People have been asking when results from Better Connected, Socitm’s annual survey of local authority website performance will be released.
Traditionally, the Better Connected report and results were released all at once at 0800 on March 1 each year (causing a huge spike in visits to the Socitm website).
On that day, councils knew whether their site had passed or failed a series of task-based and usability tests, and whether overall it had achieved 4 stars (very good), 3 stars (good), 2 stars (unsatisfactory) or just 1 star (poor).
Since Better Connected went online in October 2015, with its own website, a number of things have changed, including the fact we are now publishing results periodically, as they are available, rather than as one ‘big bang’. The first survey to be published was ‘Pay parking fine’, back in October, and the last will be the usability survey, which will be out by the end of April.
Overall results will follow, with each council able to view its star rating ahead of the Better Connected Live event in Birmingham 24/25 May, which incorporates the Better Connected Awards (evening of 24 May) and the Learning from Better Connected event (25 May).Well before then, many councils will have a fair idea of their overall rating from already published assessments on service area tasks and mobile, accessibility and usability factors.
Better Connected’s new publishing and reporting policy is linked to the decision to focus more attention on the online performance of service areas – something that in most councils, web teams are not able to control. It is service areas that tend to procure software and in some cases, write the web pages, that provide the user interface with transactions like ‘renew library book’ or ‘object to planning application’.
This year’s surveys show that usability continues to be compromised by third party software that is not fit for purpose in its default settings. Many councils overcome this, but those with less expert (or just less) in-house resources struggle with this aspect. We hope our new focus on the digital performance of services (and not just of the web team) will bring this into focus.
Our commitment to this approach is reflected in the fact that we will be presenting four half-day events for service managers at Better Connected Live. These will be in the key areas of planning, adult social care, waste management and libraries. We are delighted that the Planning Portal, ADASS Informatics Network, the Institution of Wastes Management, and the Society of Chief Librarians have responded to our invitation to partner with us on these events.
Of course, presentation on the website is only part of the digital journey service areas need to make. As illustrated by the Local Digital Campaign’s excellent Waste Data Standards project, creating a fully digital service will usually require a completely fresh approach to service design from beginning to end.
These are the sort of conversations we are looking at have at Better Connected Live, and as we wrap up the 2015-16 cycle of surveys and think about what we might do in 2016-17.
Update 14 March:
I should of course have mentioned how you can view results on the Better Connected website. For individual council results, first go to 'Councils' and find the link to the relevant council pages. Every one of the UK's 417 councils has their own results page with links to headline results. The latest results are under 'Better connected 2015-2016 results'. Socitm Insight subscribers (the vast majority) can link to detailed results for each survey. The 'Services' link in the main menu shows a schedule of 2015-16 surveys and links to the 'all councils' report on those published. 'All council' results and reports are open to all site visitors without login.