Colorado turns to Drupal for Web development
- By Patrick Marshall
- Dec 02, 2013
The federal government's HealthCare.gov example notwithstanding, government website design and deployment doesn't have to be long, complicated and expensive, as the state of Colorado has recently demonstrated with its deployment of a Drupal-based content management system (CMS).
Drupal is a free, open-source suite that can be downloaded at drupal.org. Its core application offers support for websites, blogs, forums and community websites with user-generated content. Since it is Web-based, it is compatible with all operating systems.
One obvious advantage of using the free, open-source Drupal platform is cost savings.
John Conley, executive director of Colorado's Statewide Internet Portal Authority, said in a press release that “by moving to Drupal, SIPA is able to offer more of the advanced features and functions that our customers have been asking for while decreasing the overhead for our developers and designers. This means that we will be able to roll out sites faster than ever before and in a more cost-friendly manner for our operations.”
SIPA serves as the oversight body of the Colorado.gov portal, which is the gateway to Colorado government sites and e-government services. In fact, SIPA supports more than 200 sites for state and local agencies, and it reports rapid growth in demand over the past three years.
While the state had been contracting with an in-state CMS provider, Conley noted that the growth in the service required a look at alternative platforms that would allow for more robust functionality, greater stability and “the ability to serve a growing number of users who access partner information via mobile devices."
“The Drupal platform is especially effective for those state agencies that do not have the staff or resources to allocate to a lengthy website design effort,” Colorado Interactive general manager Fred Sargeson, said in a statement. (Colorado Interactive is the organization that runs Colorado.gov.) “Our goal is for this technology to be accessible to every agency and local government across the state. This platform allows for that.”
Colorado is just the latest government entity to turn to a Drupal-based CMS. It is used on more than 150 sites in federal government, and just as many state government sites also use it, according to Drupal.org. The Energy Department, which used Drupal to help consolidate a number of sites in 2011, reported saving $10 million in the process. The New York State Senate used Drupal to build a mobile application lets state residents access the senate’s Web page and contact their representatives from their mobile devices.
Among the Drupal features that made it an attractive to Colorado are:
- A single site theme that provides consistent branding across agencies and their divisions.
- An easy-to-use web content management interface.
- Content that is easily shared among divisions and pages.
- The ability to publish content on-demand with no delays.
- iFrames that deliver easy department branding.
- The ability to create vanity URLs.
- The ability to create web forms.
- The time-saving ability to upload multiple files at one time.
The first full site created with Drupal – that of the Department of Personnel and Administration – launched on Oct. 17. It included nine mini-sites for each of the department’s divisions and was able to produce more than 600 pages of Web content in less than one week.
According to the Drupal Association, which is hosted by the Oregon State University Open Source Lab
, the Drupal project is powered by more than half a million people in more than 200 countries, with nearly 1,000 members of the Drupal community contributing to the core application and thousands more developing contributed modules.
Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.