Liip releases open-source starter kit for Swiss government websites

  • Isaline Mülhauser

Liip has put together a Drupal 8 starter kit that will dramatically cut the amount of time the federal authorities spend on building, maintaining and updating their websites. It also removes some of the remaining obstacles to the uptake of open source software in government here in Switzerland.

Drupalis one of the mostly widely used open-source content management systems. With the release of Version 8, Drupal has shored up its status as a comprehensive web framework and, with over 10,000 modules, is now more flexible than ever.

The Drupal 8 starter kit from Liip affords the federal administration a considerably high degree of flexibility in how it develops its digital presence and online services. This powerful and freely available tool set will dramatically cut the time the federal authorities and their respective partner agencies have to spend on developing a new website, thereby letting them invest resources in those areas will real added-value potential. Liip is a firm believer in open source software and actively encourages its uptake across the public sector. With the opening of its brand-new office in Bern, Liip is one step closer to realising this ambitious goal.

Liip hopes that the release of the starter kit will lead the Swiss Drupal community and other agencies to get on board too. The kit is on Githuband can be used by all federal offices and agencies free of charge.

Background information

What is a style guide?

A style guide is basically a website made up of filler text which makes it easier to establish a consistent corporate identity across multiple channels. It explains how the various components should be used, how they should appear and how they interact with each other. A style guide lets businesses and agencies build websites that are not only compatible with commonly used devices and browsers but also comply with the latest corporate design rules.

As the US Federal Government and the UK Government Digital Service prove a style guide is a long-term, flexible solution for anyone with a multiplatform digital presence.

Why do the Swiss authorities need a style guide?

Every single one of the assorted official websites of the federal authorities has to comply with the “Corporate Design of the Swiss Confederation”. A style guide in HTML, CSS and JS ensures that these rules are applied correctly.

In Version 3 of the federal style guide, all elements comply with the latest technical guidelines and the corporate design rule book of the Swiss Confederation. They are also accessible from and compatible with all popular browsers.

To the style guide

Why develop a Drupal 8 starter kit?

Given the sheer number of federal websites and their individual specifications, it takes more than just one CMS to do the job. However, the open-source CMS, Drupal, offers a viable and tried-and-tested alternative to the single standard system. Added to this is the fact that there are no licencing costs involved, which is welcome news for smaller-scale projects or for government offices that have to work on a limited budget. Also, as the style guide is in the public domain, it makes it easier to exploit the full potential that Drupal offers.

The Drupal starter kit defines the navigation modules and comes with a multilingual environment as standard – German, French, Italian, Rumantch (Switzerland's four national languages), and English. It also has a responsive layout that is compatible with all end devices and follows the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. What this means in practice is that the various offices, departments and partner agencies of the Swiss government are able to build a basic website within the space of five minutes and save valuable time setting up different content types, thereby allowing them to focus their energies on developing the relevant additional applications. 

The technology behind it

Courtesy of Liip, the official web style guide of the Confederation comes as a Git sub-module which automatically connects to Drupal via Composer, allows users to important sample content easily and effectively. Web developers also receive an integrated modern front-end development tool kit. Together, the  workflow tool Gulp, the test tool BrowserSync, and AutoPrefixerare a user-friendly and efficient SASSset-up.

Why open source?

Having worked on the official style guide, the Liip team decided to take it one step further and make it available as a Drupal theme.  They open-sourced the code in order to prevent time being wasted on needlessly reinventing the wheel, and to ensure that a wider network was involved in the implementation of the starter kit.

Thanks to the starter kit, project managers and developers within the federal administration or working for partner agencies can now get stuck into new web projects straight away. The Liip team also hopes that a new kind of working relationship will emerge, with users joining forces to adapt and improve the the kit in a cooperative and constructive way.

Liip firmly believed that open civic technology can play a key role in the digitisation of government services in Switzerland.

Who is Drupal 8 starter kit?

The Drupal starter kit is ideal for any institution that has multiple websites and portals which share more or less the same design and for which the use of an open-source CMS like Drupal could be an option. The ideal candidates are websites that require a high degree of flexibility and feature embedded applications.

The federal authorities and cantons often have multiple websites that are maintained by different institutions but still have to be visually consistent, hence the use of a style guide in HTML, CSS and JS. The starter kit is the ideal solution when multiple websites are involved as it not only guarantees a uniform appearance but it also saves valuable time and money.

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