The Judicial College of Victoria is the primary provider of education, legal resources and ongoing professional development for judges, magistrates and VCAT members in the State of Victoria.
The College’s public-facing website is the main access point for external users seeking information about the College, its programs and publications. The site was created to provide information about the organisation to an external audience, as well as provide access to the College’s online publications and resources. Website user groups include Judicial Officers, Associate and Court Staff, Barristers, Solicitors, Police, Students and the general public.
As part of a three-stage digital strategy focused on improving the College’s online presence, Portable was selected as a digital partner to rebuild the website and implement the College’s new brand presence and recommendations of previously completed audience research which identified the need for a consolidated web presence.
The College engaged Portable to:
- Rebuild a new public website using Drupal 9
- Integrating the public website and JOIN intranet site into a single digital channel
- Implement the College’s new brand identity
- Implement functional improvements - including a new information architecture, advanced search, different user access views and event registration system.
0. Hybrid Waterfall & Agile Methodology
The Production team’s project methodology is hybrid and can be described as “waterfall with an agile heart,” combined with a philosophy of adaptive planning. By taking the best parts of agile, the team can be nimble, transparent, flexible and collaborative to make changes based on what is learnt throughout the project lifecycle. By using waterfall frameworks, our producers can ensure that they can meet the budgets, outcomes and timeframes that our clients set or expect.
This methodology was applied to this project to provide a clear structure while employing agile scrum rituals and processes.
1. Technical Scoping & Solution Design
Our Technical Leads coordinated and facilitated sessions with staff involved in technical delivery and website management at the College in order to better understand the existing technical landscape and key requirements.
Insights obtained from these engagements, and the functional requirements the College had already provided us with as part of procurement, informed the team’s approach to solution design and development planning for the new website.
The team then worked to finalise technical architecture decisions, a sprint plan, user stories and acceptance criteria to direct implementation phases.
2. User Interface Design & Information Architecture Validation
In previous phases of this website redevelopment and digital strategy engagement, the College had worked with branding and website design partners to define a new visual identity for the College, conduct UX research and determine a new navigation structure for the site.
To prepare these outputs for front-end implementation, our Technical Leads and Experience Designers collaborated with key stakeholders from the College and their branding and website design partner agencies to finalise an agreed approach to front-end implementation.
Our team then reviewed and made some final changes to the information architecture and wireframes to suit updated functional requirements for the site and worked closely with the College’s branding partner, Fenton Stephens, to prepare UI page templates applying the updated brand to wireframes for the new site.
Our team also worked closely with the branding partner to ensure that finalised UI page templates were accessible in accordance with WCAG 2.1 AA standards.
3. Digital Development
Directed by the acceptance criteria, user stories, finalised information architecture and wireframes, our Developers worked across multiple sprints under the guidance of the Producer and Technical Lead to build out the new College website in Drupal 9.
Over 15 distinct page types and templates, with the ability to provide custom data and tagging for page types for topics and jurisdiction, were created to support flexibility in content management across the site. This included templates and areas of the site including:
- Bench Books: providing clear, accurate and accessible explanations of the law – across a variety of areas, including civil and criminal proceedings.
- Events: a dynamic event calendar built within the website that allows users to filter results based on topic and duration and register for the event.
- News: large news archive that allows users to filter by topic.
4. Custom Publishing Workflows
A custom workflow for content and publishing approvals and updates to the site was set up in the CMS to support streamlined content management and updates.
Part of the intent of the workflow was to support the College’s website team in keeping content "current" - making sure people added review dates to content when published, and providing notifications for content as those dates come up.
5. Advanced Search
To support improved search functionality across the site, advanced filtering and fuzzy search, we made use of Apache Solr and integrated it into the build of the new site.
Apache Solr is a robust, open-source search platform known for its excellent full-text search capabilities, scalability, and flexibility in handling diverse data types. It's widely used for enterprise-level applications, offering advanced features like real-time indexing, rich document handling, and extensive customisability.
6. Judicial Officer Information Network
Judicial Officer Information Network (JOIN) is a password-protected website for Victorian judicial officers and their support staff that previously existed as a standalone platform built in Drupal 6, an unsupported version of Drupal. JOIN provides a portal for accessing subscription-based legal reference material via the Law Library of Victoria and the College’s publications platform.
As part of digital development sprints, our team of Developers worked to integrate the newly built public website and the judicial intranet (JOIN) into a single digital channel, with the new website replacing the need for a separate instance of JOIN which was implemented in a new login area of the new site.
To support secure access this team also implemented SAML 2.0 single sign on (SSO) to the intranet for College users and Supreme Court of Victoria users.
7. Event Management Solution
The college regularly runs events and webinars to support the continuing professional development (CPD) of Judicial Officers, Associates and Court Staff. The College’s requirements for an event management solution that supports flexibility around managing the reporting and admin to do with CPD pointed towards the need for custom-built event management functionality within the Drupal environment.
Our Technical Lead and Developers worked to build this out in the new website to provide the ability for an embedded event registration component in the front end, ease of management in the back end, and personalised CPD points tracking for authenticated users. CPD points tracking was one of the major custom-built features the development team focused on implementing, allowing for the tracking of engagement in attending events, participating in committees and listening to podcasts for authenticated users providing a record of CPD for their own professional attainment.
8. Ongoing Support & Maintenance
The new Judicial College of Victoria website was then successfully launched in 2022 following quality assurance tests, bug checks and user acceptance testing in partnership with the team at the College.
Following launch, Portable’s Website Projects & Support Team worked to provide ongoing support and maintenance for the site. This monthly retainer covered both proactive and reactive responses, working to ensure the site was updated, patched and functioning correctly. During this time, Drupal 10 was released so we worked to update the site to this latest version to ensure the site remains well-supported and makes use of the latest releases.
9. Hosting Management
Website infrastructure was set up using Pantheon, a WebOps platform that specialises in hosting Drupal websites that are committed to providing fast response times, 99.99% uptime and reliability.
- Featuring a brand-new design and improved search, the new website houses the College's bench books, resource collections and latest news. It places key legal resources at the fingertips of Judicial Officers across Victoria supporting them in their ongoing education and professional development.
- Judicial officers can now bookmark content to their own dedicated profile page so they can easily find essential information and references whilst in court. They can also see their upcoming events and manage their continuing professional development.
- The project integrated the public website and Judicial Officer Information Network into a single digital channel to support improved user navigation across the College’s digital channels.
- Alice Reeve, Senior Producer
- Andrew Fulton, Technical Lead
- Luke Thomas, Senior Legal Designer
- Jason Hendry, Senior Developer
- Dave Allen, Senior Developer
- Tam Ho, Developer
- Cam Stark, Developer
- Jeffrey Basilio, QA Tester