The decent council website – top 5 so far

There has been a great response to the What makes for a decent council website? experiment.

Here’s the top 5 at the end of the first day:

  1. Plain english – Jargon and acronyms should be kept to the absolute minimum, or if they must exist, they should be metatagged with common english counterparts eg. Penalty Charge Notice should be crossindexed with parking fine and parking ticket.
  2. Services not portals – Services that poke you when something of interest happens and help you sort something out when you are annoyed. Council websites should not be destinations/portals.
  3. A home page that gets you to where you want to go quickly – The home page should have a list of links that cover the main user tasks, as well as allowing the user to search by keyword, subject area, and offer predictive results as they type.
  4. Test the site before launch – This should be a no-brainer, but sadly it appears not to be. Yes there will always be problems no matter how much testing is done, but NEVER launch a site without ensuring that the majority of links work and that most of the pages contain content.
  5. Have people that respond to users’ suggestions – Use to collect problems and suggestions in one place. Then have people employed to answer them, and engage in a conversation about the most interesting ones.

So, some good stuff, and there are even more ideas on the site. Keep them coming!

I’ll keep the site open til the 20th September, after which I will cobble all the thoughts together, along with comments and votes into a document everyone can share.

What makes for a decent Council website?

After the kerfuffle over the Birmingham City Council website, as expertly documented by Paul Canning, there has been a considerable amount of discussion about what a Council website should look like, and what it should actually do.

This isn’t just an academic debate, as some local authorities have been making some really innovative steps in redesigning their sites, such as the search dominated Westminster and Lancashire sites – which I quite like; and the personalised Redbridge and Nottingham sites – which I am less keen on.

There are, it seems to me, three main groups which have a view on council websites, in particular order: citizens in the area who use the site, internal staff, and the wider world of interested folk (I hesitate to say ‘experts’).

So I wondered how the third group might go about putting a wishlist together of features that a Council website really ought to have, and perhaps of deciding which are the most important. These could then be documented somewhere so that Councils have a free point of reference of some good quality advice on where they should go with their website.

So I have set up a page on IdeaScale, which is a bit like UserVoice only it has a few more collaborative features. You can find it at:

It is straightforward enough to submit an idea and then vote on it and others, you can comment on ideas and even edit them collaboratively, using wiki like features.

So do come and join in, leave your ideas and let people know what you make of theirs, and let’s build a really useful wishlist for what makes for a decent Council website.