Revamped council websites fall short in Socitm user tests

Survey indicates that many local authorities are not doing well on mobile usability and navigation of their sites

Fewer than half of the 91 council websites redesigned between April 2016 and March 2017 have achieved the pass mark of three or four stars in both of two key performance tests carried out as part of Socitm’s Better Connected survey.

gov.uk on keyboardOnly 45% scored the marks for good or very good in tests carried out by the public sector IT association, little better than the 41% of all sites that achieved the same ranking.

The analysis focused on just two tests: usability of the site when accessed from a mobile device, and the usefulness of site search, navigation and A-Z facilities.

Six redesigned sites achieved the top ranking four stars in the survey: Chelmsford City Council, Eden District Council, Harrogate Borough Council, Herefordshire Council, Midlothian Council, and Warwick District Council.

In addition, the Better Connected analysis showed that 39 (43%) of the sites that underwent a redesign in 2016-17 were previously not purposed for access from mobiles. Such sites are hard to use on mobile devices, particularly mobile phones, because much pinching and scrolling and zooming in is required to access information or carry out transactions from a small screen.

Two council websites out of the 91 identified appear to have undergone a redesign but have emerged still not purposed for mobile.

Most councils are now reporting that more than 50% of visits to their websites are from mobile phones, Socitm said.

“These results suggest that re-designed sites are only just outperforming the rest,” said Vicky Sargent, director of the Better Connected programme. “It indicates that councils may not be getting the value they might from their investment in upgrading sites, including new content management systems and other software, changes in site information architecture and visual design.”

She added that this should be a cause of concern.