William Eichler 20 October 2015

Performance of councils' websites is falling, research suggests

Local authority websites are struggling to keep pace with changes in technology and customer expectations, according to the latest survey by Socitm.

Better Connected 2015 found less than half (44%) of councils have a website awarded 3 or 4 stars, with the number of poor sites increasing since last year.

It showed that in 2015, only 42% of websites achieved Better Connected standards across all tasks, compared to 52% in 2014. There has also been a ‘significant’ fall in accessibility standards in the past 12 months.

However, the research did show that nine more sites than last year (33%) passed the Better connected mobile standard. It found there was a clear relationship between the councils with the best developed websites and those with the best mobile access.

Better Connected is a research programme that evaluates the customer experience of local public service web and digital activity. And now, with betterconnected.socitm.net, the results of this research can be easily accessed online.

The idea behind the programme is to better engage service managers and councils’ top teams with their online performance. Each local authority has its own results page on the site which can be accessed by employees of Socitm Insight-subscribing organisations.

Non-subscribing organisations can now see headline results for their council from previous Better Connected surveys.

Surveys about the performance of different service areas will no longer be published all at once. Instead, they shall be carried out and published separately over a period of months.

A new ranking system has also been introduced. In the past individual service areas were given a pass or a fail. Now there is a star ranking which should, Socitm claims, support more robust conversations with services about the quality of their online performance.

Sites will also be given a star ranking for their usability which will be combined with the service area rankings to produce an overall site ranking for each council to be announced at the end of the survey cycle in April.

Socitm president Nadira Hussain said: ‘Better Connected will help push forward the digital agenda. It is raising the game, raising awareness, getting people more bought into the future need to do this as a universal effort in a cohesive way.’

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