The Contensis platform has enabled the Council to deliver a best of breed accessible website, which provides the framework for their whole web strategy moving forward.
The system has been implemented by the Customer Care Web team at Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council (RCT), who were able to get up to speed with only a few days training and deliver a site that integrates with everything from their online payment systems to GIS.
RCT decided to change their previous Content Management system (CMS) which powered their previous website for many years to help achieve their new web & self service objectives, and give wider flexibility to suit their ambitions.
The Council wanted to deliver a best of breed site, whilst keeping the immediate and long-term budgets to a minimum. They also expected functionality and usability that greatly improved upon their already respectable position in the local government arena.
The site had to make it straightforward for any user to navigate to the right content quickly. And it had to meet the local government standards, from a navigational, coding, interoperability and usage perspective.
Whilst carrying out the project they wanted to implement a complete new design, a complete multilingual presence and at the same time migrate from their previous CMS provider.
Certainly a great deal to take on in one project!
After a review of various products in the market place, the Council decided to build on its incumbent relationship with Contensis based on the breadth of functionality available out of the box from this CMS.
Having at least 80% of the functionality out of the box allowed the Web team to focus on the strategy, integration and migration aspects of the project, without needing to worry about creating all the rich set of features that Contensis delivers through standard controls and modules.
A New Design
The new design was created internally within the RCT Web team. As you would expect, there are no limitations on what can be implemented into Contensis. If it can be achieved in HTML it can be achieved in Contensis.
This open brief allowed the design to be approached without creative limitations. After a small number of iterations a final design was agreed upon, and a suite of wireframes created.
These wireframes were then run past the Web team, who added all of the functional and technical specification, putting the team in a position ready for build.
With most of the Contensis modules and components already translated into seven languages, RCT were encouraged to find out that this included Welsh.
Contensis has extensive multilingual functionality that allows you to localise a site with ease.
From a Contensis perspective, the implementation was straightforward, as we had just completed a challenging multi lingual site for Domino Printing Sciences plc, where we developed over 15 site variations, covering both country and language sites.
The New Contensis Local Government Pack
Having been in the local government sector for some time, Contensis had a whole suite of “ready-to-go” modules, but the suite had until then lacked standard implementations for areas such as Council Meetings and Agendas, Councillors and Committees.
Working with Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC and other Local Government customers, a tight specification was drawn up for the new modules, which will be ready for public release over the coming months.
All the team needed to do was simply configure the modules and migrate the data from the previous system. The migration was carried out using the Contensis Open API, and was straight-forward due to the object orientated approach of the Contensis product.
LGNL / LGSL Implementation
The LGNL (Local Government Navigation List) and the LGSL (Local Government Service List) are standards that have been introduced by government to improve the interoperability between government systems, and to provide the council staff and the public with a consistent navigation that makes sense to the relevant audience.
Often we see CMS implementation where the council staff are trying to edit the content within the strictures of the LGNL. The problem here is that staff identify most closely with the team or directorate in which they work, and do not necessarily understand the LGNL.
To combat this issue the Contensis Local Government Navigation pack allows any council to use the link that already exists between Council Services and the LGNL.
As a result, internal users in the council can easily navigate to their service area in the CMS, author and edit content. Without them realising it, the content will be automatically published to the relevant place on the Public Facing Website.
This separation between taxonomies ensures that permissions and approvals are service based - the natural organisational structure - but the delivery is entirely different and designed for the citizen.
The feedback has been good, and unlike many other implementations we have seen, the site has a true polymorphic implementation of the LGNL.
In practise this means that, although a topic such as Council Tax can appear in different areas of navigation, the user will stay in that section rather than being transported to a different section of the site, while getting very confused in the process.
Rhondda Cynon Taff CBC exploited their GIS system called Stratus Connect, provided by Pitney Bowes Business Insight with the Contensis CMS. The system allows them to provide useful services to the public, ranging from being able to see where your local schools are to booking arranging a bulky waste collection.
The integration has transformed the services offered through the website.
The Contensis framework provided the ability to carry out the integration, and after developer training, the RCT Web Team were able to integrate almost any type of mapping data you can imagine.
Their content contributors can even insert a map into their content and choose which layers of the GIS they wish to display.
If you are writing a page about leisure centres, you can simply insert a map of the leisure centres showing where they all are!
It is so simple to do, that standard end users can have a map up and running in a matter of minutes.
From a technical perspective the GIS integration was done using a suite of .Net Server Controls.
Online Forms Integration
For any Council, Online Forms are very important. RCT CBC already had all of their forms written in .net, and integrating them into Contensis was straightforward.
Once the pre-written forms had been integrated, they could immediately be deployed directly within the Contensis template system with ease.
RCT simply needed to make some minor changes, which was also a good chance to do some housekeeping and improvement on the forms.
Web Accessibility and Standards
As with any council, Web Accessibility and standard such as meta-data implementation were a critical factor.
Contensis has given them the perfect vehicle to realise the goal of launching a fully WAI WCAG compliant AA-rated site. And perhaps more importantly, tools for the editors are being rolled out to maintain the new site at the same exacting levels of accessibility over the long term.
Contensis makes it straightforward to implement any meta-data schema, and RCT have implemented the Dublin Core schema as a foundation for the site.
We feel that RCT have produced an excellent site, one that has surpassed even their own significant expectations. Throughout the process, Contensis has provided a core framework to allow them to achieve every one of their initial goals.
Good project management and leadership ensured that the site went live within the expected timeframes.
We like to form a true partnership approach with all of our customers, and have been told that our commitment and support was of huge value during their implementation.
We believe that the testimonial from the Council’s Web Manager, Darcy Smith, proves that anything is possible with Contensis - “Our Development opportunities now have very little limitations through using Contensis”.
Testimonials from Darcy Smith, the lead developer for the Rhondda Cynon Taf project:
“As a keen .NET developer, developing for the Contensis CMS is a joy. We have used CMS's in the past that could only be extended and developed for in Notepad !! So, working in the comforts of Visual Studio 2008 is pleasurable in comparison! “
“Because Contensis essentially produces a .NET published website, anything you could do in Visual Studio can be done with Contensis – with very little limitations! From the complexities of integrating with CRM systems, mapping systems, custom databases all the way through to being in control of every aspect of a pages' design - Contensis CMS allows you to do it. Far from holding a development team back, the CMS actually helps you to achieve your own custom developments due to the fact that all the Helper methods and .NET classes of the system are publicly exposed for anyone to make full use of. We've not yet found a situation or development that couldn't be achieved. “
“Contensis also allows Web Control developers/designers the chance to wrap up the complexities of their controls into simple and easy to use Property Screens for content contributors. That means that you take a very complex control and expose public properties to allow your end users to configure appearance, layout & behaviour of your creations to suit their individual needs. All this is simple to achieve.
We can’t wait to start considering how we can further develop the RCT CBC site with an emphasis on adding authentication and personalisation features & further integrations with other systems.”