Better Connected 2015
Better connected has been running since 1999 and in March 2015 published its 17th annual edition. The services main purpose is to identify best practice and help councils in improving the quality of the online experience for the millions of people who now visit council websites for obtaining information and receiving services.
Better connected has established itself as an essential service for councils, with many web teams and digital architects now using the results and associated report created from the Better connected service as the basis for their improvement plans. Delivering a high quality online experience is critical for councils to achieve plans for digital transformation of their services, now seen by most councils as essential for living with austerity.
Visit the new Better connected website launched in October 2015.
On Tuesday 12 May, Socitm announced a partnership with consultancy Boilerhouse to develop its research and publishing on digital local services. This will focus initially on development of Better connected. The partnership will enable development of a digital platform for the service and changes in presentation of the research results.
Socitm Insight's 17th annual Better connected survey of all local authority websites (plus others belonging to Socitm Insight subscribers in the public sector) was published on 2 March 2015.
In total, 439 websites were examined. A team of researchers carried out a structured survey with up to eight common tasks assessed, depending on type of council, plus a general assessment of both the mobile and the desktop experience. This has been followed by two shorter surveys on specific topics. This research has been supplemented by four additional sets of data, supplied by our partner organisations.
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), which has now fully integrated 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 15 tasks, four of which are accessed by mobile devices, which are likely to be top tasks for most council websites. From this group we select up to eight tasks for each council, including two for access from mobile devices. For each journey we concentrate on finding and completing the task, citing what makes for good and poor practice and recommending exemplars.
Section 3 - This year’s results – the mobile experience
Testing the mobile experience is now fully integrated in the overall assessment. We assess council websites from a mobile device as well as from the desktop or laptop. To do this, we use a smartphone to carry out an assessment of the mobile experience and then test two specific tasks (already analysed in the previous section). 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. Navigation for tasks is fundamental to making a site easy to use. We analyse what you should and should not do. We continue with all the supporting navigational aids, such as the use of search, A to Z index, accessibility and resilience.
Section 5 - This year’s results – usage
Our report so far 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.
Part B: The future - issues to face
Section 6 - Agenda for digital change
The formation of a new government offers some time to reflect on a new approach to digital delivery, and, as an essential part of that, better self-service from council websites. Continued public austerity and health and social care reforms are likely to be with us for the foreseeable future. We provide a very good example of the type of national blueprint for action that is urgently required. However, councils should start to think of what they can do now to improve the quality of the online experience.
Section 7 - Web management practices
For the first time in the history of Better connected, we investigate what goes on behind the scenes in managing the online experience in order to help councils improve it. We report on the results of a survey of the teams responsible for managing the web in UK local government. The survey covers governance, strategy and policy, management of content, performance, usage, resources and budgets.
Section 8 - New sites in 2014
Having the opportunity to design a new site might be seen as a luxury in the current financial climate. We have identified 63 councils that had this opportunity in 2014, but their success has been patchy. It is critical to understand why a new site is needed and, if necessary, carry out a root and branch review. We focus on one leading council who benefited from such an approach.
Section 9 - Conclusions
Better Connected is currently only available as part of Socitm Insight
Find out more
Subscribers 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
- The results from a supporting survey on digital engagement
- The results from a supporting survey on out-of-hours telephone messages
- A summary of Sitemorse results on technical performance
- Results from Local Direct for broken links
- A summary of Experian Hitwise results on market share of take-up
- Results of survey from rest of public sector of other organisations who subscribe to Socitm Insight
Finally as last year we have provided for each subscribing local authority an individual ‘Your council’ 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, 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.
Results from the survey of web management practices are only available to those who completed the survey and they will be issued by email shortly after the launch of the report.
Insight subscribers receive the material free of charge. You will only be able to access Better connected 2015 if your organisation has renewed its Socitm Insight subscription and you are personally registered on the Socitm website.
You can check that your organisation has paid by going to the list of up-to-date Socitm Insight subscribers.