The professional association for public sector IT, Socitm, has said in its annual ‘Better Connected’ survey that only 23 councils out of a total of 433 (five percent) achieved the top rating of four stars for their websites.
Also, of the nine four star sites named in 2011’s survey, only the City of Edinburgh and Salford City have retained the rating in 2012.
However, council websites have improved overall, with 42 percent achieving either three or four stars in 2012, compared with 32 percent in 2011.
Councils were largely tested on the delivery of thirteen ‘top tasks’ used by citizens within their websites, which include services such as applying for a council job, objecting to a planning application, finding rubbish collection day, and paying council tax.
Socitm insists that councils need to recognise that the purpose of their websites is to deliver these services, and not news about the council’s activities.
Of the top tasks tested in the survey, ‘renew library book’ and ‘object to planning application’ performed the weakest. The report highlights how these “rely on third party software that is hard to use or poorly integrated”.
Tasks relating to ‘finding school term dates’ and ‘paying council tax’ performed the best.
The report also finds that many councils are using the Local Government Navigation List (LGNL) for their main site architecture, which is a set of standardised navigations, that aims to enable citizens to move from one site to another and find what they are looking for under familiar headings.
However, Socitm advises that councils stop using LGNL and instead adopt a topics based navigation structure based on their own research and testing.
Socitm also recommends that councils put in place a corporate governance and management framework for their website that commits to a ‘top tasks’ approach, keeps the website content rigorously pruned and favours continuous improvement over “big-bang change”.