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Fewer than half of revamped council websites pass Socitm Better Connected user tests

Mon 10 Jul 2017
Vicky Sargent

Fewer than half of the 91 council websites re-designed between April 2016 and March 2017 have achieved the pass mark in Better Connected's search/navigation/A-Z test and its access from mobiles test.

The analysis combines Better Connected results data with information about council websites that have undergone re-design from the Jumoo Localgov Pagespeedy service, which, as part of a monthly analysis of local authority sites, takes monthly screenshots and makes a manual comparison to detect new sites launched.

Results show that only 45% of the 91 new sites scored 3 or 4 stars for both tests, compared with 41% of all council websites achieving 3 or 4 stars for the same two tests.

However, six redesigned sites achieved the top ranking of 4 stars overall in Better Connected. All six were also winners in the recent Better Connected Awards. These were sites from: Chelmsford City Council, Eden District Council, Harrogate Borough Council, Herefordshire Council, Midlothian Council, and Warwick District Council.

48 of the 91 redesigned sites, ie 53%, scored 3 & 4 stars overall in Better Connected, compared with 55% of all councils. Of these better scoring re-designed sites, 77% are subscribers to Socitm Insight and therefore get access to full Better Connected results and reports. 

In addition, the analysis showed that 39 (43%) of the sites that underwent a redesign in 2016-17 were previously not purposed for access from mobiles. Such sites are hard to use on mobile devices, particularly mobile phones, because much pinching and scrolling and zooming in is required to access information or carry out transactions from a small screen. Most councils are now reporting that more than 50% of visits to their websites are from mobile phones.

Sites not purposed for mobile are inaccessible to some people with disabilities and cannot score above one star in Better Connected. According to this year’s Better Connected, only 44 (11%) of council websites in the whole of the UK remain non-purposed for mobile.

All but two of the 91 redesigned websites have emerged from the process as purposed for mobile devices.

These results suggest that re-designed sites are only just outperforming the rest in terms of performance against key usability criteria used in Better Connected testing, indicating that councils may not be getting the value they might from their investment in upgrading sites, including new content management systems and other software, changes in site information architecture and visual design.

Data about the most recent redesigns of council websites are pulled into their Better Connected landing pages from, enabling site visitors to check when the most recent re-design of a site they are interested in took place, providing this was after May 2014, when Localgov Pagespeedy records begin.



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