Case study: Managing a website in the forefront of a pandemic

Tuesday, 21 July, 2020

Department of Health experienced unprecedented traffic to their website during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department’s website provided the official source of information when the pandemic first began.

‘We received up to 5.3 million hits per day on health.gov.au. Our website had never been tested by this amount of traffic. Usually we receive 50,000 hits per day,’ said Danni Marlow (Technical Product Owner), Department of Health.

During peak times, the website received up to 100,000 hits per minute. Still the platform remained stable.

‘The Department has a dedicated environment on the GovCMS platform. This was a significant benefit during the pandemic. Average page load times remained around 2 seconds, which is impressive when you have a 4,600 per cent increase in visitors.

‘We also took the extra precaution of consulting with the GovCMS team about activities that may result in a sudden increase in website traffic. They had website engineers on watch to ensure the platform remained stable.

‘The GovCMS team were highly responsive during the pandemic. We knew when we raised a critical issue we would have eyes on it immediately. Their support was crucial in supporting our stakeholders and ensuring that Australians had access to the latest information.’

GovCMS tooling assisted the Health team to respond to stakeholders including the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and National Cabinet. For example, the ability to quickly clone the live website to a lower environment allowed us to test and share developments easily.

‘We published more than 3,400 new items during the pandemic so time saving measures such as this were invaluable. We assembled a team of writers and publishers across the department, including those who had never published before. The intuitive interface made this easy for those with little to no experience to pick-up publishing quickly.

‘We also used GovCMS as a single-source-of-truth to deliver COVID-19 news and case data both to the website and the Coronavirus native app.

‘Now that we’ve had more time to breathe, we’re able to reflect on how we delivered essential content whilst responding quickly to a changing environment. GovCMS was a key player and allowed us to focus on the message and not the platform.’