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High stakes web redevelopment

Salsa Digital created a robust website that could withstand the traffic peaks associated with emergency situations, while also streamlining and automating content management for the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

The players

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) manages the Emergency Relief and Recovery website. The site communicates essential support information to people during and after emergencies, covering everything from financial and clean-up assistance to emotional health and wellbeing.

The problem

The Emergency Relief and Recovery (ER&R) website was built on legacy technology, an old content management system (CMS) called SquizMatrix. The site was inflexible and it was costly to add new functionality or any sort of customisation. More importantly, it was also unstable and prone to crashing during peak traffic times.

Emergency response and recovery needs systems that function flawlessly within an environment characterised by huge spikes in demand. The tragic events of the Black Saturday fires provided a baseline of what the ER&R site could expect — this event caused a huge increase in demand to the legacy site.

ER&R needed a new website and new CMS that was cost-effective, easy to use and robust enough to cope with huge spikes in traffic during peak periods. They also wanted to re-use their existing design and user interface, because it had been developed with extensive analysis and testing.

The timeframe was also tight — the site needed to be ready for the looming bushfire season in less than three months’ time.

The solution

Salsa Digital’s approach was to engineer a system built from the ground up for robustness and scale. Working with Acquia, we used the enterprise-level Drupal cloud platform as a foundation for the new site, underpinned by Amazon Web Services (AWS) for inherent scalability.

To engineer a mission-critical site in such a short timeframe we used parallel streams, and kept DHHS in the loop with workshops and detailed weekly status reports.

An important element of the project was to demonstrate the site’s ability to function under demand. Salsa Digital designed a stress test that modelled the Black Saturday demand as well as a demand 10 times that of Black Saturday. The tests showed 90% and 95% response time frequencies, which showcased the newly engineered site’s capability to support emergency response demands.

Content management

Emergency response requires content to be managed under extreme pressure. Content managers need simple and reliable content processes.

To meet this need, Salsa Digital crafted a method of templating an entire DHHS hierarchy of content. In the case of an emergency a single content management action is able to produce a series of assets that are consistent with other emergency responses and populated with selected template content. Content authors have simple and standardised methods of on-boarding new content.

The benefits

Salsa Digital’s web redevelopment provided an ER&R website that:

  • is a robust and scalable platform that can accommodate peaks on demand;

  • simplifies content management and ensures content can be published quickly and effectively during high-pressure situations;

  • has no practical limit to browser, devices, and bandwidth permutations;

  • re-uses an existing site design and preserves the testing investment; and

  • was delivered on time for the high-risk season.

Why Salsa Digital?

DHHS selected Salsa Digital because of our Drupal experience, certification and track record. Our enterprise rigour ensured we could meet the project’s requirements and deliver a web redevelopment that would meet the very serious needs of emergency relief and recovery. In addition, Salsa's experience using agile methodologies helps to deliver speed and risk mitigation to all projects.

Since building the ER&R website, Salsa Digital has also been named Acquia’s Partner of the Year Asia Pacific and Japan (2016).

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