Preparing for Better Connected 2013

The SOCITM Better Connected 2012 report has seen a rise in local authorities achieving an excellent rating. What's likely to feature on the agenda for Better Connected 2013?

Better Connected 2013 report results

Despite the financial and operational challenges faced by all kinds of organisations during recent years, the effects have been particularly prevalent within local government. ­

Many of us have had to learn new ways of adjusting to, and surviving within, a period of austerity that demands improvement and innovation more than ever. Against this backdrop, for local government in particular there is an increased realisation that technology in general and specifically, the web is the route to overcoming these challenges - delivering excellent customer services and reducing the overall costs of service provision and civic operations.

The Better Connected Report 2012 represents a shift in approach to how local government websites are measured in terms of their capacity to deliver customers what they need and there's little reason that review criteria for Better Connected 2013 won't involve similar shifts.

2012 the Focus on top tasks

A significant focus was on the concept of 'top tasks' and many teams contributing to their online presence reacted by re-emphasising focus (where relevant) to areas of their council websites without losing sight of the local factors (geography, demography, economics and environment) that make them unique. ALL local authorities deserve credit in their efforts to adjust to these measures alongside reduced budgets and resources.

While reviews for Better Connected 2012 represented a step change in the way certain aspects of council websites are measured, the principles of delivering an excellent web experience remain constant:
Provide relevant customer-focused content, underpinned with elegant and standards-based web design that delivers online experiences sympathetic to usability and accessibility requirements. And become obsessed with reviewing/iterating, often.

Jadu is delighted that this year, many local authorities delivering online experiences through the Jadu Universe Platform have been cited for a range of innovative approaches to online service delivery and task based customer journeys.

The cities of Manchester and Edinburgh have both achieved excellent four star ratings, while Midlothian Council, Scottish Borders Council and Telford & Wrekin Council increased their ratings by two levels to three stars. Manchester City Council also listed in the top 20 best developed sites. Information on www.manchester.gov.uk was described as 'comprehensive and well presented'.

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Preparing for Better Connected 2013 Manchester City Council

www.manchester.gov.uk

The City of Edinburgh Council was the first Scottish Authority to achieve a four star rating in Better Connected 2011 and one of only two sites to retain a four star rating in 2012, with the reviewer commenting they were impressed with 'how easily I find tasks and the focus of the site'.

Preparing for Better Connected 2013 City of Edinburgh Council

www.edinburgh.gov.uk

Many Jadu powered websites cited for innovative delivery of top task information have been able to make this provisioning through a combination of Jadu's landing page designer and widget functionality available from Jadu's online MarketPlace, where top task and carousel widgets are available amongst many others for download and installation straight into the CMS.

Other websites referenced in this area include Waverley Borough Council, East Lothian Council, Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council, Scottish Borders Council, Southwark Council, Telford & Wrekin Council and Wandsworth Council.

There has clearly been a concerted effort to implement top tasks through landing pages with judicious use of images and icons. I really liked this as key tasks really stood out.

Reviewer feedback for Southwark Council

I am impressed by the landing pages on this site which are shaped by top tasks.

Reviewer feedback for East Lothian Council

Preparing for Better Connected 2013 Waverley Borough Council

www.waverley.gov.uk

A collection of social media widgets are also available through Jadu MarketPlace. Integration of social media has featured heavily in this year's report, particularly in relation to how these channels have been employed to innovative effect regarding customer service delivery and communications, with many Jadu powered websites cited.

Meanwhile, Kettering Borough Council was cited as one of only two websites to receive a Very Good rating overall for accessibility, with the City of Edinburgh Council, Ipswich Borough Council, Ribble Valley Borough Council, Scottish Borders Council and Telford & Wrekin Council also cited.

What beckons for Better Connected 2013?

With each year, a new or revised emphasis takes precedence and becomes the focal point for the next round of reviews. Two areas that appear to be likely candidates for 2013 include the mobile web and new approaches to management of navigational listings through a departure from the LGNL.

While this year's report offers some consideration of mobile strategy, there is a stark lack of best practice information available to web teams who can act upon advice now for the next round of reviews this Autumn. There is also little coverage of good practice in terms of mobile web delivery or responsive website design and the innovative work already undertaken by some local authorities in these areas. For example, South Lanarkshire Council have implemented both a responsive website design and a dedicated service delivering mobile optimised web apps.

The Council's responsive website design is built upon the principal of mobile first so that the same website can render appropriately across a range of browsing devices, covering mobile handsets, tablets and desktops.

Preparing for Better Connected 2013 South Lanarkshire Council

www.southlanarkshire.gov.uk  - desktop

Elements on the web page move and resize appropriately to the device the customer is using to view the website. The principles of responsive design take into consideration that customers will benefit from a different browsing experience that is determined by the device they are using.

Preparing for Better Connected 2013 South Lanarkshire Council mobile

www.southlanarkshire.gov.uk  - mobile

Taking the concept of mobile first one stage further, the Council also cater for task based mobile web experiences through provision of mobile web optimised web apps through a cloud based service that frees them from the constraints and costs associated with native app provisioning, delivered through the Jadu Mobile service.

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Preparing for Better Connected 2013 South Lanarkshire Council Jadu Mobile

www.southlanarkshire.gov.uk  - Jadu mobile

The next post in this series will examine further preparing for Better Connected 2013 and addressing some of the opportunities related to management of navigation and user experience without the constraints of prescribed navigation schemes such as the LGNL/SNL.

Alongside this, we'll consider accommodating the mobile web in terms of delivering online experiences and the role that task based, responsive web design plays in your web strategy.­

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