What's the purpose of this website?

Marc Snaith recently started a thread on the kHub about website redesign which is timely for me as today we formally launched a project to develop two new websites tasked with delivering digital services and information, to be completed over the next year.

For me, the most pertinent question in Marc’s post is “what is the purpose of the website”, and this was the catalyst behind why we’re creating two rather than one new site.


 There’s a clear distinction between digital services and information, the former being doing stuff digitally, the later reading about stuff digitally. Retailers like Tesco understand this and have created a digital services site for customers and an information site for shareholders and those interested in what the company does.


Though our current site has altered design since its inception in 2005, the basic premise of it being focused around delivering information to laptop and desktop devices hasn’t. This is why we’re creating two new sites because trying to deliver digital services, information, news, events, blogs, consultations and more to a multitude of devices is difficult to do well using one website.


The service site will offer quick access to our digital services, promoting top tasks but including as much as we can online not as a downloadable document, but a digital form. We also won’t expect people to have to wade through sixteen pages of guidance before they order a new bin.


Tom Steinberg wrote about how councils are websites in 2012 whilst this is quite a provocative assertion, in my view he’s saying for many, websites are now the public face councils which I agree with. If this is the case shouldn’t councils offer everything they can as a digital service? Promoting top tasks is fine, but using the comparison with retail, Tesco or Amazon would never just sell ten or twenty items online.


So that’s digital services, but what about information? The second site will focus on plain English, jargon free content and to help achieve this we’re changing our content publication model from devolved content management to a central team. This will enable us to do a lot more with content in terms it tagging it, allowing users to access it by various means, and moving towards the Semantic Web, but that’s another blog post.


We’ll also be creating new guidelines for authors, borrowing from or collaborating with those like Monmouthshire who have already written their own excellent guidelines.


I could go on (and probably will do in future) about why we’re looking at hybrid of Responsive and Adaptive Design, why we’re looking at the ESD Toolkit’s mapping of Services to Interactions to provide a catalogue for content, but basically it’s one council, two sites, one year.


So if you’re looking to redesign your digital services and information, the first question I’d ask is “what is the purpose of the website”.

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Colin Stenning 7 Years Ago
Good post Phil, I'll be interested to see how your two site approach develops. As a resident I think I'd prefer to visit one site both for information and transacting online. In most cases the two are closely entwined. Information is often needed to ensure that a transaction is carried out correctly first time, rather than being made in error and resulting in avoidable contact. It'll be interesting to see how you manage the interaction between information and digital services and if the split helps or hinders local residents..
Former Member 7 Years Ago
Is the split between the two sites going to be similar to the main Gov.uk site and the 'Inside Government' departmental sites? It certainly makes sense seperate out the content about the council and its services, from the content where you actually access the service.
Phil Rumens 7 Years Ago
Colin, I think you've highlighted the biggest risk that this might make information or services harder to find. They key is to make sure they're related to each other and having central content management will help with this. I'll be keen to get feedback from you (and everyone else) along the way, as we release new developments. Robin, at the moment we're looking at using the LGSL mapped to the LGIL, which has been done on the ESD Toolkit , to define which sites the services and information appear. Interaction Type 0 "Applications for service" and 8 "Providing information" seem to cover these well, plus Type 4 gives a good indication of what we need to integrate with our payment engine.
Michael MacAuley 7 Years Ago
Nice post Phil The services/comms split becomes more relevant week by week. Web started in the IT dept. and moved to the Comms dept. Is it time and is it constructive to separate out the service delivery web services from the Comms dept? Where should it sit in an organisation delivering services that are digital by default? Mike