How Iowa eased its transition to Drupal

How Iowa eased its transition to Drupal

Since implementing the Iowa Interactive Drupal Standard Operating platform nearly a year ago, the State of Iowa has used the framework to launch five websites and is hoping the DSO approach will jumpstart the transition to Drupal for the other agency websites.

Along with a number of state governments and federal agencies, Iowa’s initiative to implement Drupal across the state began years ago. In late 2012, Iowa deployed its Content Management Standard that included Drupal and DotNetNuke in order to standardize its website management in a cost-efficient and effective way.

“We implemented an enterprise standard because before that agencies were using all different kinds of website tools, and there wasn’t any standardization,” said Dawn Connet, executive officer for Iowa’s Information and Technology Services. She also referred to the additional need of mobile responsiveness, consistency and easier tools for content management.

The state then iterated its way through a number of implementations in order to make it easier for agencies and offices to migrate to the Drupal platform. “While we had a standard to use Drupal, we didn’t have a standard template,” Connet explained.

Meanwhile, agencies were working with – and still use today – a variety of third-party vendors for templates when implementing the basic Drupal environment.  The state wanted to stay away from extreme customization by offering a standard template to streamline the transition process.

So Iowa's Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) built the Drupal Standard Operating platform with longtime vendor partner Iowa Interactive. The template is responsive and mobile friendly, offers a suite of tools to help agencies easily build a website with its Drupal Core. Staff can manage and upload content without extensive technology expertise, while maintaining options for agency branding, color and style flexibility.

The mobile-friendly platform relies heavily on HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery, and Jenkins is used for continuous integration needs.

The OCIO provides the platform, design framework and migration assistance, which accommodates all security requirements using HTTPS connections.  The shared service helps to minimize the need for tedious contracting procedures, additional funding or further standards-compliance efforts. The state even provides basic and advanced Drupal training for agency staff on a monthly basis.

To date, about 75 percent of agencies and 95 percent of all state websites have moved to Drupal. The remaining 25 percent of agencies are on track to follow, though not all are using the same template.

“[Using a template] allows the agencies to pretty quickly make the decisions they need to make to get their site available to start loading content," Connet said.  "So we hope that by using a template it shortens the implementation timeframe for that agency.”

In fact, websites using the DSO platform have been implemented in 72 percent less time than previously developed sites, and large websites are being delivered in about six days rather than 50.

The Drupal template approach is not a new one, as Iowa leveraged some ideas from Georgia’s Drupal template, the Georgia Technology Authority Platform. The U.S. Department of Energy also uses a common Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy navigation template for its Drupal environment, and a long list of Drupal-adopted federal and state agency sites can be found on a Drupal wiki page.

Iowa agencies also are getting started with tracking user experience with Google Analytics to gain insight on template design decisions, content placement and the actual content provided. “As part of the migration effort, agencies have looked at their content and slimmed it down to focus on delivering just what the citizens want,” said Connet.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.


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