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The New Healthcare.gov Uses a Lightweight Open Source Tool

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

This is a cross-post from a Development Seed blog site exit disclaimer about upcoming improvements to Healthcare.gov. The author is a contractor leading the technical strategy and development of heathcare.gov. From his work previously on President Obama's White House staff, he is a known advocate of open source software and government innovation.

Last week, we told you about the upcoming relaunch of Healthcare.gov and its use of the Jekyll website generator. Jekyll allows users to build dynamic websites served by static pages. To help manage large websites using Jekyll, developers working on the new healthcare.gov published the ‘Prose.io’ site exit disclaimer editing interface last year. Content editors will use this lightweight editor to create and manage content across the site.

Prose is an open source web application that allows users to manage web content stored on GitHub’s code sharing service. It offers the convenience of a content management system (CMS) for managing the site, without the reduction in speed and response time that results from the web server processing and databases required for typical content management systems.

Prose has over ten thousand users, and is the result of dozens of community contributions from open source developers. As part of the relaunching of Healthcare.gov, we are making additional usability improvements that will benefit all users of this free service.

Our improvements to the Prose interface for authoring content includes better previewing, a refined user dashboard, and a user-friendly metadata editor. These updates will be rolled out in the coming weeks leading up to the relaunch of Healthcare.gov.

Jekyll and the Prose editing interface allow the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to abandon use of a complex content management system for both the serving AND editing of content. Instead, a CMS-type interface is just applied to the editing tools. This frees time to invest in a better design and content experience, as well as greatly simplifies the maintenance overhead of running the website. We estimate the Jekyll-supported Healthcare.gov will require approximately 30 less servers than current CMS-based implementations. That's because no matter how many visits the website gets, we only require one server to pre-generate Healthcare.gov content and push it to a content distribution network for public access.

 

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Comments

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