Explanations for some of the terminologies used on this site.

Don't understand some of the terms you've seen or heard in GovCMS documentation, presentations, forums and meetings? We explain them below.

What is GovCMS?

GovCMS is a product provided by the Department of Finance, that gives agencies the tools to build, migrate and manage websites. GovCMS includes the Drupal-based content management system and accompanying website hosting service. A content management system (CMS) is software that’s used to create and manage digital information.

GovCMS is available to all levels of government and solves many of the problems that agencies face managing their web presence, including:

  • limited resources to ensure the security of their websites
  • limited staff with the necessary skills to manage websites
  • how to ensure compliance with Australian Government standards around design, accessibility, privacy, security and information/records management.

Some benefits GovCMS gives your agency include:

  • best practice service design based on the Australian Government’s Digital Service Standard.
  • security patching, support and 24/7 monitoring.
  • it is secure and regularly tested, updated and maintained to reduce risks to your website.
  • it is easy to use and you don’t need to know HTML coding to be an administrator of your website.
  • it is built on Drupal Open Source Software that allows agencies to reuse and adapt solutions from around the world.
  • responsive web design. Your website will work effectively no matter what size device is being used.

There are two options available through GovCMS, Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).

Agile methodology

Project development broken down into incremental, iterative steps.

More about Agile.

Backlog grooming

A discussion session between the product owner, the scrum master and the developers about which items in the backlog are to be included in an upcoming sprint. During the discussion, an estimated effort time is allocated to each item and items are prioritised according to business needs.

Content types

A collection of data fields grouped together in a logical set to make it easier to create and display content. Organising data into content types provides a foundation for future functionality, like faceted search and specialised view displays.

Content types provide a way to manage and organise content consistently.

Design assets

In website design and development, design assets are typically, but not limited to, text content, logos, branding and graphics. A content style guide, if you have one, is also a design asset.


Setting up a Drupal site typically involves downloading and configuring Drupal core, plus downloading and configuring particular modules to match specific requirements. A distribution is a pre-configured combination of Drupal core, extra modules and themes. The GovCMS distribution combines Drupal core with modules and themes specific to the needs of Australian government websites.


DNS stands for Domain Name System, a protocol on the Internet that converts domain names to IP addresses (Internet Protocol addresses). Anything connected to the Internet has an IP address, which is a long string of numbers that is incredibly hard for humans to remember. A domain name - like GovCMS.gov.au or google.com - makes it much easier for humans to interact with the Internet.

You can think of a DNS as a big phone book that computers use to look up the location of websites, email servers, networks and other devices connected to the Internet. When you visit a website, a DNS server gets sent a request and works out how to join the device you're using to the website you want to visit. There are lots of DNS servers connected to the Internet. They act a bit like telephone exchanges, figuring out where to send the traffic bouncing around the Internet so that messages, data and content get to the right location.

DNS switch

The process of moving from one DNS server provider to another is called a DNS switch. When you launch a new website, migrate an existing site to GovCMS or make other changes to how your site is set up - like adding additional security services in front of your website - you may need to make changes to your site's DNS records. Think of it as like changing your phone number when you move house.

Depending on what's happening with your site, you may need to manage the timing of when the switch occurs. The GovCMS Team doesn't manage the switch-over because it doesn't own your domain name. The GovCMS Team will, however, make sure you have the information you need to manage this process yourself.


Drupal is an open source content management system that can be used by anyone to create and manage websites. Open source means the original code is open to anyone to use and modify. Drupal releases a Core Module that has basic functions that are common in content management systems.

Drupal module

A Drupal module is a collection of files and functionality.

There are three types of Drupal modules:

  1. Core Module – also called Drupal Core – are the modules you get when you install Drupal. They contain the basic features common to content management systems.
  2. Contributed module – created and maintained by the Drupal community to enhance Core Module functionality and features.
  3. Custom – created by individual developers, often specific to an individual site.


Forklifting is the process of moving your site to Acquia Cloud Site Factory.
At the end of your development project, the GovCMS team will transfer your site (Forklift) from the environment it was developed in, including database and files into the GovCMS deployment of Acquia Cloud Site Factory (ACSF) environment. Forklifting can take 3-5 business days as there may be some inconsistencies between the two environments, and the process may require a large number of file transfers to occur. Once completed, GovCMS will provide your agency with the details required to commence user acceptance testing (UAT).

GitHub repository

In the context of GovCMS, the GovCMS GitHub repository is the storage space in GitHub where the GovCMS project files are kept.

Information architecture

In the context of websites, information architecture (IA) is the organisation of the information on display to best help people navigate around the site and find what they’re looking for, quickly and easily.

To create an effective IA you need to:

  • know who is using the site and what they need to do there
  • have the right content to support that need
  • understand the business reasons for the site.

IRAP assessment

IRAP stands for Information Security Registered Assessors Program. An IRAP assessor assesses the implementation, appropriateness and effectiveness of your system’s security controls.

The assessment is achieved through two audit stages:

  • Stage 1 audit identifies security deficiencies which the system owner rectifies or mitigates
  • Stage 2 audit assesses the residual compliance

More information about IRAP assessments.


PaaS stands for Platform as a Service. PaaS is a self-managed offering in a dedicated cloud environment. PaaS gives agencies the freedom of high level customisation, but requires a lot more internal technical expertise. PaaS customers are fully responsible for the management of the application layer of their sites.


SaaS stands for Software as a Service. SaaS is a managed offering, removing the burden of managing your own software, licencing and infrastructure. For most agencies, SaaS is the answer; freeing you up to just concentrate on core business requirements. SaaS is hosted in Australian public cloud infrastructure.

Site map

A list of the pages on a website, often displayed in hierarchical order.


A period of time, commonly two weeks, allocated for a particular phase of a project.

SSL stands for Secure Sockets layer, a global standard security technology that enables encrypted communication between a web browser and a web server. To create this secure connection, an SSL certificate (also called a digital certificate) is installed on a web server.

Using an SSL decreases the risk of sensitive information being stolen or tampered with by hackers and identity thieves. When installed, an SSL certificate activates the padlock and the https protocol and allows secure connections from a web server to a browser.



A theme is what dictates the look and feel of your site. Themes include font sizes, font types and colour schemes. GovCMS themes are designed to be responsive, and accessibility and privacy compliant. Agencies have the flexibility to implement their own standards compliant themes.