Dutch government consolidating websites on Hippo CMS 7

The Dutch government has announced the new website www.rijksoverheid.nl, and has chosen Hippo CMS 7 to manage the web content. A brave choice, since Hippo's version 7 is fresh out of the gate and experience with it remains quite limited.

While not quite as ambitious as endeavours in other countries, the project, dubbed "Project ONS" (see the announcement in Dutch) is still a major undertaking, replacing the individual sites of 13 ministries and several public information sites (including government.nl). It is estimated to cost €6 milion, of which €250,000 in software (presumably in support and development, since Hippo CMS is open source, licensed under the Apache License 2.0). The first release of the new site is planned for October 2009, and the project should be completed in 2011.

Readers of The Web CMS Report may be surprised that an untested new version of Hippo CMS would get chosen for a project on this scale. While version 6 is still in active use (and is available rebranded as Bluenog CMS as well), version 7 is a complete re-write, which has been on the verge of being released for a year. And even though it's now out officially -- and it seems the underlying platform is pretty stable -- the interface (built on Wicket) still has plenty of annoyances and minor bugs that will need to be fixed.

I've seen a few blogposts mention fancy features in the UI, such as drag & drop linking and image placement, type-ahead-search, and autosave. However, in reality, not all of those have been implemented yet, and many fail to work as users would expect them. It's getting better quickly -- minor releases are now following in rapid succession, with 2.02 in December, 2.03 in January, and 2.04 in February -- but still a work in progress.

Common wisdom has it that a hippo is an animal that lives in denial. However, the director of the project team told me that the selection process was meticulous, and included several months spent on a proof-of-concept. They're aware of the newness of the platform and the work still being done on the interface, but confident that the creases will be ironed out.

While this is reassuring if you're considering going with Hippo CMS 7, you might not want to be quite as courageous in committing to it just yet. We'll be keeping tabs on how the Dutch company lives up to its ambitious roadmap, so watch this space if you want to see how the hippotomi migrate.

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