A Drupal 8 for Flemish Brabant: accessible and user friendly for everyone
The website of Flemish Brabant needed an urgent update. The navigation and redaction demanded a thorough redesign. And in the back, a new and high-performance WCM was an absolute must. It seemed as if they had already realised that digitisation would be an absolute must in 2020. Their new platform enabled them to easily translate their products and services during this pandemic year.
First, the vibrant province was looking for a lean and mean platform. A website where the user navigates his way through the large amount of content as efficiently as possible. One in which detours are kept to a minimum. Because you don't want to end up at the 'new housing' department when you're looking for 'Domein Huizingen'.
Next, not only the ease of use of the end user was high on the priority list. As a governmental institution, it is mandatory to meet a number of strict security and accessibility requirements. So, that was also at the top of our to-do list.
And last but not least: the Flemish Brabant in-house team wanted to keep control by managing the various sites completely independently. This also included creating separate sites and landing pages.
Just like many other governmental institutions, Flemish Brabant opted for the Open Source web content management framework Drupal. And this with Dropsolid as a dedicated partner, challenge accepted!
Flemish Brabant, that is: 1 province, 65 cities, 1 155 843 inhabitants. All looking for one specific piece of information in a multitude of content.
The solution? An informative website in Drupal 8, with the implementation of multi languages for the future.
The main goal in mind? To publish administrative information and news updates that make topics such as provincial domains and vacancies but also environment, mobility and spatial planning accessible to everyone.
Accessible for everybody
Welcoming Flemish Brabant wanted a website that’s easily accessible for everyone: current inhabitants, future residents and sporadic visitors. So it's important that the platform can be consulted at any time, anywhere and on any device. A fully responsive website.
We illustrate this with some examples:
- Calendar with extended search filter
On mobile phones the filters collapse nicely. This way, everything remains accessible quickly and easily, without taking up too much space.
These filters are also active on the news overview, the educational offer, the A-Z list and the search function. In order to optimize uniformity and user-friendliness, the structure of these filters is identical everywhere and they all collapse in the same way.
- Recurring event maximum
Recurring events only show the next five dates in the overview. This can be weekly, monthly or manually selected recurring events. This way the screen is never overloaded with future activities.
- Dynamic and extended filters
Filtering can be done in different ways ('next 30 days', 'this weekend'...). When there are no scheduled events within a certain filter, it will be hidden automatically. In this way everyone can quickly find what they are looking for.
All governmental websites are legally obliged to be WCAG 2AA compliant, which of course happened. The entire website is therefore WCAG 2AA compliant.
Government websites are required by law to be WCAG 2AA compliant, which of course happened. When everything has been examined and approved, they also obtain the Anysurfer label.
The balance between maintenance and customization
As mentioned above, Flemish Brabant likes to keep full control and is responsible for the content and maintenance of their platform. So in this project a lot of attention was paid to this specific topic. We developed the main website, vlaamsbrabant.be. The client manages and maintains it, and is able to easily create subsites themselves. At an early stage, Flemish Brabant indicated that they would like to keep full control and freedom. The entire project was delivered, including the source code and data.
For example, they can easily change certain elements such as the logo, title and look 'n feel (css) themselves. The structure and breadcrumbs automatically adjust themself to the right position. This way they are able to go live very quickly with new (temporarily) campaign sites.
In addition, we took care of the easy management of content by creating Drupal Paragraphs and a wysiwyg editor. Some examples:
- Announcements: quickly and easily add important announcements on specific pages or to groups of pages.
For example: Covid-19 measures, storm weather ...
- Calendar: extended support for (recurring) events. Displaying of the correct searches by dividing them into categories.
- Drilldown menu structure: extended menu structure and information offered by division of (sub)components. When restructuring the website, the menu can easily be rearranged. All pages are automatically set correctly, including the overviews. There is also an additional choice to display the menu in list or block form.
Finding and to be found
Visitors must quickly find their way through the multitude of information. Especially at an institution like Flemish Brabant, there is a very extensive and diverse range of information. So in the search function we went all out:
- Synonyms: adding synonyms increases findability. For example, if you are looking for activities for your children, you can search by 'activity' or 'event' for children. The search result remains the same.
- Removal autocomplete: normally autocomplete removes the punctuation marks. Certain names or email addresses came in wrong because of this. By using synonyms this problem was solved.
- A-Z index: in this index you will find all pages and other content types. The integration of alternative titles ensures an even better findability.
Example: Provincial domain Kessel-Lo can be found at the P, D and K by adding alternative titles 'Domain Kessel-Lo' and 'Kessel-Lo'.
- Extended findability: every page can also be found via url, menu structure, search function and A-Z index.
From request to handling
In a province it is very common that (future) inhabitants can request certain publications. Think of bicycle maps, informative brochures, environmental files ... Flemish Brabant chose to request these documents online via their website. In order to speed up the digital process, we linked a user-friendly checkout process to it.
In this case, the request for such documents is simply done via Drupalforms. It offers extensive possibilities which was very important for the administrators of the platform. In addition to requesting documents, they also easily implement these Drupalforms during the busy recruitment waves. As a result, the first point of contact for a new application now goes a lot smoother.
Through an internal system, linked to the website, the employees manage these publications completely independent. Specific matters such as copy, assigning properties, etc. run through Drupal, so that everything neatly ends up on the website. Adding publications is also done via Drupal paragraphs. While the processing of the ordered publications takes place via the internal system itself.
Under the hood
For a platform of this size it's not just the outside that counts. How everything is built, which integrations are set up and what happens at the back is extremely important. These technical masterpieces are behind the scenes:
- Multilingual Drupal 8 website with Paragraphs and Drupal webforms.
- Integrations with:
- UiT In Vlaanderen for loading extra (self-selected) activities
- Measuremail for subscribing to newsletters
- Active Directory for secure and centralized management of accesses and passwords.
- Extended search function and A-Z index with Apache SOLR with multiple indexes.
- Commerce with API handling. Through a queuing system, ordered publications are fed back via the API for further processing. In this way no data is lost if the handling system is temporarily inactive.
Flemish Brabant is no longer worried about the management of their platforms, because they have full control of them. They maintain a secure and accessible website in which they manage their own calendars, content and publications. Even the creation of (temporary) sites and landing pages is entirely in their own hands.
This is also a big progress for the citizens. They can now easily get in touch with their province, ask questions via the website more easily and find their answers more quickly on a transparent platform.