Better connected 2013
The purpose of Better connected is to identify good practice in the development of local authority websites based on extensive evidence-based research.
This is our 15th annual survey of all 433 local authority websites.. A team of reviewers carried out a structured survey with 224 questions for local authority websites, followed by four shorter surveys on specific topics. This research has been supplemented by seven additional sets of data, supplied by our partner organisations.
The report covers surveys carried out on 41 other public service websites belonging to Socitm Insight subscribers.
Free summaries available for download
The files below are freely available to all users. Socitm Insight subscribers can download the full report and associated files.
The headline results for public use are available to all. All other files are restricted to employees of organisations that are paid up subscribers to Socitm Insight. Individuals need to be registered personally on this website to access the material.
In addition, councils are only named in the results if, as at 22 February, they subscribe to Socitm Insight (or pre-ordered a copy of the report). If, having paid later (or ordered a copy of the report) you wish to see your council's name listed, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Version 2 updates lists corrections and updates since initial publication
This year's report
The full report (244 pages) is available now as an electronic version.
Part A: The present - this year's results
Section 1: Overview of this year's results
We provide the national picture in terms of overall rankings using our star system for ranking sites (one star to four stars), extended this year to include access by mobile devices. This is followed by our Top 20, our analysis by type of council, our view of improvement trends, common reviewer niggles and, finally, an examination of some of our favourite sites..
Section 2: This year's results - top tasks
We examine in detail customer journeys for up to 10 tasks per council, selected from 14 tasks, which are likely to be top tasks for most council websites. For each journey we concentrate on finding and completing the task, citing what makes for good and poor practice and recommending exemplars
Section 3: Completing tasks on the move
We examine how well councils deal with people wanting online information via mobile devices. To do this, we use a smartphone to test one specific task from the list of tasks used in the main survey and to search for general information online. As for the main survey we identify good and poor practice and recommend examples of good practice.
Section 4: This year's results - usability
The customer journey for each task is all-important. We focus on the mechanisms for making this journey as quick and as smooth as possible.
We start with the navigational aids for managing top tasks and how they can become barriers for the customer if badly selected or implemented. We continue with supporting mechanisms such as the use of search, A to Z lists, location-based information, accessibility and resilience.
Section 5: This year's results - usage
Our analysis to date has focused on the supply side, ie how well the website meets customer needs. We now switch to the demand side and focus on actual and potential usage, highlighting trends in take-up and visitor feedback. We provide the latest information about internet access, visitor usage and satisfaction and report the results of a special survey looking at how well councils promote digital engagement.
Better known as the 'Cookie Law', the Privacy and Electronic Communications EC Directive, came into UK law on 26 May 2011. The UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) gave organisations a 12-month period of grace to prepare for this legislation. We have now investigated how well local authorities have communicated the issue of cookies to their website visitors, at the same time commissioning an audit of the numbers of cookies in actual use.
Part B: The future - issues to face
Section 7: Influence of the Government Digital Strategy
Although it is focused on just central government, the Government Digital Strategy published in November 2012 was a major milestone in developing the thinking of digital services across the public sector. Socitm plans to launch its own framework for local digital public services in April 2013. Here we relate some of the issues to advice in Better connected, this year and earlier.
Section 8: Management challenge for websites
The difficulties of making the transition to a digital world are not unique to local public services. A recent survey of people in different roles in different types of organisation across the English-speaking world has revealed the same barriers and tensions that exist for the local public sector. With effective leadership and governance, however, these barriers and tensions can be overcome.
Section 9: Conclusions
There is also a two page briefing for chief executives and senior managers.
How did your council do?
We have sent to each fully-paid up local authority subscriber to Socitm Insight more detailed analysis of the results of the accessibility testing supplied by the Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC). This was sent to the nominated contact, who may well not be the web manager, or even in the same section or directorate. If, as the web manager, or member of the web team, you would like a copy sent direct to you, then e-mail email@example.com and we will send it by return.
Here, subscribers to Socitm Insight can download the summary of the results of the main survey, which also contain detailed analysis of every topic and theme in the survey. They can also download all supporting material as follows:
- A 'pdf' version is available of the main report, fully bookmarked
- A two page briefing for chief executives and senior managers (a fuller briefing will be produced by Easter)
- An index of all council references as examples of good practice and entries in top lists, etc
- The accessibility results from DAC
- A summary of Sitemorse results on technical performance
- Results from Local Directgov for broken links
- A summary of Experian Hitwise results on market share of take-up
- Supporting surveys:
- use of mobile devices
- digital engagement
- out of-hours telephone messages,
- Results of survey from rest of public sector of other organisations who subscribe to Socitm Insight
- Gerry McGovern's latest report Online Professionals Principles & Challenges 2012 (February 2013)
Finally as last year we have provided for each subscribing local authority an individual spreadsheet that shows the answers to each question in the main survey, alongside the questions and the guidance notes that each reviewer had available during the survey. This should make it much easier to understand the results. Note: this spreadsheet does not contain any post-review analysis, eg the star ranking, nor an explicit indication as to whether the task was successful (which are in the main survey results), but contains purely the results as they were completed by the reviewer at the time of the survey.
Insight subscribers receive the material free of charge. You will only be able to access Better connected 2013 if your organisation has renewed its Socitm Insight subscription and you are personally registered on the Socitm website www.socitm.net.
You can check that your organisation has paid by going to the list of up-to-date Socitm Insight subscribers. To register as a user on the Socitm website so that you personally can download publications as an employee of a subscribing organisation, go to https://www.socitm.net/register.
In keeping with the policy of open data, we are publishing the headline results of our assessments (Appendix 1) as open data on www.socitm.net and make them available for re-use (non-commercially).