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Local councils fail to improve websites

Local councils fail to improve websites

Local councils in the UK have experienced a downturn in website usability over the last year as they fail to address key transactional facilities, according to a new study released today.

The 2010 Local Council Website Usability report from user experience consultancy, Webcredible looked at the top 20 Local Councils outlined by the Society of IT Management (Soctim) and revealed that the average usability score achieved overall was 58.7 per cent, a dip in comparison with last year’s average score of 59.9 per cent.

Leading councils in this year’s report included South Tyneside with 70 per cent, South Holland with 68 per cent and Chichester with 66 per cent usability. With 10 websites scoring over 60 per cent and all but one scoring over 50, it is clear that this year’s top 20 local councils are investing effort into providing a reasonable user experience for their local residents.

The report did however reveal that despite improvement in some areas, many local council websites are still well below par when it comes to the usability of key transactional aspects. Areas such as error handling and calls to action made no improvement from last year and remained weak.

Furthermore progress indicators to support users when conducting online transactions suffered a disappointing result with 12 out of 20 council sites scoring zero or one out of five.

This is an area that needs immediate attention as managing users’ expectations is essential in engendering a sense of trust with visitors. Other areas of disappointment included navigation, which is essential in encouraging website usability.

Declarations of further cuts to budgets could severely impact the usability of websites as councils could look to group services together, leading to confusion and frustration. Many users will opt to use the phone or face-to-face services as their preferred means of contact, thus costing time and money. Despite this, efforts to find local councillors within each area have improved significantly.

Perhaps a result of the election earlier in the year, 13 out of 20 councils scored full marks with all sites scoring above three points when assessing how easy it was to find information about local councillors.

Trenton Moss, Director at Webcredible comments, “With an estimated 81 per cent of the population using the Internet, access to online information has never been so important. Despite efforts to develop certain areas, there is much scope for improvement.

"As budgets experience severe cuts and councils look to save on IT spend, websites could be something that suffers significantly. Local Councils must look towards investing in website usability as a way to capture these efficiency savings, for providing an intuitive online service will save time and money spent on implementing these services over the phone or face-to-face.”

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