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DrupalSouth — Service NSW case study

Service NSW was revamped to improve user experience, upgrade from Drupal 7 to 8 and make other enhancements.

Salsa Digital 3 December 2019

Service NSW

One of the sessions at DrupalSouth 2019 looked at the Service NSW revamp. Service NSW has 3000 pages with over 2 million users a month, and over 1220 transactions available.

The session was presented by Tessa Penny and Christine Roque from Service NSW and Jibran Ijaz from PreviousNext. This was a really engaging case study that detailed how different areas of work came together.

The project objectives

The main project objectives were:

  • Improve user experience

  • Upgrade platform to Drupal 8

  • Fix/improve the search feature

UX research and design

The project was focused on the end user and how to improve the experience for citizens interacting with the Service NSW website. The project team surveyed 126 frontline service staff, reviewed Google Analytics, and went through customer feedback from the website. They also held five stakeholder workshops and conducted usability testing across 90+ staff members and 90+ users.

A content audit of 1200+ transactions was also necessary to work out a new IA. The IA was improved and streamlined, for example ‘Browse services’ went from 15 options to nine.

Fixing search

The search feature was an identified problem. And as Christine from Service NSW pointed out, with over 3000 pages, search needed to work well.

The team compared many different search options including Solr, Elasticsearch and Algolia. In the end they chose Algolia because it had lots of features they needed out-of-the-box. Some of the search features include:

  • Machine learning so the search adapts

  • Synonyms — you can add custom synonyms

  • Boost — for example, you can boost campaign info/results

  • Exclusions

Search analytics after the project showed Service NSW had 13,000 queries per day and a 77% click-through rate. This above average rate is a good indication that the updated search in Service NSW is showing users relevant results.

The case study also highlighted other changes, such as the service centre locator, changes to the global navigation and footer, and an improved content editor experience.


The final part of the case study focused on the backend, with PreviousNext’s Jibran Ijaz leading the presentation. He looked at the migration from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8, focusing on code quality and workflow. They ran Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 side-by-side, maintaining two Drupal sites and actively working on new features.

The platform hosting solution used AWS CloudFront and Skpr. During development, they had a fallback and rollback strategy in place to make sure they could handle the situation if something went wrong.

Contributing back

The Service NSW and PreviousNext team were also keen to contribute back to the Drupal community. In fact, Service NSW made it into the top 10 as a contributor globally and were also part of the Drupal 8.8 testing program.

Salsa Digital’s take

We love what Service NSW represents — a consolidated user experience so citizens can have a one-stop website experience. The case study was interesting and well presented, giving an excellent insight into the project.

View full DrupalSouth 2019 presentation:

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