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The Department of Internal Affairs and SilverStripe Ltd have just released two new themes for the Common Web Platform (CWP), a platform as a service for New Zealand Government sites. These themes help government agencies quickly get their sites up and running.

The themes act as the base for site functionality and design. They will become part of the downloadable package available for all CWP agencies in the next recipe release: 1.6.

Result of user feedback

Agencies on CWP are part of the “co-funded development pool” where they contribute to selecting what should be developed next using shared funds. The project of developing the new themes was a result of this selection process.

After the CWP team conducted lots of user research, it became clear that agencies that are on the platform wanted to have themes that suited to their different needs and could get them started in building or re-building their sites in minimal time.

The research also revealed that there are two very different audiences using the themes:

  • Larger agencies with more development resources that handle major modifications and custom build their projects but that still want a base to build from that helps meet web accessibility standards.
  • Smaller agencies that need a theme requiring little development effort with design assets built in.

As a result of the user research, the two themes have been developed that cater for the two distinctive audiences:

  • Starter theme: developer focused, suited for sites that require more customisation and a design applied with minimal restrictions.
  • Wātea theme: includes more design elements than the Starter theme, suited for smaller agencies with smaller sites, smaller budgets and less developer involvement.

The new themes and accessibility

During the theme development process, accessibility has been a major aspect that was taken into account to meet the New Zealand Government Web Accessibility Standards 1.0 — the guidelines that aim to have all citizens of all capabilities able to access the online content. Feedback from the Blind Foundation was included, with lots of user testing. The theme name The theme name “Wātea”, which means “available, clear, open”, also conveys the meaning of accessibility.

How to get the themes

The beta versions of the themes are available to download now. As they are only at the beta stage, they are not recommended for the production sites. However, agencies are encouraged to test them out and give feedback.

Agency extensions: This module provides some added configuration and underlying functionality that allow agencies to adjust website functionality themselves, or to provide additional functionality that may not always be required for a CWP project.

The stable CWP 1.6 recipe release, which is recommended for production sites, is scheduled for May 2017.

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