Chris Lawton

Senior Front-end Developer

Hooking up the GOV.UK Design System with Wagtail Accelerator Kit in 1 day flat

2 mins read

We recently set ourselves a mission. We needed to quickly create a simple, functional prototype, to demo to a new client. We wanted them to see Wagtail in action and be able to preview content in GOV.UK’s awesome accessible components and design system.

I did it - and finished just in time for lunch. Here’s how.

Screenshot of the GOV.UK design sytem.

GOV.UK on the front end

We’ve already built our own pattern library, so all I had to do was make a template kit that could be installed to a Wagtail site and populate the pattern library with the GOV.UK components.

I also used our pre-built Wagtail accelerator kit that’s used as the standard start point for all our Wagtail builds. It incorporates our learnings from building 30+ big, content-rich Wagtail sites and includes best practices for setting up page models, search, taxonomies, and more. It's not a finished site but it provides a solid foundation for rapid prototyping as well as bespoke feature development and design.

Merging the GOV.UK design system into the kit was straightforward - all the CSS and JS are part of the GOV UK frontend package so all I had to do was convert the GOV.UK component templates to Django templates so they could be read by the pattern library. Easy!

After converting the components, installing the package on my Wagtail site, and updating a few colour and font variables it was ready to demo.

Video Thumbnail

Why did I choose this setup?

  • Robust, accessible components.
    All the components in the GOV.UK Design System has been tested extensively against common assistive technologies and all meet level AA of the WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards making it a great starting point for accessible websites.
  • Guidance from GOV.UK.
    All the components have clear and concise guidance on how and when to use them backed up by research.
  • It’s all in Django pattern library.
    We’ve now got access to all the design system components in the pattern library, ready and waiting to be shipped out to the next project that needs them.
  • It can be put live in the first sprint.
    It’s ready to go now, so much so it could be put live in the first week of development.
  • A solid foundation to extend out.
    The site is in a place where bespoke features can be implemented and design can be added.

What’s next?

We were so pleased with what we were able to achieve and the effectiveness of our prototype as a functional demo that we’ve decided to extend the concept and build a broader GOV.UK design system theme for Wagtail.

We’ve already started building out the rest of the page types. The form pages were our first priority, allowing us to use the excellent, well-tested GOV.UK form elements.

We’re planning on using the kit to speed up all our projects, give clients early access to a working website to add and manage content and help grow Wagtail’s profile within and beyond the public sector. Watch this space!