At a glance

GovCMS, Merlin
Federal government
Build & migration
Whole of government

The purpose

To migrate the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) website quickly and easily, and provide a secure, robust platform and improved content management experience. 

The players

DFAT works across a range of areas including developing policy for foreign affairs and trade, negotiating international agreements, managing passport services and delivering aid. 

The challenge

DFAT’s site was hosted on an internal SharePoint system that was scheduled for decommissioning. The agency needed to update the platform and find a flexible and secure solution. The website had over 30,000 pages, 26,000 files and 16,650+ images. It’s also a very active site, with up to hundreds of content changes made each week. 

The solution

Salsa started with the out-of-the-box default GovCMS SaaS (D8), and used the baked in Australian Design System to greatly speed up the build and design process. DFAT’s branding was applied into the theme layer. A heavy use of GovCMS components automates the building of page content sections like news lists, homepage showcase, and tile-based lists — all managed from individual content pages. Through the use of GovCMS components, the site meets UX and user-centred design principles and is also WCAG 2.0 AA compliant.

For the content, Salsa used Merlin for an automated ‘lift and shift’ of every piece of content. This mammoth task was completed in just days. Merlin is an open source migration framework deliberately crafted to lower the barrier to migrate legacy and proprietary sites onto standardised/consolidated platforms such as GovCMS. Merlin was also able to rebuild the complex information architecture (IA) of the DFAT site, which in many areas had content 11 levels deep. 

DFAT also introduced three new custom administrative modules into its site, making it fall into the GovCMS ‘Service as a Service Plus’ (SaaS+) offering. The new SaaS+ offering by GovCMS gives agencies more freedom — they can add in custom modules (but they must maintain them) while still benefiting from the standard SaaS offering of a fully secure and managed content management platform solution.


The key benefits for DFAT’s new site:

  • Fast site build and migration — Salsa’s Merlin tool and Drupal expertise meant the whole project was completed in five months despite the website’s size (30K of pages and over 40K of documents and images) and complex site IA.

  • Improved content administrator experience — it’s now easier for publishers to manage the high volume of content changes.

  • Increased flexibility in content design and creation — content editors can build and manage page layout components.

  • Responsive design — the new site can be viewed on multiple devices such as mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers.

  • Ability to grow and enhance the site in the future — DFAT can enhance the site by building features in-house or leveraging features and modules built by the GovCMS community.

  • Highly available and resilient platform — the DFAT website can deliver time-critical and sensitive messaging and content in relation to domestic or international incidents and crises.