H&F’s first microsite launch

Today Hammersmith & Fulham (and Westminster City Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) have launched their shared fostering service on a LocalGov Drupal microsite and we couldn’t be more proud of them.

The purpose of LocalGov Drupal is to empower local councils to easily build accessible, more cost effective websites and share their findings and code with each other. It became pretty obvious early on that councils needed standalone websites which catered for a specific council service, such as weddings or in this case, fostering.

What’s a microsite and didn’t you just make that cool subsites thing?

The difference between a normal LocalGov Drupal site, a subsite and a microsite might seem confusing at first, but they all serve different purposes.

The main purpose of the LGD package is to create the main council site, the big one with all the information from bin services to council plans and meeting agendas. A subsite is a set of pages within that site with a bit of different branding to stand out. Just like we’ve done for Pest Control.

The fostering services of a council could easily be a bunch of pages on the main site, a subsite or a microsite, it all depends on the user and business needs.

Here the council is working with other councils in the area to promote fostering, so it needs branding and a URL which isn’t specific to one council. This is where a microsite is perfect.

One council can take ownership of a controller site, and give permission to anyone they choose on the actual microsite, meaning that different people from different councils can work together on the content and have a true shared sense of ownership.

But surely that costs loads of money?

Because LocalGov Drupal is Open Source, getting a microsite up and running only really costs the time to configure it and the hosting. We’re not going to lie, it wasn’t as straightforward as we hoped to configure it, there’s some complexities around hosting and user roles which we didn’t fully understand at first, but we’ve nailed it now. We found watching the Users and Roles section of this video from Finn Lewis, the tech lead at LGD very useful.

Hammersmith & Fulham wanted some changes and Microsites is still in Beta so there were some bugs to iron out but other than that, the rest of the site was configured by Ryan Falcon-Hay H&F’s web manager.

This meant the fostering website was made and launched in under two weeks. That’s a great turnaround time.

What custom things did we do?

A screenshot of the site, the page shows a woman in a circular shaped photo and a blockquote that stands out with large text

Little things really, things other councils could live without but that made the site sparkle a little bit more. The branding for the fostering site is orange, and anyone working in web development knows that orange is one of the hardest colours to get the contrast right for. There are a lot of settings in Microsites to accommodate for accessibility such as colour contrast settings and font sizes, but there were some places where we needed to intervene and be sure the text was large enough for the orange.

A screenshot of the site design settings page, showing orange as a primary colour and the option to set an accessible contrast color

A screenshot of the codebase, showing a theme using another theme as a base theme

We used the power of Drupal's theming system to ensure we won’t have to do these things again for another microsite. By creating a base theme from the microsites theme (we called it LBHF Main Overrides) for general overrides that suit H&F’s design standard, such as adding in two new fonts, and some settings for circular images within the media with text paragraph we can then create another base theme from that specific to the Fostering services particular needs. Things like adding in the three council logos as a background image and configuring the header to allow for these.

A screenshot of the homepage

Coming next

We’re really pleased with Microsites and how they work, so thank you to all the councils and other agencies which helped get us here. Now it’s our time to give back, there’s a bunch of little fixes in the LBHF Main Overrides theme which really do need to go back to LocalGov Drupal, so we’ll make some pull requests and get them in, little things like ensuring some variables are accessible to the primary colour and a fix to some form fields.

Adding Google Tag Manager to the installation would be a benefit for everyone. There’s a pesky label set to be visibly hidden but is announced by screen readers which is information that isn’t needed for those who use assistive technology and once we’ve had time to decompress we’ll do a blog post about what you need to do to get these sites up and running and the gotchas we faced and if we can fix any of those problems in ways better than documenting them, we will.

For H&F, there’s a few more microsites coming soon and we look forward to seeing how far they can get before they need our help… we’ve a feeling we won’t be needed soon!

Interested in a microsite installation?

If you’d like to get microsites set up for your council or institution then please drop us a line at hello@wearechicken.co.uk or book an appointment to speak to any of us on our calendly page. We’ll also be at LocalGov Camp in Bristol on the 25th October and hosting our regular Drupal Drinks the night before so if you’re in town, do come along.

Header image is from the website - and copyright is all theirs.

We'd love to create something with you

Email your ideas, brief or chicken jokes to hello@wearechicken.co.uk or book a 30 minute slot with us on Calendly.