Introduction

Ever wondered what CMSs the governments around the world use to empower their websites? The truth is that most governments opt for designing and creating their custom CMS for their needs, while custom-built CMS solutions may offer some flexibility, they often come with higher development costs and longer timelines, which can be a significant drawback for government agencies with budget constraints. Drupal distributions, on the other hand, provide a cost-effective and time-efficient solution without sacrificing functionality or security.

In fact, Drupal is the Preferred CMS for Government Websites because of its accessibility features (Many jurisdictions require compliance with WCAG 2.0 level AA and beyond), security enhancements, compliance for local government regulations in regards to privacy and information security and scalability.

There’s also Drupal distributions created specifically for government sites; these distributions are out-of-the-box Drupal installations that come with all the contrib modules and configuration settings for running government sites around the world. One example of these is the Drupal WxT Distribution, which is a Drupal-based CMS created specifically for Canadian Government websites. At OPTASY we’ve made several contributions and bug fixes to the WxT distribution.

In this article I’ll show you some Drupal distributions that are being used for governments around the world and some contributed modules that can improve accessibility and security for your government sites.

About the author

 

My background in Drupal spans over 20 years, with a focus on complex site migrations and backend solutions. During this time, I've managed over 150 projects, translating to approximately 36,000 hours of hands-on development experience. This depth of experience not only enriches my technical skills but also enhances my strategic approach to each new challenge.

Drupal Distributions for governments

 

Here’s a summary of Drupal distributions that I found useful and that are being actively used for many government organizations around the world, this list is by no means exhaustive and below there’s some links for other distributions that could suit your needs. Bear in mind that you’ll need to upgrade your distribution to the latest version for Drupal security updates and new features.

Drupal WxT Project

 

This is a Drupal distribution that strives on accessibility, usability and multilingual web sites for Canadian government departments and agencies. From the official project’s page:

This distribution complies with the mandatory requirement to implement the Content and Information Architecture (C&IA) Specification as well as consulting the reference implementation and design patterns provided by the Canada.ca design system.

This is accomplished through our integration and use of the components provided by the Web Experience Toolkit which undergoes routine usability testing as well as provides conformance to the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG 2.0) and complies to the standards on Web Accessibility, Web Usability, and Web Interoperability.

You can install this distribution if you want your site to have the same “look and feel”, and its accessibility and usability features of the Canada.ca website, I suggest to install the distribution with composer and not to use the tarball installation if you later want to upgrade the distribution with ease:

 

Screenshot of the terminal when downloading the distribution with composer
Image 1: Screenshot of the terminal when downloading the distribution with composer

 

Then you can install Drupal WxT through the browser as you’d normally do with any other Drupal installation:

 

View of the installation process of the WxT distribution
Image 2: View of the installation process of the WxT distribution

 

View of the installation process of the WxT distribution
Image 3: View of the installation process of the WxT distribution

 

When prompted, enable all the WxT extensions:

 

View of the installation process of the WxT distribution
Image 4: View of the installation process of the WxT distribution

 

After installing you’ll see your new WxT site with the base “WxT Usability” theme:

 

Screenshot of the WxT site after installation
Image 5: Screenshot of the WxT site after installation

 

Let’s change the look of your new site, go to Admin > WxT > WxT Library, or from the “Extend” page:

 

Screenshot of the "Extend" page with a link to configure the WxT Library
Image 6: Screenshot of the "Extend" page with a link to configure the WxT Library

 

Then, in the “WxT Theme Selection” section, select the “Canada.ca (Government of Canada)” theme:

 

Selecting the Canada.ca theme
Image 7: Selecting the Canada.ca theme

 

Save and clear cache, and you’ll see the new Canada.ca design on your site:

 

Screenshot of the WxT site with the Canada.ca theme
Image 8: Screenshot of the WxT site with the Canada.ca theme

 

This distribution has many components for creating very usable and interesting sites with the Canada.ca look:

 

Screenshot of a WxT distribution with extra components on the home page
Image 9: Screenshot of a WxT distribution with extra components on the home page


Please refer to the online documentation for how to install, update your distribution and how to create WET components.

