Arkansas.gov Technical Details
So you’re a geek too, huh? We thought we’d write up some of the technical details about how we built the new Arkansas.gov.
Bourbon and Neat
For the front-end we used Bourbon and Neat to keep things lightweight and clean. Bourbon is a mixin library for Sass and allowed us to write clean and concise CSS styles. Neat is a Sass grid system that plays well with Bourbon and ended up being much lighter than other frameworks (we’re looking at you, Bootstrap).
We built a custom back-end system that powers the Jekyll build and allows for easy updates to the site but keeps all the database queries and heavy lifting to our build process. If you haven’t used a static site generator then you might want to give it a try, but it’s not perfect for every situation.
Another piece of the puzzle is how do we control all of the site content and builds for the blazingly fast static site that we’ve created? For us the answer was Jenkins. We use Jenkins to hook into our Git repositories to pull the latest version of the site and then it runs through a myriad of process to build our CSS, minify everything, and then kick off the Jekyll build. It’s been great having a simple way for multiple people to work on content and our front-end crew has really appreciated version control for everything.
You’ve probably run across several sites that provide live chat experiences, but with the new Arkansas.gov we took that a step further. We are leveraging Intercom.io’s power for live chat with some custom systems that power the new Arkansas.gov Bot. The Bot can answer an array of common questions and can even interact with visitors to look up payments made online, connect them with other agencies, and to easily connect them with a live agent.
As part of this custom bot experience we’re also leveraging some great services like Meya.ai, Wit.ai, and Luis.ai to continually improve our ability to process natural language queries and turn them into actionable intents.
Swiftype is a search engine product that we’re leveraging to power the Arkansas.gov search features. The Swiftype engine is always crawling the site to find new pages and content to present to visitors.
We added special tags to each page that allow us to provide a robust faceted search experience like you’d expect from one of the major search engines.