The Panel to receive a presentation from the Council’s Corporate Communications and Website Managers on the Council’s website. There will be a discussion on key performance indicators and future development.
The Panel had invited the Corporate Communications Manager, Ms. Gill Chisnall, and the Website Manager, Mr. Paul Cowell, to the meeting to discuss the progress of the Council’s new website since it had been launched in 2012. It was explained that while the website had only been live for three years, work had begun on the development of the improved website in 2010.
Prior to the launch of the new website, customers had found it difficult to understand the old site and often experienced technical issues. There had been a reduction in the number of pages and the developed site had also allowed staff to update their service pages. As well as improving the design and management, staff had started to ensure that the content of the website was more customer focused.
Members heard that regular improvements had been made and were shown a number of the developed pages. Customers had been given the ability to look up more information, including their bin collection dates and polling stations. The main improvements had included software updates and the ability to view the website easily on mobile devices. The introduction of feedback forms had been important in the development process as it enabled customer views to be collected. The improvements had resulted in a 50% increase in users.
The Panel had been provided with data that showed how the customers used and accessed the Council’s website. It was noted that 57% of the website traffic came out of hours, when the offices were closed. It was also heard that in 2012, 87% of website visits had been made on a desktop computer, whereas 2015 statistics showed this had reduced to 46%, while the remaining percentage of visits had been made on tablets or mobile devices. The common popular pages included rubbish and recycling, council tax, job opportunities and parking, however, there had been seasonal popular pages where the number of visits had spiked at different times throughout the year, for example, fireworks, elections and the Lido.
It was explained that there had been a focus on the development of the elections pages during 2015, there had been a live update feed during the count and there had also been an increase in the promotion of the elections pages through social media. Social media had also been used to promote other Council news and events.
A facility had been developed that enabled staff to see what customers did when they visited the website, although, it had also been felt necessary to find out the reason the customers had visited. Feedback had been received from the Society of IT Management (SOCITM), customers, staff and councillors. SOCITM had completed a number of tasks and scenarios during their review and assessed mobile and desktop use. As a result, Rushmoor’s website had been rated three out of four stars. The Council had been offered some suggestions on how the website would be improved, for example, the removal of outdated phrases, ‘do it online’ or ‘report it’, and think ‘mobile first’ on all pages.
Members were informed that, during the second quarter of 2015/16, customers of the website had completed 736 ‘did you find what you were looking for?’ forms. It had been shown that 81% of those customers had found what they were looking for, 6% had not and 13% had made a specific request for a service.
Ms. Chisnall then made reference to Channel Shift and the intention to increase online transactions. However, it was noted that most customers had visited the website for information. Members heard that there was a need for a new ‘platform’ to progress with Channel Shift, that would allow customers to have their own council account; ‘my account’. It was intended that this feature would enable customers to self-serve and track their requests. It was explained that there had been work to embed this into the current website, although the current website design had made this a challenging task.
The Panel was provided with examples of current website trends in local government that were similar to the national “gov.uk” website, although it was stated that there was an intention to find out what customers wanted from the website before any changes were made.
The Panel made the following recommendations for consideration in the development of the Council’s website:
· Re-introduce the ability to submit petitions online;
· Enable customers to ‘CC’ their local councillor(s) when completing online forms or making service requests.
The Panel NOTED the presentation and requested the officers to assess the issues raised by the Panel.