Public Services > Healthcare

‘GovStrap’ open source kit helps sites replicate GDS website theme

David Bicknell Published 19 July 2016

OpusVL solution intended to help public sector users cut costs and improve consistency of digital footprint when deploying websites


Open Source Software specialist OpusVL has created a way to take the Gov.UK website theme created by the Government Digital Service (GDS) and reproduce it quickly in designing and building public sector websites.

The solution uses Bootstrap, an HTML, CSS and JavaScript framework originating from Twitter, which is used for creating front end websites and applications. With an increase in the variety of devices used to view websites, Bootstrap is a standard toolkit for building responsive design and enabling websites to be mobile and tablet friendly.

With sharing and re-use of software and technology high on the GDS agenda, OpusVL adopted the principle by importing the GDS work and “re-factoring” it in the form of the Bootstrap framework in addition to the methods originally created by GDS.

OpusVL's own open source ‘GovStrap’ solution is available for developers to download from the Github repository or can be acquired through the G-Cloud 8 framework.

Stuart Mackintosh, managing director of OpusVL said, "Previously a government department would have to go though the procedure of assessing accessibility needs, deciding on a design, selecting developers to implement the design, in addition to working on their content. As the work has already been done by GDS, it makes sense for this to be re-used rather than paying for a new build, which often would not follow the principles of open standards and re-use.

“What is exciting about GovStrap is that councils and other official government agencies can just take the theme and deploy a professional government-styled website. Govstrap has made a resource draining process quick and simple."

GovStrap was created as a by-product whilst delivering an update to the website for NHS England's Code4Health  project, which is developed on the Open Source Flexibase framework. Both GovStrap and Flexibase have been exported by OpusVL with open licences and are available in the Github code repository for anyone to re-use, extend and enhance.

Mackintosh says: "We were asked to update the Code 4 Health website with a new professional theme as part of a wider project and it did not make economic sense for our customer to start from scratch when most of the work had already been done by GDS. It is a bit like holding the door open for someone, it doesn't take any more effort if you are going through it anyway."

The company has also supported the development of a 'custodian' acquisition model to improve access to free and open source technology, where the procurement is for professional wrap-around services such as implementation, training and customisation. OpusVL advocates not only the import, but also the export of open source code across the public sector.

Mackintosh concluded, "Govstrap provides the opportunity to improve the quality and accessibility of digital services whilst reducing cost and time, therefore risk, to complete projects."

Examples of why organisations may want to redeploy their websites are an outdated style, keeping up with the industry image, lack of compliance with accessibility policy, a need for responsive design, creation of specific 'micro-sites' for new projects, wanting to use the official Gov.UK licensed fonts and typography, or an existing site being approved for the Gov.UK domain and therefore needing to change to the Gov.UK theme.

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