Community NI

CommunityNI required an updated fully responsive website with improved search functionality to promote the range of jobs, events and news stories within the voluntary and community sector within NI.



CommunityNI has been developed and maintained by NICVA - a membership and representative umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland – as a resource for the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.

CommunityNI has promoted the work of the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland for over a decade. As a platform to share news, jobs and events, CommunityNI is the sector’s opportunities hub. Users can add opportunities for individuals, for organisations and for the people their organisations serve and promote them on a site that receives seven million page views a year.

NICVA approached to:

  • Update the site from Drupal 6 to Drupal 8
  • Migrate all the legacy data
  • Make site more responsive
  • Improve search functionality
  • Modernise look and feel
  • Update the branding
  • Improve the User signup process

Our Approach

Working closely with the CommunityNI Team we worked through the existing functionality and content to decide on how to enhance the site.  We rationalised the current system to remove unnecessary functionality and content.  We restructured the existing content to make it work better across devices

Following intensive user research, we created an updated brand and modernised the look and feel of the site.


A key requirement of the CommunityNI project was the migration of over 60000 pieces of content from an existing Drupal 6 into Drupal 8. The migration had to maintain around 5000 existing user accounts, 20000 files, tags and categories.

Using the Migrate Module we were able to consistently update the Drupal site throughout the migration process - maintaining URL integrity and ensuring no loss in SEO rankings as a result of the migration.

Enterprise class search

User research and analysis showed that the Jobs and Events sections were most used on CommunityNI but the search functionality did not prove satisfactory in these areas.  It was vital that the search engine on the site was fast, usable and accurate so the decision was made to move to Solr using Search API on Drupal 8.   

Drupal’s core search is limited when your users are looking to carry out sophisticated searches. Using Solr to enhance the search capabilities of Drupal can deliver enterprise quality search for a fraction of the cost. Solr is the popular open source enterprise search platform from Apache. Its major features include:

  • powerful full-text search,
  • hit highlighting,faceted search,
  • “More like this” blocks,
  • searching within documents (e.g., Word, PDF)

Solr powers the search and navigation features of many of the world's largest internet sites including, Netflix, Instagram and AOL. By utilising the power of Solr with the flexibility of Drupal we ensured that CommunityNI is easy and efficient to search

Improved user signup

Before the website update, it was necessary for the CommunityNI team to spend a large amount of time ensuring that only legitimate (non-spam) users were accessing the site.  As a core element of the project was to help the teamwork more efficiently we built a custom system to speed up the automatic addition of users of authenticated organisations.

This has significantly reduced the manual interventions needed and allowed the team to focus on other areas

The Result

Our partnership with NICVA has resulted in significant improvements to CommunityNI:

  • A modern brand
  • A responsive site that works well across multiple devices and platforms
  • Increased search usage increased time spent on the site per user
  • Enhanced user experience
  • A secure platform for future development and growth.