Cloud, open source power TransLink's Web presence

It was an aging bespoke application that drove TransLink to seek a new content management system, but it was the strength of the community surrounding the open source project that helped the Queensland public transport agency choose Drupal.

Prior to the switch to Drupal, which began last year, the former TransLink site was partly based on static files and partly on a "home-grown CMS that managed a lot of our custom content such as service disruption and events, so that we could do a little bit of distributed authoring within the organisation," said Natalie Gorring, manager, online products and services, at TransLink.

The old CMS, based on the Yii Web framework "was a few years old and needed updates," Gorring said. "As the TransLink website was evolving, we weren't able to keep up with updating the CMS that we had." As a result, TransLink started looking for alternatives.

"We didn't want to keep putting Band-Aids on our old CMS," Gorring explained.

The organisation reviewed a number of open source and proprietary CMSes, and Drupal came out on top. The open source project's active community was a factor in the decision, Gorring said. In addition, the TransLink team had in-house PHP skills, and that was also a factor in choosing the new CMS.

For the transition, TranLink relied heavily on its in-house skills but partnered with Acquia, the Boston-based company founded by Drupal creator Dries Buytaert, for hosting. The TransLink site is hosted in Acquia's cloud service, Gorring said.

"The [Queensland] government at the moment is very supportive of cloud and data sharing," Gorring said.

(An IT strategy update released by the Queensland government in May this year placed cloud computing quot;at the centre of government ICT reformquot; in the state.)

Going with a cloud service "took some pressure off our business systems team, and we have a contract with Acquia for 24-hour support," Gorring said. The TransLink site gets around 130,000 unique visits daily.

The initial scope of the Drupal project was a 'like for like' transition, replicating the organisation's existing website using the open source CMS. "We didn't have the time to add new features at the time," Gorring said. "For customers there was no difference, except maybe a few URL changes."

The transition took place over a period of around nine months, beginning late last year.

The Web team has tweaked some Drupal modules as well as written its own custom module. Gorring said that the service update section of the TransLink website is based on a custom content type and also provides the organisation's call centre staff with a mechanism to tweet information from within the CMS.

"The change to Drupal was really well received," Gorring said. "It's something that our content editors were craving, because we just couldn't support the old CMS any more." Some 40 people use the CMS.

"Going forward we plan to utilise some of the modules that have already been developed by the community," Gorring added. "We'll probably look at the language translation modules, and also some of the A-B testing modules so that marketing can really test their campaigns."

The organisation is considering a website redesign sometime in the 12 months, implementing a responsive design, Gorring said. More than half of TransLink's Web traffic comes from mobile devices, she added.

"We have an adaptive design at the moment; we're not fully responsive, but we will be looking at updating to the Bootstrap framework," Gorring said.

There are also plans to add 'regionalisation' to the website. "When you look at sites like the Qantas website you can change your country or your region and have local content delivered to you. We're hot on the heels of a project to allow that ability on the website."

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p


Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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