The editorial team at the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham is the driving force behind the council's website. Journalists, photographers and videographers gather and produce news round the clock while editors publish news and service-oriented content for the general public.
The editors who make up the team are the kind of professionals you'd expect to find in a print news room: passionate, knowledgeable and dedicated to serving their audience.
After having wrestled with their old CMS for more than a decade, the team decided change was in order. The public facing site had become a rigid and rather unappealing relic of another era, while the non-web based administration interface was more of a hindrance than a sharp tool to get work done.
Contentive designed the new site, SwiftCircle built the platform from the ground up, and Code Enigma provides hosting on their managed infrastructure.
First a core team at LBHF discussed for months how they should reorganise all the content and how the public would benefit most from a new website. Armed with this data the council tasked Contentive London, a global media agency located in the heart of Hammersmith, to design the site's new digital experience.
The intense, iterative design process between LBHF and Contentive resulted in a set of mood boards and user journeys that, in turn, became the foundation of the final designs for the phone, tablet and desktop versions of the new site.
Contentive turned to SwiftCircle to rebuild lbhf.gov.uk from the ground up using the Drupal 7 CMS. As we had a tight budget and an aggressive deadline we attacked in a parallel formation: the development team started building the major components, editorial workflows and third party service integrations while the UX team prototyped the responsive site based on the provided Photoshop designs.
The parallel prototyping process let everyone experience and comment on the responsive design ahead of its final implementation in Drupal.
Having development and UX done in parallel allows for quick feedback and test cycles. The LBHF staff confidently tested new, unstyled bits of functionality, safe in the knowledge that the end result would match expectations.
While we were busy developing the new site, the editorial team at LBHF triaged and overhauled all existing content using the cloud-based GatherContent platform. They culled obsolete pages mercilessly and restructured and refreshed relevant information.
We improved and extended the open source module that connects Drupal with GatherContent and allowed the LBHF team to iteratively import and re-import the updated content into the staging site in real-time as we were developing it. Again this allowed short feedback cycles and tweaks to the information architecture where necessary.
Code Enigma set up a Continuous Integration & Deployment system for us, based around five parallel environments and matching code branches:
- master - bleeding edge development integration
- stage - staging environment where LBHF staff worked on content import
- sandbox - isolated playground for learning and trying out new features.
- uat - user acceptance testing
- production - live site
The level of automation provided by the Code Enigma DevOps engineers allows us to clone the production environment to any of the other branches, or to deploy new code and configuration from any of the branches into production with the click of a button.
The team presented the new site to focus groups which represented a cross-section of the LBHF audience. We tested the responsiveness ad nauseam using a variety of physical and emulated mobile devices, as well as a long list of browser/operating system combinations.
Response to the renewed lbhf.gov.uk has been strong indeed: pages load faster, information is easier to find, a delight to use on smartphones, and a breath of fresh air among many ancient, crufty council sites.