Bringing to life the Commission’s vision and digital strategy

Bringing to life the Commission’s vision and digital strategy


Digital Garden transforms Greater Cities Commission's Strategy with new website


Design brief

The Greater Cities Commission is driving Australia’s first global city region – the Six Cities Region in NSW. The Commission coordinates and aligns strategic planning which will shape the future of the region for everyone who lives there. 

As the remit of the Commission has grown, so has its need for a digital first strategy. The old website was not able to accommodate the increasing volume and complexity of content being created. Digital Garden has redesigned and redeveloped the website on Drupal, bringing to life the Commission's vision and strategy.

Deeply understanding the users

Deeply understanding the users

A key challenge for the project was to make sure we understood the diverse needs and goals of people using the website. Through workshops with the Commission, we came to learn that each user group has a different reason to interact with the Commission. We also ran a small amount of interviews with external stakeholders to gain firsthand knowledge. 

Some of the insights from our research included:

  • Users may or may not have a formal relationship with the Commission and therefore need tailored and appropriate entry points
  • Some users accessing the plans still download the PDF as it’s seen as a source of truth
  • The representation of the roles and structure of people in the Commission could be improved
  • Maps are a vital way to represent spatial data and can be more engaging and interactive.
  • The value of Thought Leadership should continue to be promoted and better explained

Using existing research and our own first hand insights, we developed a set of personas. As an example, one persona is a theoreticalfor Syed Barker, a Manager of Strategic Planning at North Sydney Council. His goals, frustrations, and website needs represent the larger local government council user group. These personas were continually referenced throughout the rest of the project. 

Overhauling and validating the information architecture

Overhauling and validating the information architecture

Working closely with the Commission, Digital Garden created two new information architecture concepts. These concepts focused on improving content organisation and how the user would flow through different pathways on the site.

Some of our exploration included:

  • Naming conventions, for example exploring Thought Leadership vs Insights, Innovation Districts vs Innovation, Get Involved vs Collaboration
  • Structuring a new Thought Leadership hub that housed all data, news, media, video, podcast, and event content
  • Structuring of the plans, resources and publications content 

The two concepts were tested by real users via a method called tree jack testing. This research method measures how easily people can find information on a website and examines if and where they get lost. Test participants were obtained by the GCC and were from a broad range of audiences such as local and state governments, youth, and the general public

The testing was successful and found that one concept was easier to understand and engage with than the other. Digital Garden recommended the Commission use this concept for the final website as it has clear, distinct top level labels that make choosing a pathway through the website easy.

The top level navigation items recommended for use were:

  • Planning
  • Thought Leadership
  • Innovation Districts
  • Collaboration
  • News & Insights
  • About us
  • Contact us
Developing a content auditing framework

Developing a content auditing framework

Digital Garden created a content audit framework for the Commission to review and refresh all content on the corporate website. This framework follows a process whereby all content is reviewed in full against a set of defined metrics. It assists in prioritising items that need to be reviewed, updated, or removed from a website.

Digital Garden proposed a manual review of the website using templates provided to ensure the GCC could understand the current state of the website in greater detail.

A number of documents were provided to aid the GCC in this task:

1. A content audit template and related “how-to” document

2. A method of evaluating content against the metrics defined above

3. A recommendations document containing suggestions for future improvements to management of the content on the website e.g. housekeeping, publishing roles and responsibilities, CMS workflows and the likes

Designing with the NSW Digital Design System

Designing with the NSW Digital Design System

Designs were created using the NSW Design System, inline with the guidelines for Independent Agencies. This is a toolkit that helps digital products create a distinctly NSW Government look and feel with consistent and best practice user experience.

The first task was to choose a colour palette within the confines of the design system and following the GCC style guidelines. The following palette was chosen:

GCC colours

Following this, Digital Garden created a full suite of desktop and mobile designs for the following website templates:

  • Homepage including the main menu
  • Search bar and search results page
  • Landing page
  • Content page
  • Insights hub landing page with filtering system
  • News & media landing page and detail page
  • Podcasts landing page and detail page
  • Thought leadership detail page
  • Contact us page

This work went through multiple iterations with the GCC team, including the graphic design team who assisted with the treatment and placement of the First Nations motif.

The end result is a cohesive, modern set of designs that considers both the user feedback obtained in the first phase of the project and the GCC’s requirements.

Validating the design

Validating the design

To validate the designs created, Digital Garden facilitated testing sessions with five stakeholders. The interviews allowed users to provide feedback on an interactive prototype of the new website design

Participants were questioned on the full set of designs starting at the homepage as well as functionalities, graphics such as the First Nations artwork, and the overall structure of the menu and content on the site.

The sessions were successful and feedback from participants was extremely positive with participants such as Annelise, a Youth stakeholder, suggesting that the new design is “much better than what it is at the moment”.

Development and build

Development and build

Leveraging our adapted version of the NSW Design System’s Figma files, our frontend developers created a seamless, fast and perfectly accessible frontend experience for users.

The new site was built on the latest version of Drupal and using Digital Garden’s favourite module – Paragraphs. This component-based interface allows CMS admins at the Commission the autonomously create their own unique pages of content that call upon the design library we created for them. 

Being a body created by the NSW state government, an equitable and accessible digital experience was an important feature of the new Commission website. Using the already-accessible NSW Design System as a base for frontend development put us at an advantage. Throughout development we created and configured the site to follow web accessibility standards and performing checks on our code throughout – with an accessibility audit conducted at the end of development.

Government penetration testers put the delivered site through its paces and we’ve ensure that all bases are covered to make the new Commission website the most secure one yet.

digital garden


A brand new website experience that is accessible, user focused and allows the commission to achieve their vision. Digital Garden led the discovery, design and development phases of this project to achieve an outcome that the Commission is extremely happy with. 

In addition to the corporate website, Digital Garden also designed and built a microsite for the Commission that will be launched in the near future.