatically divide documents based on H1 headings into separate web-pages. Supports older (.doc) and newer (.docx) formats.
      • Upload a whole sitemap based on a “tab indented” text file
    • Improved compliance with Public Records Act
      • Uploaded files are now versioned, adding to the built-in page versioning capability of SilverStripe CMS.
    • Improved accessibility
      • Access keys can configured for any page
      • Accessibility page automatically lists the access keys that have been set
    • Size and format automatically visible on links to files (likethis, PDF 2MB)
    • Social Media
      • Display Twitter and Facebook links in site-wide footer. Configurable in CMS.
      • Easily share News Articles with ‘Share This’ links.
    • RSS
      • Each page change visible in a per-page RSS feed - supports transparency
      • Subscribe to all site changes
      • Administrator can disable RSS changes to particular pages if needed
      • News articles presented as an RSS feed
      • Search Results page can be subscribed via RSS; allows users to subscribe to new pages that match the search term into the future.
      • Feeds meet e-GIF Government Feed Standard (uses the Atom format. See http://ict.govt.nz/library/nz-government-feed-standard.pdf)

The above functionality is also available:

History of SilverStripe CMS in terms of New Zealand Government adoption

For several years leading up to 2011, SilverStripe CMS was increasingly being adopted by central and local government agencies in New Zealand and Australia. In 2011, SilverStripe Ltd conducted research with existing and prospective government users to identify commonly sought website features. This led to the idea to create 'SilverStripe Express', a package combining SilverStripe CMS with out of the box features targetted at government agencies. Following the major release of SilverStripe CMS 3.0 in June 2012, product development staff became available to work on Express, and were able to build it on the newly updated CMS platform. The code and demo for Express was made publicly available from July 2012.

In early 2013, following a competitive tender, Department of Internal affairs awarded SilverStripe the contract to build and deliver the Common Web Platform (CWP). CWP is a far broader initiative than Express, and thus consumes, replaces, and expands upon the functionality that had proactively been developed by SilverStripe Ltd.

Extending the platform for specific agency needs

All of the freedom of further design and extensions available to SilverStripe CMS remain available to websites running on CWP. In fact, a key consideration is to enable agencies to get past the basics and focus on what makes your site useful:

  • Incorporate contemporary, rich, agency-branded design templates.
  • Add extension modules.
  • Create custom functionality and interactive elements.
  • Share your customisations and extensions across government and make use of work by others.