Wednesday, 17 March 2010

What makes a good local government web site?

There are many benchmarks which describe what factors constitute a good government web site. Perhaps one of the most widely known and respected is the Better Connected report from the Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM).

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'.

There are many third party services which will routinely crawl over a web site and benchmark it accordingly. Within local government, one of the better know of these is Sitemorse, who provide quality, compliance and availability monitoring services.

SOCITM and Sitemorse are the most widely adopted benchmarks used within local government.
The following is a summary of some of the key factors that make up a good local government web site. This is by no means an exhaustive or definitive list, but instead highlights just some of the key areas

Useful content – Does the website have the information that people are looking for?

A website must conform with all these criteria to ensure that the content is useful.

  • Information - Do people find answers to their questions?
  • Currency - Can people rely on the site being up to date?
  • Links elsewhere - Are people referred to another organisation if the council does not have the information
  • News value - Does the content capture people’s newsworthiness?
  • E-mail - Can people do business by email with the council
  • Transactions - Can people transact business with the council
  • Participation - Do people have the opportunity to influence council policies and decisions?
Usability – How useful is the information to find and use on the website?

A website must conform with all these criteria to ensure that it is easy to use.
  • Ease of finding - Can people find the site easily?
  • Use of A-Z - Can people find their way easily to a specific topic?
    Use of search engine - Does a specific word or phrase generally point people to what they want?
    Use of location - Can people find information easily by using a map or postcode (or other similar)?
  • Navigation - Can people rely on a clear and consistent style in finding their way around?
  • Design of transactions? - Can people use online forms and other transactions easily?
  • Accessibility - Can people use the site if they have a disability?
  • Readability - Can people understand what the site says?
  • Resilience - Can people rely on the site to be available and working properly

Used – How well used is the website?

It is recommended that each organisation pursues policies that encourage the take-up of their websites under these broad headings.

  • Access - Do people have easy free access to the Internet (not forgetting access through intermediaries)?
  • Measurement - Are visitor numbers and interactions increasing?
  • Feedback - What do visitors think about their experience in using the website?
  • Marketing - Are websites being fully marketed to key audiences

These are just some of the many factors that need to be taken into consideration when developing a local government web site. A far more comprehensive list of benchmarks and considerations can be obtained from the Better Connected report produced by SOCITM.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent recommendations here of what should be found on a local government website. It needs to be easy to use and useful for the citizens and visitors. It's a very useful means of communication when it is used properly and kept up to date. City websites that need help should visit: