Project Highlights

  • The York Region project was extensive, involving redesigning a sizable public-facing website with many high-priority external and internal stakeholders and an essential internal portal relied on by thousands of staff with varying tasks and objectives.
  • York’s legacy website and portal were built on ageing infrastructure, resulting in two unique, complex, and costly systems to manage.
  • Northern eliminated much of the complexity of York’s website and portal by building them in parallel, with similar code bases, development strategies, and numerous shared components.
  • The website and portal required sizable content migrations, which we accommodated with robust migration scripts and an extended validation process. 
  • Northern strategically designed and built roughly 40 reusable components with built-in brand compliance capabilities to streamline content presentation between the platforms and ease the administrative experience.
  • The design and development strategies incorporated into the new website and portal resulted in less complex and costly maintenance, easier content management, and more scalability with no-code modules.
  • The easy-to-use CMS allowed thousands more staff to contribute content, removing York’s technical and communications teams from the responsibility of managing the entire workflow - lightening their workload to take on more innovative work.
  • To expedite the adoption of York’s new Drupal-based website and portal, Northern offered training to over 75 staff, co-created a Drupal best-practices digital handbook with York’s team and established a five-year strategic partnership to help York keep its platforms growing and improving.
  • York Region’s website and portal redesign won York four AVA Digital Awards for public and internal website redesign, development, and implementation.


The Regional Municipality of York (York Region) stretches north from Toronto to Lake Simcoe and comprises nine municipalities with about 4,000 staff working across over 40 locations.


York Region’s public site is an indispensable resource for residents, businesses, and visitors to obtain essential information about regional services, public notices, current news items, maps, route planning, and permit applications. At the same time, its internal portal is a critical tool that services the thousands of staff managing the nine regional municipalities. The municipalities rely on York to secure their technology and protect their privacy; as a result, York’s technical security team demands the highest levels of security for any system connected to its digital ecosystem.

Previously, York Region relied on a dated, complex, and self-hosted WebSphere CMS to manage its public site and intranet portal. Two different agencies built the website and the intranet; this, in addition to the self-hosting, resulted in two unique, challenging, and costly systems to maintain.

Using the WebSphere CMS also required technical expertise, limiting the number of capable content contributors and resulting in slower updates and dated content. The CMS was siloed from other business systems, restricting access to critical information without manual intervention.

As part of a larger digital modernization strategy, York Region desired a new user-friendly digital experience, publicly and internally - one integrated into its larger digital ecosystem, enabling staff to share information seamlessly and quickly across the organization and externally. 


York expressed a desire to complete this project quickly - it recognized the urgency of modernizing these essential sites.

  • Ensuring the existing functionality and integrations get translated into Drupal
  • Building a robust platform that scales to meet regional demands
  • Ensuring its sites remain fully accessible and secure using a future-forward architecture with a mobile-first lens​
  • Increasing the number of staff capable of contributing content to the sites through knowledge transfer and training
  • Enabling scalability to ensure continuous growth of York’s digital experience platform


York’s new digital experience required a sizable content migration, so Northern strategically developed it with approximately 40 reusable components, each with built-in brand and style management capabilities, building York’s website first and then reusing many of the website components to establish the foundation of its intranet portal. The reusable and modular components allowed for quick extensibility, enabling content contributors to autonomously (without requiring coding) build and extend the sites while remaining on brand. The new platform features notifications for outdated content, encouraging administrators to update or remove content no longer applicable to their audience.

Northern built the website and portal with modern and sleek appearances conforming to user experience design principles and practices, which ensures ease of use, mobile responsiveness, and accessibility to meet WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA and AODA guidelines. And Northern’s content strategy of grouping service-specific content helps users find information quicker.

Northern partnered with Acquia to integrate Acquia Shield, which provides federated authentication, security hardening, IP-restricted admin logins, and two-factor authentication, making York Region one of the most secure platforms among the many regions in Ontario.

The sizable project involved numerous stakeholders, many, if not all, introduced to the Drupal platform for the first time. Northern provided Drupal training for over 75 staff across over a dozen sessions and co-created a Drupal best practices digital handbook with York staff. Now York's team offers continual training, setting its staff up for success and ensuring future content contribution consistency. Northern also co-developed portions of the site with York's technical team, training them and gradually building their Drupal skills and confidence.

Additional project highlights.

  • Northern met York’s aggressive launch timeline for the public website and staff portal projects.
  • Northern built several universal Drupal tools (for example, a generic forms handler and a custom interface that integrates with over 15 external third-party systems) to resolve existing and potential future pain points.
  • Inline entity blocks built into Drupal’s Layout Builder are configurable to render Quick Links and Links based on sharing taxonomy terms with nodes.
  • York's Layout Builder includes approximately 40 custom block components with role-based access
  • A Google Map integration with pin placement based on a facility content type
  • A custom module uses the Azure API for sending transactional emails.
  • Integrated Acquia Partnership with ongoing strategic planning and robust support
  • Reusable portal elements
  • Azure Active Directory integration
  • Salesforce integrations through forms and applications
  • New Relic show and tell downtime notification (and documentation)
  • CloudFlare configuration and bare domain challenges
  • OWASP Scan and documentation
  • Migration of an extensive volume of content based on several different templates imported from a custom RSS feed and supported with manual migration.
  • Reusable documents for release management, operations plan, transition to operations, launch checklist, and post-launch support scripts to assist York’s support centre
  • A seamless Salesforce CRM integration