14 April 2016
Paul Morriss


Salsa, Acquia and the CASA Website Redevelopment Project Team successfully migrated CASA’s website to GovCMS mid 2015 (see: CASA GovCMS Migration Blog). Phase 2 of the project used the same combination to build value add features onto the platform.

CASA website visitors now have a much more aesthetically pleasing website that is responsive, has better structured content and a much enhanced search function. This blog provides some of the details and lessons learned in the execution of this journey

Maiden Flight - Stability

Phase 1 of the project was successful in stabilising CASA’s web presence with a migration of a legacy site. This was largely a like-for-like migration in terms of content and design/UI/UX, to the GovCMS platform. Salsa, Acquia and CASA executed this significant project with the new site going live in July 2015.

Although web visitors nor had a website they could rely upon on terms of availability, they would still experience the same tired user interface, outdated and poorly structured content and have limited search functions.

2nd Mission Planning - Identifying Most Critical Value-Adds

A week long discovery exercise was used to plan those parts of the existing site which would add most value in terms of additional investment. Three areas were identified that would add the most benefit to site visitors.

  1. User Interface Re-generation: The CASA site legacy user interface was not in fitting with a flagship website. It was tired, not engaging and was not responsive to mobile and tablet formats.

  2. Content and IA Re-structure: The legacy CASA site had a complex information architecture with some content nested to 8+ levels making navigation difficult to site visitors. CASA identified content clean-up and a re-structured information architecture as investment which would add immediate value to CASA internally and site visitors.

  3. Search Functions: Search on the legacy CASA site was limited to a rudimentary full site search and also an enhanced search via an external service which needed to take a copy of relevant search data as an extract. CASA identified enhanced search functions, such as providing relevant search filtering (facet based search) and offering different search types aligned to prime site visitor use cases, as highly valuable to site visitors. CASA also considered a site that is not dependent on using an external search service as a major step forward.

A project was formulated to deliver these three benefits with Salsa, Acquia the CASA project team taking up the challenge.

2nd Mission - Critical Lessons and Success Factors

A Decisive Product Owner Representing the CASA Business

Critical to the success of the phase 2 project was the formation of a high powered team from CASA to plug into the agile process. CASA were exceptional in providing a product owner who was decisive and able to take solid positions on priorities for acceptance criteria, allowing Salsa and Acquia to assess options, plan, estimate and execute. The product owner was totally engaged in the project allowing the agile process to proceed efficiently and unencumbered.

A Well Rationalized Design Style Guide as Input

A design style guide of the primary pages in each format (tablet, mobile and desktop) was used to help revitalise the UI/UX/design.

This was prepared by CASA graphic designers between the finalisation of the discovery phase and the initiation of the phase 2 build. Having this level of detail and demarcation of the envisaged user interface hugely assisted the formation of the acceptance criteria for the functions to enhance the UI/design. If this document was not available as an input, the project would likely have degenerated into a waterfall type project as the design would have needed to evolve (from scratch) in parallel to the build. There is little doubt this would have resulted in a more protracted timeframe, rework and the project not meeting the delivery timeline.

Established Team with Phase 1 Context

CASA, in investing in Phase 2 shortly after Phase 1, were able to call on an established team from Salsa and Acquia. The team had the benefit of phase 1 context to apply in phase 2. Many of the complexities with content/data and search were evident within the team from Phase 1. The Salsa and Acquia team also had a degree of self-awareness of the challenges with search and the legacy user interface. Conducting phase 2 shortly after phase 1 with an established vendor team was hugely beneficial to CASA.

Skillful Engineers Experienced in GovCMS and Drupal

Salsa and Acquia have GovCMS in the DNA. Salsa has a stable of certified and experienced Drupal and GovCMS engineers who have had warts and all experience in delivery of projects. In the 2nd phase, the data migration of the content from the old information architecture to the newly designed IA was complex, with huge data volumes. Salsa was able to design a robust process for migration one which the project team could be confident in during phases such as build, quality assurance and user acceptance. A very solid foundation of technical skill was critical to the success of CASA phase 2.

Dedicated Team with Common Objective

The timeline to have phase 2 released was clearly mandated by the CASA project team. Regular checkpoints were conducted with each two week sprint. The CASA, Acquia and Salsa team were strong in a common objective of delivering to this timeline.

3rd Mission?

The discovery exercises from phase 1 and phase 2 identified plenty of items where further investment in the CASA website would add benefit. Will there be a 3rd Phase? Another overarching digital success factor is to continually re-evaluate priorities and user/business needs and invest where sensible and possible. With that in mind it is probably a matter of when is the 3rd mission not if there may be a 3rd mission. That being the case Salsa is primed for the next challenge…..

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