Better connected 2008: a snapshot of local authority websites
Produced by: Socitm Insight
This is the tenth edition of Better connected. A special feature identifies those councils that have done consistently well in our rankings, compares innovations then and now, describes how our annual report has developed...
This is our tenth annual survey of all local authority websites (plus others belonging to Socitm Insight subscribers in the public sector). In total, 551 websites have been examined. A team of reviewers carried out a structured survey with 95 questions for local authority websites, followed by seven shorter surveys on specific topics. This research has been supplemented by seven other separate surveys, using our partner organisations. The structure of this report follows the criteria for high-quality local authority websites that develop the ideas that websites should be 'useful, usable and used' (Version 2 of that framework published in Better connected: aiming high, December 2005).
Section 1 Introduction
We introduce the key features of the survey, including its purpose, the process we follow, the ranking system and the 'useful, usable and used' framework that we use for assessment.
Section 2 National policies and direction
We give an overview of national policies and initiatives that will have a strategic impact on the development of websites in the next two to three years.
Section 3 Overview of this year's results
The first part of the results looks at the national picture in terms of overall rankings, using, for the second time, our updated ranking system and our assessment of excellent sites. This is followed by our usual lists of transactional sites, our Top 20 and other groupings of top local authorities.
Section 4 This year's results - useful content
We describe the detailed analysis of the results, focusing firstly on content. We report here on five scenarios of typical visitors for information content, and then examine other aspects of content such as currency of information, use of links, provision of services, response to e-mail and the practice of participation.
Section 5 This year's results - usability
The second stage of the results focuses on ease of use. This covers ease of finding, use of navigational aids such as A to Z lists, search engines and locational data, general navigation, accessibility, readability and, finally, technical resilience. All these points contribute to the usability of a local authority website.
Section 6 This year's results - usage
Our third perspective is focused on usage. Switching from the product to the customer, we examine different aspects of the demand side, highlighting trends in usage. We provide the latest information about internet access, visitor usage, satisfaction and behaviour, culminating with advice about better promotion.
Section 7 Joining up in county areas
We examine the evidence of joined-up working in two-tier areas of England and summarise the key messages from a special piece of research about (sub) regional portals.
Section 8 Improving the website
The evidence from our survey points the way to improvement. Firstly, we consider the lessons learnt by those who have consistently done well in the past. Next, we suggest strategic directions for the next ten years, using the ideas from contributors to Ten years of Better connected.
Section 9 Conclusions
This year's report
We have this year updated the format and structure of our report. The three central sections (useful content, usability and usage) have been re-organised and reduced in length so that readers can focus on key messages and examples of good practice. This is the Main report. It is available as a printed report and also as an electronic version.
An expanded version of all the results is also available but only as an electronic version. This is the Full results report. This has the same structure as the Main report, but contains much greater detail in the three central sections, plus three extra appendices.
We sent to each local authority subscriber to Socitm Insight more detailed analysis of the results of the accessibility testing supplied by the RNIB.
Finally, we will published in April 2008 a separate supplement on website accessibility entitled: (A world denied: a supplement for Better connected 2008 on website accessibility) which follows on from the DVD produced in August 2007 entitled A world denied: Web accessibility - the movie.
Here, subscribers to Socitm Insight can download the summary of the results of the main survey, together with supporting material as follows:
- An index of all council references as examples of good practice and entries in top lists, etc
- A summary of the accessibility results from RNIB
- A summary of SiteMorse results on technical performance
- A summary of Hitwise results on market share of take-up
- Usability and accessibility test results from Usability Exchange's panel of users
- A PowerPoint presentation of the key messages from the report (to follow)
- A 'pdf' version is available of both the Main report and the Full results report along with a separate executive briefing
Last modified: 19th January 2010
Better Connected 2008 - Full results (3.89 MB PDF)
Better Connected 2008 - Executive Briefing (795.73 KB PDF)
Results from the main survey (2.55 MB XLS)
Index of council references (491 KB XLS)
News value survey (1.07 MB XLS)
Sample e-mail test (803 KB XLS)
Deep-linking from Google (437.5 KB XLS)
Mobile devices (53.5 KB XLS)
Registration for online services (272.5 KB XLS)
Telephone contact details (1.66 MB XLS)
Handling of broken links (468 KB XLS)
Use of content management systems (1.3 MB XLS)
User test results from Usability Exchange (113.5 KB XLS)
Summary of RNIB accessibility assessments (2.94 MB XLS)
Readability report from The Writer (107.5 KB DOC)
Summary of SiteMorse results (2.94 MB XLS)
Summary of Hitwise results for all councils (2.45 MB XLS)
Summary of Hitwise results by type and region (4.77 MB XLS)