We’re pleased to announce the release of the third full version of aGov, the open Drupal CMS for Australian Government websites, available for free download now from Drupal.org.
Since its release in early 2013, aGov has been downloaded more than 50,000 times and is now running over 500 live websites, far exceeding any expectations we initially had about the platform’s potential. This has included many major government departments adopting aGov, with aGov 2.0 forked to become the core software for the govCMS hosting platform.
PreviousNext has assisted many Australian federal, state and local government clients build their own aGov websites, leading to significant lessons learnt along the way.
The primary learning from this experience is that very few clients are content with a default version of aGov. Each client has their own distinct needs around branding, content, additional Drupal modules, custom functionality and third party integration. While aGov provides a fantastic starting point for these sites, most installations quickly depart from the standard settings and designs.
This insight has formed the core of our thinking around the release of aGov 3. Rather than attempt to have everything for all user types in the default install, we’ve stripped aGov back to be more of a framework for building customised government Drupal websites. All of the core modules are still there to ensure the websites comply with Australian Government standards, but the theme layer now provides an immensely richer and more modern approach to customising content presentation and branding.
At the heart of this change has been the adoption of the Zen 6 base theme, created by leading PreviousNext developer, John Albin Wilkins. This has enabled us to adopt the cutting-edge approach of Style Guide Driven Development, allowing front end developers to quickly adjust styles of individual web components and have them instantly displayed throughout an aGov 3 website. This approach will make re-theming your aGov sites significantly easier to manage and maintain, especially for the larger teams typically found within government agencies.
We’ve also taken steps to separate out many aGov specific modules as their own projects. This aids in a cleaner install profile and easier configuration management once customisations are made. Another simplification has been to remove the Panels in Place Editor, that we found over-complicated traditional Site Building tasks. Behind the scenes, the PreviousNext team has already road tested aGov 3 on some prominent live sites, and we’ve seen significant improvements in terms of developer workflow and flexibility to customise aGov.
The other major initiative for aGov 3 is to align with the new policies of the Digital Service Standard, released by the Digital Transformation Office. The most obvious result of this is a completely new design that focuses on ease of use and speed to load on multiple devices, which came as the result of a dedicated user-centred design process with end users. Our accessibility partner, Media Access Australia, has worked alongside PreviousNext to ensure aGov 3 meets WCAG 2.0 AA upon initial install and complies with other important accessibility considerations.
We’ve also learned through aGov’s growth that clients have dramatically different hosting requirements and blossoming complexity around developer workflow. Over the past few months, we’ve significantly expanded partnerships with cloud hosting giants Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, meaning that aGov sites can be fully supported with comprehensive Managed Services plans no matter who our clients prefer to host with.
Supporting this choice of hosting partner, PreviousNext is also providing larger client teams with a fully managed Continuous Integration service so that internal and external teams can easily contribute to a project’s delivery and maintenance.
From here, our team is marching headlong towards the imminent release of Drupal 8, and work’s already commenced on aGov 8.x, so stay tuned for updates!