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Jamstack for UK councils

 

Enabling bright ideas and brilliant businesses is a core goal at Zaltek. Parish Online had found a gap in a growing market for a publishing platform that would spin up simple, GOVUK style websites for UK councils, with an emphasis on utterly foolproof content entry. Working alongside the Parish Online team, we developed a JAMstack solution that uses Next.js for a lightning fast user experience and Strapi CMS for no-nonsense content entry.

The Challenge

 

Parish Online found a number of small parish councils were struggling to manage complicated, traditional systems. Often lacking the knowledge to make the changes they want, some councils had been left with websites that had limited functionality and that they weren’t happy with.

These councils needed a platform where they could create a professionally presented and content-rich website, but that would crucially be dead simple to use. The hosting costs would need to be cheap too.  The platform would need to be built to WCAG2.1 AA standards.

 

The Approach

 

At Zaltek we take a tech agnostic approach, believing that there’s no skeleton key to software development. Instead, we opt to use carefully selected technologies that excel in the given context, even if it means trying something new. As such we endeavour to take the time to weigh up the possible tech solutions through “discovery” sessions.

 

screenshot of discovery session powerpoint presentation

Finds on Strapi + Next.js from our discovery session

 

The obvious approach would be to go with WordPress, powering 39.5% of all sites in 2021. However many councils had stated they’d grown ‘afraid’ of WordPress with its cumbersome plugins and constant updates.

There was also the growing, publicly owned Localgov Drupal platform, whose users would be part of a growing open-source community, supporting each other to make great websites using Drupal (see the one we made for Luton). Once again however, we’d seen many of these councils didn’t have the IT resources to benefit from a complex and collaborative platform.

Enter the Strapi-Next.js JAMstack…

 

strapi and nextjs logo

 

Although lesser-known, this stack ticked all the boxes. Simple, fast, cheap to host and adaptable. From a development perspective this stack proved incredibly user-friendly too.

 

Next.js allowed us to rapidly assemble the webpage templates with easy dynamic routing. Additionally Government Design System guidelines and CSS classes, supplemented with Tailwind CSS, were used for styling fully GOVUK and WCAG compliant pages. Next.js has a number of powerful tools for pre-rendering content, allowing the user to navigate seemingly instantly from page to page.

 

example page built on our platform

Example page built on our platform

 

Using Strapi we were able to create intuitive content types, with easy to understand content entry fields. These allowed addition of news articles, staff pages and custom pages to the sites. Moreover, logos, banners and metadata as well as primary and secondary colours are  customisable. This data would be fetched into the Next.js site using Strapi GraphQL queries.

 

Example page content on Strapi

Example page content on Strapi

Deployment

To achieve the scale and maintainability, we lean on the 12 Factor App methodology for deployment. We used containerisation tech provided by Docker and Kubernetes to spin up (and spin down) instances on demand.  By taking this approach we can manage all the deployed instances as a whole and take advantage of economies of scale.

The Result

 

We developed a quick and easy to use platform that creates professional, responsive GOVUK sites. The product highlights the benefits of the stack, used in the perfect context, to its maximum potential.

example homepage built using strapi nextjs

Example homepage built using the platform

 

Client Testimonial

"The team at Zaltek Digital are a pleasure to work with. Their enthusiasm, progressive methodologies and attention to detail has resulted in a high quality web service that’s perfect for our customers."

- Chris Mews Managing Director Geoxphere

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