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WEA – Delivering a new Drupal 8 website for the WEA and their regional presence

Workers’ Educational Association (WEA): Consolidating a fragmented web estate into a consolidated and engaging Drupal 8 solution. Delivering professional user experience and information architecture across a multi-stakeholder audience.

Background

WEA were grappling with management of a set of diverse set of websites using differing content management systems and standards. This posed challenges in maintaining brand and content consistency across WEA’s web estate.

WEA look to embark on a journey towards offering a holistic suite of web services to their target audiences, integrating with various business systems to give visitors rapid, web-based access to interactive services. The first step of this was to create a new, well-designed and scalable website consolidating WEA’s various regional offices’ web presence.

Drupal CMS formed a particular strong option due to the flexibility and capacity for integration offered through its modular architecture and prolific user community. As early adopters of the newly-released Drupal 8 product, the project represented Panlogic’s first web build using the new release, and one of the first websites to develop and manage Drupal 8 on a Microsoft SQL-based environment.

Requirements

  • Develop a consolidated WEA web presence on the Drupal CMS accommodating the organisation’s individual and devolved regions
  • Integrating with WEA’s business systems such as the ‘course search’ website
  • Scalability to accommodate a further interactive feature updates in the near-future product roadmap
  • Rich content editing features; content tagging, rich media, survey/forms, shared content assets, content scheduling
  • Social media integration
  • Device and browser responsiveness

Strategy & Delivery

Discovery and scoping

Panlogic’s technical architect led a discovery process culminating in a systematic assessment of integration options with WEA’s course search website.

To support Panlogic’s creative and user experience design work, a series of user research exercises were carried out involving a digital card-sorting exercise and a visitor survey. This provided empirical evidence to support and seed ideas for Panlogic’s approach to the information architecture and user experience improvements for the new web build. Panlogic articulated their research in the form of proposed national and regional sitemaps and an insight report.

Wireframing and creative

Interactive wireframes were developed using Axure and distributed across the project stakeholder group. The work developed iteratively as successive rounds of feedback were reflected in a continuously-changing deliverable. Concurrently, creative designs and interactive HTML templates were built to offer stakeholders an increasingly high-fidelity manifestation of the desired requirements. Each of the page templates developed were fully device-responsive offering a considered and optimised experience for visitors using mobile, tablet and desktop technology. The WEA brand is maintained across each whilst allowing regional offices the flexibility needed to accommodate varying quantities and types of content as well as different functionality between the internet and intranet websites.

Technical development

The project offered Panlogic its first commercial opportunity to develop using the newly-released Drupal 8 making use of improved speed, security, stability and accessibility built into the core CMS product. A modern, custom Drupal theme was developed by Panlogic for the website using SASS technology and HTML5.

Apache Solr was employed to power the website’s search functionality including harnessing of Solr’s geospatial search feature to deliver interactive maps useful for WEA’s regional structure and localised offices and participating locations. Promotional sections of the website were delivered using Drupal Views to neatly organise categorised promotional content.

To fit with WEA’s existing hosting and digital systems, a Windows architecture was chosen. Panlogic faced challenges using the newly-released Drupal 8 product on a Windows environment and it soon became clear there was considerable work required to bring the open-source product to a production-ready state for use with a Windows operating system and Microsoft SQL. During the course of development, Panlogic made a list of contributions back to the Drupal community around both the Core product, and community-developed ‘Contrib’ modules. This applied to providing integration with Microsoft SQL as well as general bug fixes and new features. Modules concerned include ‘Field Collection’, ‘YAML form’, ‘Views’, ‘SMTP Authentication Support’, ‘Slick Carousel’ and ‘Ultimate Cron’.

Accessibility

Panlogic worked effectively in collaboration with our accessibility consultant, Léonie Watson to maintain a high accessibility standard across the site, scrutinising Panlogic’s development work against W3C-AA standards. The project team have a strong working relationship with Léonie having delivered industry-leading accessible websites together. Both Léonie’s thorough knowledge of the field and progressive attitude, as well as Panlogic’s developers’ strong acquaintance with accessibility requirements allows for modern and highly interactive page features to be used without compromise to end user experience, regardless of assistive technology used.

Value

The development of the new Drupal 8 website secured a number of value-adding achievements:

  • A centralised, manageable CMS where web strategy can be coordinated across the regions;
  • A consistent brand and modern design, fully device and browser responsive;
  • Future scalability for introduction of WEA’s business systems and the rich feature set of Drupal’s ‘Contrib’ modules;
  • Excellent accessibility standards across the web build;
  • User-centric and evidence-based user experience;
  • Well-handled user journeys directing to key content and promotions. Thoughtfully organised information architecture;
  • Development integrity; coded to Drupal coding standards.

 



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