At a glance

2017 - 2018
Single Digital Presence
State government
Discovery & strategy, Design & user research, Build & migration
Whole of government

The purpose

To contribute to the open source and open government movement through the delivery of a whole-of-government content management system, with a new design system of reusable components.

The players

Salsa Digital worked with the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) to bring DPC’s vision of a Single Digital Presence (SDP) for Victoria to life. DPC is responsible for several elements of Victoria’s digital engagement, including, and (The Engage website was recently recognised as one of only two finalists in the global GovCX Awards — read our blog on the Awards for more information.)

The problem

DPC knew there were significant problems with the way websites had been built across the Victorian Government, with most sites being built on an ad-hoc basis. The result was over 900 domains (plus an unknown number of sites on .com,, etc. domains), built using different content management systems (CMSs), on different platforms and often with a very different look and feel. DPC described this fragmentation as a ‘technology debt’ with significant implications on costs, efficiencies and cybersecurity.

DPC wanted a unified approach for Victorian Government, a whole-of-government digital platform, and put the Single Digital Presence (SDP) project out to tender.

DPC identified two requirements:

  1. A single site where Victorians could go to get information — a site that was managed by one content management system (CMS).

  2. A common platform for hosting and managing sites.

The new, single platform also had to:

  • Be robust, resilient and secure
  • Be based on a public cloud
  • Use an elastic pricing model
  • Be open source

The solution

Salsa Digital won the SDP tender and started work on all elements of the project, including a component library (called the Atomic Pattern Library) to control the look and feel of agency websites, and the framework and code to ‘render’ those components onto webpages. The library of frontend components includes a starter kit so government agencies (or their website vendor) can build their website’s frontend quickly and easily.

“It’s going to allow agencies to take that base pattern library and personalise it for their own user and business needs without all of the upfront investment in technology and user experience testing,” said Amber Benjafield, Senior Project and Engagement Manager at the DPC said. “All components have already been tested with users.”

The component library is written in the Vue.JS frontend framework and controls the user interface (look and feel) by dictating elements such as page layouts, forms, buttons, font styles, etc.

When a user goes onto the website, they see a page that’s been generated by Nuxt, which is a framework for creating Vue.JS applications. Nuxt gets the data from Tide (the headless Drupal 8 distribution part of the SDP) and then puts that data into the Ripple components to display the webpage to the end user. In this way, Nuxt creates a server-side rendering of the Vue.JS components.

The way the presentation layer has been decoupled from the CMS also presents lots of options for the future. Ms Benjafield explains: “It’s a really exciting proposition because it means the CMS is only a tool for managing content. The way content is presented at the moment is a website but in the future it could be through voice experience or any other product that consumes an API.”

Background: SDP consists of three main products — Bay (an open-source platform based on Lagoon), Tide (a headless Drupal 8 CMS distribution) and Ripple coupled with Nuxt (the frontend presentation layer).

The benefits

The benefits of Ripple can be broken into the overall benefits of the SDP and benefits of the presentation layer, Ripple.

SDP Design Brief Ripple

As part of the bigger picture, SDP delivers:

  • A more citizen-centric offering, helping Victorians to find government information more easily

  • Easier content management via one CMS

  • A truly open source, open platform solution

  • Access to the Drupal community’s contributions to continue to grow the SDP

  • Responsive sites, so websites can be viewed on desktops, tablets and smartphones

  • Accessible sites (built-in WCAG2.0AA compliance tools)

  • A secure environment

Ripple delivers the following specific benefits:

  • Consistent site design to increase overall usability and make it easier for citizens to find information across sites

  • A library of reusable components to increase knowledge sharing and reduce costs across the Victorian Government

  • A starter kit to reduce the barrier for agencies

  • Better performance (the Salsa-customised interface delivers better performance than the standard Drupal theme)

  • Components informed by user testing to maximise the citizen experience

  • The ability to use the library of components on websites that aren’t on the SDP platform, because the use of Nuxt to render the visual components means that as long as other sites use Vue.JS they can access the components

Why Salsa Digital?

Salsa won the SDP tender in 2017 on the strength of our response, which not only demonstrated our ability to build a distribution and presentation layer to meet their requirements but also showed innovative thinking around the open platform (which then became Bay).

“Salsa has been a true partner. They’ve shared the vision for open government solutions and they’ve communicated with authenticity, and frequently. They have a highly skilled workforce and also know when to bring in external consultants. They haven’t done what’s comfortable and familiar they’ve pushed the boundaries to innovate.”  Amber Benjafield, Senior Project and Engagement Manager, DPC 

About Salsa Digital

Salsa is a highly specialised, enterprise-grade digital agency focused on open source for social good and innovation. We’re committed to the open government movement and to the many benefits this ethos provides including transparency, innovation, and sharing and improving problems and patterns solved by the pioneers before us.

The open source movement has played a key role in the evolution of Salsa. Over the years, as technology and practices have developed, this commitment to open source has grown to encompass a much broader base beyond open source content management systems (open CMS) — open data, open platform and open design. We contribute and deliver services in all these areas, with a strong involvement in specific open source initiatives such as Drupal, Wordpress, GovCMS, Single Digital Presence, Kubernetes/Lagoon and CKAN.

Read more about Single Digital Presence

SDP is a total digital solution, a digital landscape the Victorian Government can use to create a unified online presence. Below are more related Salsa publications covering everything from the value proposition to technical case studies:

Read our media release