Introduction to GovCMS

About GovCMS as a Drupal distribution

GovCMS is a group of Drupal modules that have been specifically chosen and grouped together to form GovCMS. This grouping of Drupal modules is called a distribution.

Drupal is an open source content management system (CMS) that can be used to create a variety of different websites. It’s built using the scripting language PHP, which runs on a web server. It loads data from a database (usually MySQL) and then displays that data as HTML, Javascript and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) on web browsers. Content is created in the “backend” of the CMS and then displayed on the “frontend”, the website. When we refer to “backend” in this manual, we mean the place where you create content (the CMS) and when we talk about “frontend” we mean the website as it’s seen by website visitors/viewers.

Drupal is used by many governments around the world, including in Australia.

Features of GovCMS distribution

GovCMS includes many features tailored for Australian government websites, including:

  • Publishing workflows so content can move from ‘Draft’ to ‘Needs review’ to ‘Published’ (live)

  • Website analytics to give you access to insights about your users

  • Webforms to collect and report information/data from your users

  • Compliance with Australian Government website requirements

  • The ability to easily edit content without any HTML skills

  • Responsive display so GovCMS websites can be viewed (and look good) on phones and tablets

  • Standard (default) content landing pages for News, Events and Blogs

  • Metadata support for search engine optimisation (SEO)

  • Compliance with Australian Government Locator Service (AGLS) metadata standards

  • WCAG compliance (to meet accessibility standards)

  • The ability to manage media, such as photos and videos

GovCMS in action

Your instructor will show you some Australian government websites built using GovCMS and go through some of the sites’ features. Common site features/requirements include:

  • Forms: You may need to build forms that collect data from the public, such as this GovCMS site for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority:

  • Custom lists: Sites often show a compiled list of articles, media releases, publications or other types of content. This is a list of articles tagged “News” for the National Australian Built Environment Rating System:

  • Unique designs: While GovCMS is a whole-of-government digital platform, it still caters for many different and visually attractive designs and different navigation structures. The Department of Communications and the Arts is quite a unique government website that shows how beautiful a GovCMS site can look (you can also test the site on your phone):

  • Menu systems: GovCMS sites have flexible menu options. The Governing Council’s page from the South Australian Department for Education and Child Development website demonstrates a deep menu structure: Notice also the breadcrumbs and URL structure. (Breadcrumbs are displayed at the top of the page and show the site user where the page sits in the navigation hierarchy - see Unit 10 for more information.)

About the GovCMS team

GovCMS is sponsored by the Department of Finance in Canberra. You can read more about GovCMS at

GovCMS hosting options overview

There are two GovCMS options to choose from:

  1. GovCMS SaaS: Software as a Service (SaaS) is a fully managed offering, removing the burden of managing your own software, licensing and infrastructure.

  2. GovCMS PaaS: Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a partially managed (infrastructure hosting only), offering in a dedicated cloud environment. PaaS gives agencies greater freedom to customise functionality however requires you to manage the Drupal application layer of your site(s).

Every site is unique. A web development partner may configure your site to have a completely different structure, menus, content types and page layout. Although we teach the general principles of managing your website content via GovCMS, in some cases the way your site has been built may result in differences to the interface. For example, you may experience different widgets when editing content, or have differently named content types. Some types of landing pages may require additional training in order to manage content.

Our training site

During this training course, we’ll use a pre-installed version of GovCMS with some content and layouts already setup.

While every GovCMS site is different, most of the content administration tasks are the same across GovCMS websites. Your instructor will point out any potential differences during this training session.

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