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Modernizing Metro’s Digital Ecosystem: A Drupal Journey of Integration, Inclusivity, & Impact

This post is adapted from a presentation at DrupalCon Portland 2024, where Forum One and Metro showcase Drupal’s role in driving long-term digital modernization and multi-site integration.

Forum One has been working on a long-term team effort with Metro, the regional government agency that serves Portland, Oregon, and 23 other cities across three counties. Together, we have been collaborating to plan and implement a migration of Metro’s digital ecosystem from five standalone Drupal 7 websites into a centralized and maintainable ecosystem of Drupal 9 websites that share a common platform. 

How did we do it? This modernization project’s success is thanks to effective collaboration and a clear vision of what issues we are solving.

Establishing long-term, collaborative buy-in

We collaborated with Metro’s internal web team to define the central platform concept and engaged with stakeholders across each venue—including the main Metro website, Oregon Zoo, Oregon Convention Center, Portland’5 Centers for the Arts, and others—to explain the concept and benefits of a centralized platform and build buy-in. 

Two key aspects of this project made it unique:

1. A clear vision and purpose

First, Metro came in with a clear vision and articulation of the problem they wanted to solve and the relationship they wanted with their vendor partner. In addition to the network of sites and an interest in a shared platform, Metro was laser-focused on prioritizing accessibility and including historically marginalized communities in all its digital products. This clarity of purpose, rather than a fixed idea of an exact platform answer, allowed us to dig in, work together, and develop technical solutions and approaches that fit the need in a custom way. 

2. Intentional collaboration

Second, this was a true collaboration. The project’s build team includes Metro developers, whom Forum One supported as technical advisors as the internal team developed the platform. This included consulting on defining requirements for multilingual features, as well as accessibility and inclusion approaches. Metro’s team, while experienced with Drupal, was comfortable knowing they weren’t the sole technical experts. In cases where it wasn’t necessarily clear how to build a particular feature or component, Metro worked in collaboration with Forum One to develop the right solution.

As part of this work, we utilized documentation analysis, website and social analytics, and audience and organizational trends to produce an internal strategy report, which ultimately created a more inclusive digital experience. 

Case in point: the Oregon Zoo

Based in Portland, the Oregon Zoo is a prominent regional institution that receives around 1.5 million annual visits and helps protect more than 20 endangered and threatened species. 

As part of our work with Metro, Forum One redesigned the Oregon Zoo website on the shared Drupal 9 platform, incorporating new branding and design guidelines to make the website an accessible, multilingual, and mobile-first digital experience. The redesign includes integrations with external ticketing and donation platforms to create a seamless user experience. 

Mobile-first and led by accessibility, the Zoo’s new site has been a huge success. As a follow-on of the successful and enthusiastically-received launch, Metro and Forum One are documenting and applying lessons learned in other areas of the digital ecosystem, allowing for the next site to be even more efficiently built using the refined framework we’ve put in place as a team.

Moving forward

A key takeaway from this work is the power of real partnerships. Working so closely allowed for constant client quality assurance. Real-time decision-making and buy-in increased success, reduced risk, and helped us stay on budget. 

It isn’t always easy, but we are confident that these lessons can be applied to other organizations. It’s entirely possible to build great accessibility-centered projects, on time and within budget. 

Looking to modernize your Drupal website ecosystem? Get in touch today—our team would love to connect!

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