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Top UK council websites named by Better Connected

Thirty six local authorities have been identified by Socitm’s Better Connected research programme as having the UK’s top council websites, following a series of surveys of their performance from a customer perspective carried out over the last six months.

These councils, named on the Better Connected website at https://betterconnected.socitm.net/usability, run 9% of the UK’s 416 local authority websites, and achieved their 4* rating for their performance based on testing:

  • four service-based tasks (eg ‘apply for a resident's parking permit’; ‘request care assessment for elderly relative’, ‘find out about housing’ etc);
  • the quality of experience when sites were accessed from a mobile phone;
  • the quality and functionality of sites’ navigation, search and A-Z facilities
  • the accessibility of sites to people with disabilities, including those using assistive technologies

Scores across the seven individual surveys were aggregated, using a formula published on Better Connected results pages, with four stars denoting a very good user experience, three a good one, two unsatisfactory and one a poor experience.

The four star list includes councils from across the UK as well as the very large (council councils), the very small (shire districts) and urban (London and metropolitan districts) and rural-based councils.

The proportion of 3 and 4 star sites has risen by 11 percentage points since 2015-16. Although individual tests were different this year, overall they were comparable and in some cases harder, so this is an encouraging result for UK council websites.

Of the list of top sites, thirteen achieved 4* status last year. Of 91 council websites identified as having undergone significant redesigns in the year since Better Connected was last completed, just seven qualified for the Better Connected four star list and only slightly more than half passed the BC test by achieving three or four stars. This illustrates that delivering a quality website takes much more than a visual makeover and new site architecture.

Fifty councils have been named by Better Connected as being in the running for Awards to be presented at the Connected Local Government Live event in Birmingham on 28 June. (List at https://betterconnected.socitm.net/blog/2017/june/better-connected-awards-2016-17-shortlist). Awards include best council of each type (ie county, London borough, Scottish unitary etc); best for usability aspects and best for service areas like waste & recycling, social care, and planning & building control.

The Better Connected testing process involves a team of reviewers visiting council websites toexplore their ability to provide quick and easy ‘customer journeys’ and successful resolution of a series of top tasks. ‘Top tasks’ may be informational (find out about …..) or transactional (pay, report, or apply for…..).

Tasks are selected from service areas that have high web visitor numbers (based on data from Socitm’s Website Performance service) or which may be important for reasons of legislative or other change. Inclusion of purely informational tasks is based on the fact that data shows more than half of all visits to council websites to be for information only.

Reviewers conduct some tests on a smartphone (eg the rubbish & recycling, parking and roadworks tasks in Better connected 2016-17), reflecting the fact that around half of all visits to council websites are now made from mobile devices.

Question sets for tasks and usability tests are available in the ‘all council’ reports that appear in the services and usability sections of the Better Connected site, which also provides a set of results and commentary for every UK council.

These results, for 416 UK council websites, are now available and free to view. Individual council results can be found from the council index page at https://www.betterconnected.socitm.net/councils.  The ‘all council’ report on this year’s results - also free to view - can be found at https://betterconnected.socitm.net/usability

Findings and feedback from this year’s Better Connected will be presented as part of the Connected Local Government Live 2017 on June 28 & 29 in Birmingham.

Notes for editors

Anyone can access ‘all-council’ reports and individual council headline results from Better connected surveys at https://www.betterconnected.socitm.net/. Full details of individual council reviews are available to Socitm Insight subscribers only (around 75% of all councils).

Any employee of a Socitm Insight subscribing council (see list at https://www.inform.socitm.net/) can register for free with Socitm.net at https://www.socitm.net/user/register and then get access to the detailed results for their council.

Further information

Vicky Sargent

Director, Better Connected Programme

07726 601139