Socitm publishes ‘digital council’ progress briefing

Socitm has published a new briefing to discuss how local authorities are progressing towards becoming ‘digital councils’.

The ‘Towards the digital council: progress report’ examines key progress indicators, including website performance, mobile compatibility, public engagement through social media and management protocols.

The research found that a redesign of a local authority must be planned and target the audience, simply spending the money and time on redesign is “far from guaranteed” to improve satisfaction or performance.

Based on data from the group’s Better Connected 2015 survey, of the sites redesigned between April and October 2014, a third achieved or maintained the highest approval rating, but half still ranked one or two stars out of four.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council, one of the councils regularly found to be performing well said: “having robust procedures ensures that we have the right people involved – applying their skills at the right place and at the right time…

Minimum standards of design, accessibility and usability ensure that the organisation has an agreed point of reference …

A central management team led by senior officers ensures that robust corporate procedures are followed, enabling a customer-centric approach to design.

In our view, this is the only effective way to deliver customer engagement and encourage digital first.”

Overall, Socitm’s research found that digital engagement has improved since 2014, but that 20% of councils do not promote their website as an out-of-hours access point; digital delivery in prioritising services most in demand and making the website accessible has been “slow”.

One of the biggest obstacles to the development of the ‘digital council’ is integrated users on mobile devices – Socitm estimated that nearly half of all visits to local authority websites were made on mobile devices – but many websites still fail to accommodate users across different platforms.

Users on mobile devices see a decline in experience by around 25% and only half of websites, up from 26%, have implemented ‘responsive design’ which adjusts the width and orientation for mobile users.

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