Nikhil Deshpande (@nikofthehill) is the Director of GeorgiaGov Interactive a group within the Georgia state government that provides services to agencies and other government organizations. Today at CapitalCamp he talked about why they chose Drupal for georgia.gov and how they approached the transition.

Georgia.gov, as the website for the Georgia state government, used to be simply a landing page with links. They wanted it to be a front door to wherever you wanted to go in the state government, but people were coming there and falling off. They had a fragmented experience, a fragmented brand. They were running many different CMS’s. They had both platform issues and a design challenge.

Their users don’t look like typical personas. They are trying to be a website for everyone, to serve the whole population. How do they do this? Here are my rough notes on this intriguing talk.

Platform Choice

Since they were running a lot of CMS’s, they knew exactly what they needed:

  1. to have an enterprise element, they were hosting 60-70 websites
  2. cost effective (not saying cheap) — worthwhile, but doesn’t cost as much as others
  3. simple and usable
  4. strong presence in the public sector

Nikhil Deshpande stated that Drupal is the second largest CMS worldwide, 2.1% of the web. [note: w3techs reports Drupal as #3 at 2%, which is still pretty huge, but perhaps Joomla has grown in the past few years.]

Open Source!

Nikhail saw this as opportunity to answer valid questions about open source solutions, since they were moving from mostly proprietary systems.

  • security? high threshold of security since it has so many eyes on it
  • free? how good can it be if it is free? It’s not free. It’s free as in free speech, not free beer.
  • total cost of ownership? you need to implement it and host it

Who uses it?  Huge number of government sites, including go.usa.gov, USDA, NASA, Dept of Justice, USAID, and many more.

You can either implement it yourself or get someone to implement it for you. They sent out a bid and chose Phase 2 as a partner. Then Phase 2 brought in Acquia (started by the founder of Drupal) and mediacurrent. They decided to use OpenPublic platform, which is built very specifically for the government. It’s a distribution of Drupal that you can customize or use out-of-the-box.

  • tailored to the needs of govt
  • security
  • accessibility
  • workflow

Moving from Vignette to Drupal

Content: Oracle to MySQL
Look and feel — not just a migration, decided to do a re-design.
Single code-base, multiple databases
Cloud hosting — all public info, no sensitive data
Search
Mobile ready – 20% of traffic overall (and climbing), some websites up to 45%

Design

Internal team designed the main site, then Phase 2 did the rest of the websites
did heat maps — search 31% clicks, child support 13%, headlines 3.6%

Made it very search centric. They got a Google Search Applicance and indexed all of the Georgia government websites.

55 redesigns?

Nope…

  • template based
  • styletiles as a design methodology
  • demo websites for agencies based on the styletiles

4 main themes — agencies could choose: patriotic, friendly, official, classic

No one really likes change, but if you communicate well it can go smoothly.

56 sites, 8 batches, 150 content managers
Oct 2011 – Sept 2012
on time & budget
Best of Web — 2012 Innovation Award
99.98% Uptime
Savings 4.7MM in 5 years

Takeaways

  • define success
  • communicate & involve (120 people who were trained at content managers, decision-makers, who signed off on the look of the website)
  • carefully select implementation partner, but also build a strong internal team

No one wants to be on the receiving end of a change. It is important to communicate “things are going to be hard for you, but this is what we are doing to make it work.”

What do you think?