About Better connected
Better connected has been assessing local authorities’ online performance since 1999. Today it evaluates a wide range of digital performance by local public service providers, covering websites, social media and customer portals, as well as takeup, satisfaction and management.
Access to the research
All site visitors can see headline results from Better connected surveys for all 418 UK local authorities, as well as a range of contextual data relevant to their web/digital performance (population, households, deprivation, web visits, Twitter followers etc).
Socitm subscribers can see details of all current and archived results from Better connected surveys, including those from their own organisation and for other subscribers.
Employees of any organisation that subscribes to Socitm Insight can access the full research findings using their Socitm login details. Check if your organisation subscribes to Socitm, and if it does, you can register free of charge as an individual. If your organisation is not a subscriber benefits of doing so are available on the Socitm website.
Betterconnected.socitm.net was launched in the Autumn of 2015. Full results from 2015-16 surveys appear on this site, with more limited results from 2015 and 2014 surveys. Further information surveys from 2011-2015 can be found in the library of the Socitm Group on Knowledge Hub.
Better connected 'paid for' reviews
Socitm subscribers get access to their annual Better Connected results free of additional charge, but there are some associated 'paid for' services.
Subscribers that have made improvements to their website since the year’s Better Connected overall results were published (in May), can choose to have one or more surveys repeated with a view to getting improvements recognised in their scores published on this site. The service works like this:
- Reviews are offered for individual tasks, including those that are service-based and those covering mobile and search/navigation/A-Z
- Reviewers re-assess the original question set for the task being reviewed
- New results from the review(s) are be added to the existing results on the council’s Better Connected web pages and are used for a new aggregation to arrive at the overall site assessment score. An improved score for a newly reviewed task might take a site that was, for example, 2* overall up to 3* if the new score(s) were sufficiently good.
In the interests of transparency, new scores resulting from these reviews are set out alongside the original scores. Find out more and book a ‘paid-for’ review.
Scope and method of research
Better connected surveys explore the ability of websites to provide quick and easy ‘customer journeys’ and successful resolution of a series of top tasks. ‘Top tasks’ may be informational (Find out about keeping fit) or transactional (pay parking fine).
Tasks are selected from service areas that have high web visitor numbers (based on data from Socitm’s Website Performance service) or which may be important for reasons of legislative or other change. Inclusion of purely informational tasks is based on the fact that data shows more than half of all visits to council websites to be for information only.
Reviewers conduct some tests on a smartphone (eg the rubbish & recycling tasks in Better connected 2015-16), reflecting the fact that nearly half of all visits to council websites are now made from mobile devices.
As well as performance in tasks, the survey evaluates site navigation, search, and A to Z; the degree to which sites are purposed for access from mobile devices; and their accessibility to people with disabilities. Testing the latter is carried out for Better connected by the Digital Accessibility Centre.
Question sets for tasks and usability tests are available on individual council results pages (for logged in users) and in the ‘all council’ reports that appear in the services and usability sections of the site.
Headline results from individual tasks and tests are set out on the individual results pages for each council and in the ‘all council’ reports. Detailed scores are available to Socitm subscribing organisations that are logged in.
These scores are the basis for awarding Better connected ‘stars’ – four stars denoting a very good user experience, three a good one, two unsatisfactory and one a poor experience.
Stars are awarded for each task tested, for the navigation/search/A to Z experience, and for the experience from a mobile device.
Scores are then aggregated into a star ranking for each website. To get a four star site ranking, a site must achieve 12 out of a possible 16 ‘task stars’, get 3 or 4 stars for the navigation/search/A to Z and mobile experiences, and pass the accessibility test (ie score 2 or 3 where the range is 0-3).
Survey method, scoring and site ranking 2015 and earlier
Prior to 2015-16, while the survey method and question sets were very similar in approach to those used now, aggregation and presentation of results was very different:
- each site was assessed as a whole, by one reviewer
- all results for all tasks and tests were published on one date
- stars were not awarded for individual tasks or for navigation/search/A to Z and mobile experiences
- results were presented in a single pdf report with individual results available to download on Excel spreadsheets
- non-subscriber councils (about 25% of the total) were not able to access any results
Why Better connected changed
These policies have changed for the following reasons:
- Publication of individual reports and results for planning or council tax or schools, is designed to engage council service managers with the user experience of accessing ‘their’ pages and services on the council’s website. That experience is very often determined by decisions that service managers (not web teams) make about third party software procurement; about the way their services are described; and customer journeys site users have to make to access information and services.
- Presenting results online, with headline results and ‘all council’ reports accessible to all without log in, makes key information about online delivery of council services more accessible to all those who make decisions that impact website users. This may include teams from IT, customer services, service management and communications. It is now much easier for web managers that use the Better connected programme to push this information to all relevant colleagues.
- Publishing task and test reports over a period (rather than all at once as just one part of an all-encompassing website survey) gives web managers more time and focus when it comes to feeding back results and learning to colleagues in service, IT, communications and customer service teams
- Awarding stars for individual tasks and tests rather than just for the website overall provides further focus on the individual components that make up a high-performing council website
- Providing non-subscriber councils’ (about 25% of the total) headline results gives a more comprehensive picture of UK council website performance overall
Information about scoring 2015 and earlier
Information about the scoring of individual tasks and tests for Better connected 2015 (‘the standard) appear on individual councils’ results pages and on the ‘all council’ reports pages. Further information can be found in the Better connected 2015 report downloadable from the library of the Socitm Insight Group on Knowledge Hub (Socitm subscriber login required).
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Other surveys within the Bettter Connected programme
The digital engagement survey evaluates councils’ activity around customer accounts (for transacting online); email alerts for news and services; and social media channels. Reported as part of Better connected, results of this survey do not contribute to the Better connected star ranking.
The digital management survey, completed by web/digital managers, provides data about digital management within UK councils. In 2015 this produced returns from 164 councils (40% of the UK total) including nearly 50% of county councils and single-tier councils, and 66% of Scottish councils. It provides information on web and digital governance, strategy and policy, content management, performance and usage measurement, resources (including the core web team and content editors) and budgets.
Arrangements for these surveys in 2016 will be announced in due course.