At a glance

4 to 6 months
Merlin, Single Digital Presence
State government
Discovery & strategy, Design & user research, Build & migration
Whole of government, Civic tech, Web development
User needs, Multidisciplinary teams, Agile delivery, Security, Open standards & common platforms, Open source, Accessibility

DHHS’s challenge

Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services’ Better Health Channel was built on an old version of proprietary content management system (CMS) SiteCore. The cost to upgrade was prohibitive, with an extremely high total cost of ownership (TCO). 

DHHS’s transformation

Salsa used Merlin (the tool we created and open sourced) to migrate the large and complex site to SDP. The use of Merlin significantly reduced costs and meant the Better Health Channel could be easily migrated.  User-centred design through our partners Today Design also provided improved design and usability. 

The outcomes

  • A new, user-centred design for improved usability
  • Quick and easy site migration at reduced costs
  • Predictable, repeatable, automated content migrations with zero content freezes
  • Lower total cost of ownership
  • Replatforming to highly secure, whole-of-government platform

DHHS’s challenge — outdated proprietary content management system

The DHHS platform was built on an old version of proprietary CMS, SiteCore. The cost to upgrade was prohibitive, with an extremely high TCO. DHHS initially contracted Salsa for a site assessment looking at replatforming several DHHS sites (see Better Health Channel site assessment case study). Once the best option was identified, DHHS needed the new platform set up on Victoria’s SDP and two websites initially migrated across — the large and functionally complex Better Health Channel and the smaller Finding Records website

Traditionally, site migration is a manual, time-consuming and erroneous process so DHHS was keen to explore different migration options.  

DHHS’s transformation — site migration onto SDP

Our original site assessment included a detailed feature matrix and requirements mapping, which fed into the discovery process for the migration project. Discovery helped us further understand the requirements and write agile user stories. Working with DHHS, we created a roadmap to identify MVP and priorities, and then moved into the build phase. 

The project was broken into four main streams:  

  • Platform provision — Setup and configuration of the SDP instance for DHHS. This included a central content repository that can be used for all DHHS sites in the future (SDP Drupal 8).

  • Content migration — For content migration Salsa built and used a generic migration tool that caters for many different source and target platforms. This automated tool, Merlin, works in unison with other migration project activities. Finding Records and Better Health Channel were the first projects that migrated to SDP using Merlin. Since then, Salsa has open sourced Merlin so others can also benefit from easier migrations at reduced costs. 

  • Functional stream — Mapping requirements to existing functionality available in the SDP Drupal distribution. We focused on building content structures/types that replicated the existing SiteCore content types so Merlin could migrate existing pages into the new content types set up in SDP. 

  • User-centred design — Our design partners Today worked on user research, user-centred design and frontend theming for the new site, focusing on creating the new content types and an improved user experience.  

Merlin and DHHS

When this project started, Merlin was still in development. Working with DHHS, we agreed early on that the features and improvements we’d build into Merlin for the project would be provided at a discounted rate so the project could contribute to Merlin’s development. The tool has now been open sourced and is available at

Merlin has also been used to migrate 25+ legacy and/or proprietary sites to GovCMS. 

“The Better Health Channel migration was a substantial exercise.  Throughout the project Salsa brought great expertise and professionalism to the work.  Salsa constantly found ways to deliver value for money.  Our experience on the project was that Salsa worked with integrity and their people were motivated by doing their best work and building great relationships with the team.”

Damien Dempsey, Director, Communications and Creative Services
Department of Health & Human Services

The outcomes — quick, easy and low-cost site migration

The outcomes and benefits for DHHS and specifically the Better Health Channel include:

  • A new, user-centred design (via Today Design) with improved usability backed by user research 

  • Fast and cost-effective site migration via our migration tool, Merlin

  • Reduced ongoing TCO — moving from the proprietary SiteCore to SDP

  • Easier content management across DHHS going forward via one CMS (all websites centralised into one backend CMS)

  • Alignment to Victoria’s whole-of-government digital open source platform 

  • Access to the Drupal community’s contributions to continue to grow Single Digital Presence

  • Access to continual improvements of Single Digital Presence

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

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

  • A secure, resilient and scalable platform environment

About DHHS

Victoria’s DHHS focuses on policies and services for Victorians’ health and wellbeing. It covers health, mental health, housing, disability, ageing and careers, children and families. DHHS is responsible for many websites across these areas, including the Better Health Channel.