Better connected 2012
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 14th annual survey of all 433 local authority websites.. A team of reviewers carried out a structured survey with 210 questions for local authority websites, followed by four shorter surveys on specific topics. This research has been supplemented by five additional sets of data, supplied by our partner organisations.
The report covers surveys carried out on 47 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.
Version 2 update lists corrections and updates since initial publication.
Version 3 update lists final changes to report and spreadsheets
This year's report
The full report (262 pages) is available now as an electronic version and as a printed report (240 pages) from 26 March 2012.
A 16 page briefing for top management teams is also available as an electronic version and as a printed report from 9 April 2012
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). This is followed by our Top 20, our analysis by type of council, our view of improvement trends and, finally, an examination of some of our favourite sites.
Section 2: This year's results - useful content
We examine in detail customer journeys up to nine tasks per council, selected from 13 such tasks likely to be top tasks for most council websites. For each journey we concentrate on finding and completing the task, citing what makes good and poor practice and recommending exemplars. We also cover the topic of local democracy. Finally, we assess how easy it is to find tasks on a smartphone.
Section 3: 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 4: 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 advise about better marketing, illustrated by three case studies.
Section 5: Use of social media
Using three sources of information, we provide a current snapshot of the rise in the use of social media that we first tracked last year. We investigate usage from council websites, survey ICT managers and others about attitudes to social media and present evidence of the value of social media from a chief executive, two service managers, digital engagement adviser and a leading practitioner.
Part B: The future - issues to face
Section 6: National influences on strategic direction
We offer an overview of national policies, initiatives and legislation that will have a strategic impact on the development of websites in the next three to five years. The single most important policy that will influence the direction of online local public services is the creation of the Government Digital Service (GDS) in autumn 2011
Section 7: Management challenge for websites
We have analysed the current state of online information and services for local public services and taken account of national policy developments. This year marks a watershed, symbolised by the launch of the GDS. Identifying three interconnected themes supported by three pieces of research, we have set out the management challenge for meeting customer needs in the next few years.
Section 8: Conclusions
There is a 16-page executive briefing for top management teams to supplement a two page executive briefing that was available on publication day.
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 RNIB. 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.
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
- A two page briefing for chief executives and senior managers (a fuller briefing will be produced before Easter)
- An index of all council references as examples of good practice and entries in top lists, etc
- The accessibility results from RNIB
- A summary of Sitemorse results on technical performance
- Results from Local Directgov for broken links
- A summary of Hitwise results on market share of take-up
- Supporting surveys:
- winter gritting,
- out-of-hours phone contacts,
- use of mobile device (iPhone)
- social media .
- Results of survey from rest of public sector of other organisations who subscribe to Socitm Insight
Finally for the first time 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 2012 if your organisation has renewed its Socitm Insight subscription and you are personally registered on the Socitm website.
You can check the former by going to the list of up-to-date Socitm Insight subscribers. Register as a user on the Socitm website so that you can personally download publications as an employee of a subscribing organisation.
In keeping with the policy of open data, we are publishing the results of our assessments (Appendix 1) as open data on the Socitm website and making them available for re-use (non-commercially).