LocalGov Drupal

 

This is a distribution that is being actively used and supported by UK councils, departments and agencies, and you can install (and should) it with composer as well:

 

Screenshot of the terminal running composer to get the project
Image 10: Screenshot of the terminal running composer to get the project

 

You’ll need to install lando for building this distribution:

 

Screenshot of the terminal running lando
Image 11: Screenshot of the terminal running lando

 

Then open the project in your browser, use “lando drush uli” to log in your new site as administrator, and you’ll have your local instance running:

 

View of the LocalGov instance when installed
Image 12: View of the LocalGov instance when installed

 

You can experiment with it, it takes some time to get used to the content types and the theme settings, after that you can create digital experiences like the website for the Croydon Council:

 

Screenshoy of the Croydon UK Council page
Image 13: Screenshot of the Croydon UK Council page

 

Check in the distributions’ documentation for an overview of features and information for content designers and developers.

U.S. Web Design System (USWDS)

 

This isn’t a Drupal Distribution itself, but a base theme that implements the U.S. Web Design System library:

 

Screenshot of the USWDS home page
Image 14: Screenshot of the USWDS home page

 

You can create the sub-theme by following the instructions in the project’s page and then do your custom theming/styling as needed.

Other Drupal Distributions to consider

 

There’s a few other distributions that you may want to consider depending on your location:

  • deGov: Drupal Distribution built specifically for the needs of the German governmental organizations.
  • GovCMS: is an open-source Drupal distribution developed specifically for Australian government agencies. Supported by the Australian government.

Check at the official documentation for a full list of Drupal Distributions for different audiences.

Useful Drupal modules for government sites

 

There are other modules that you may want to consider for your government site if you want to improve accessibility, security and usability on your website:

Fluidproject UI Options

 

This module will provide your site with extra accessibility features like changing the colors of the site for better contrast, change text size and font size for people with visual impairments:

 

Screenshot of a page with high contrast enabled for visually impaired users
Image 15: Screenshot of a page with high contrast enabled for visually impaired users

 

Screenshot of a webpage with the text size ajusted with the help of the fluidui module
Image 16: Screenshot of a webpage with the text size ajusted with the help of the fluidui module

 

This widget is very useful for people with visual impairments that need a different color contrast and font size to read the information correctly.

At OPTASY we support and implement new features for this module, and we strive for our websites to be compliant with the WCAG 2.0 and the AODA accessibility standards.

Two-factor Authentication (TFA)

 

As you may have guessed, this module provides two-factor authentication for your Drupal sites, and adds another layer of security for authentication into your government sites. Supported by Acquia.

Code.gov

 

This module is used to maintain and publish an inventory of the open-source software that your site uses and outputs the data in a json file that follows the US Federal Schema format required by code.gov. Required for some US Federal organizations.

Other modules to consider

 

Here’s a list of Drupal Contrib modules tagged for application in government environments, please review and look for the best ones that suit your organization based on your location, language requirements, accessibility compliance and security requirements.

Summary

 

Drupal Distributions are out-of-the-box Drupal installations that come with all the contrib modules and configuration settings needed to run a site quickly.  There are distributions that were built for government organizations around the world, and I’ve showcased a few distributions for US, Canadian and UK government departments. I’ve also listed a few other modules that you should consider for your government website. You can also opt for using the default Drupal Installation to build your government website. We have successfully implemented an informative website for a Government Agency in Canada and a government website for a library in Australia, so we are confident that Drupal will be your best choice for your government website.

Development

We do Drupal development

Go to our Drupal page!

Visit page!

Browse cities

Recommended Stories

Drupal 10.3: Ready for Drupal 11
Drupal 10.3, the latest version of the popular open-source content management system, was recently released, and… (Read more)
5 minutes /
Ensuring Optimal Performance with Drupal Maintenance
 Maintaining peak performance for your Drupal website demands expertise and vigilance. It requires a skilled… (Read more)
10 minutes /
How to Use the Paragraphs Module for Healthcare Websites
IntroductionIf you are reading this article and you have done some Drupal site building before (like creating… (Read more)
20 minutes /