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This section provides overall results from the Better Connected 2015-16 survey of council website performance from the visitor perspective. It also provides access to reports from 2015-16 and 2015 on aspects of usability like search and navigation, access from mobile devices and how well sites accommodate users with disabilities.

Overall results and commentary on the 2015-16 survey cycle

Between September 2015 and April 2016, the Better Connected team of eight professional reviewers carried out 3,328 surveys to test the quality of UK local authority websites. Every council was tested through:

  • Four ‘task’ based surveys (eg ‘pay council tax’; ‘apply for a secondary school place’; ‘find out how to apply for housing’)
  • Surveys on the quality of each site’s navigation, search and A-Z facilities
  • A survey to access the usability of the site when accessed from a mobile device

In addition, the Digital Accessibility Centre carried out a series of tests on every site’s accessibility to people with physical and cognitive impairments.

The testing process provides a set of results and commentary for every UK council, available from their own set of pages on this website. Results comprise:

  • A star ranking (1-4) for each task, with a total possible score of 16 stars
  • A star ranking (1-4) for navigation, search and A-Z
  • A star ranking (1-4) for access from mobiles
  • A rating on a scale of 0 – 3 for accessibility

Performance in each of these elements is combined to arrive at an overall Better Connected ranking for each site on a scale of 1 – 4. See box opposite for details.

Star rankings 2015-16 and 2015

2015-16 No % 2015 No %
4 44 11 4 35 8
3 138 33 3 149 37
2 146 35 2 109 27
1 88 21 1 114 28
  416 100   407 100

44 councils have been awarded 4 stars overall in Better Connected 2015-16, and a further 138 have been awarded 3 stars, indicating that 44% of UK local government websites provide a good or very good experience from a user perspective.

The totals are very similar to those in 2015, although there have been some changes in the tests carried out (not the methodology) and the aggregation of results between the two years. Fewer sites were tested in 2015 because surveys excluded Northern Ireland Districts, that only came into existence on 1 April 2015.

Highlights from the 2015-16 results include:

  • a sharp increase in the number of council websites that present a responsive or mobile site when accessed from a smartphone. Our research shows that 80% of sites now do so, compared with 57% in 2015. In terms of the experience delivered, 67% of sites achieved three or four stars compared with the 32% that passed a comparable test in 2015.
  • The accessibility of sites to people with disabilities has also improved significantly, with 59% of councils passing this year’s accessibility test, compared with 43% in 2015 and 26% in 2014. This trend to improvement is associated with the simpler, less cluttered, responsive websites being designed for access from mobiles.
  • Councils are doing well with site search, with 52% achieving top possible marks, and 89% passing in the Better Connected test.
  • Councils are also doing well in terms of the findability of tasks from Google searches. All our ‘task’ reviews (‘pay council tax’, ‘find out how to apply for housing’ etc) start with from a Google search and in only a handful of cases were reviewers unable to use this route.
  • Performance in tasks varies considerably, from 78% of sites tested achieving three or four stars for ‘find out opening times for council tip’ and ‘apply for secondary school place’, to just 22% for ‘register a food business’ and ‘object to a planning application’.
  • The same causes of poor performance in tasks continue to be seen. These include: poor functionality and integration of third party service management software (especially planning and libraries); headings and labels that are confusing and/or inconsistent; poor choice/implementation of mapping software; complicated customer journeys; badly written and overlong content; requiring users to register and log in when this is not necessary to deliver the service.

Performance in tasks varies considerably:

Service area Task 3 &4 stars
Rubbish & Recyling Find out opening times for council tip 78%
Schools/youth Apply for secondary school place 78%
Leisure Find out about keeping fit 72%
Parking Pay parking fine 71%
Council tax Pay council tax 62%
Housing Find out how to apply for housing 58%
Transport & buses Apply for older person's bus pass 48%
Libraries Renew a library book 45%
Rubbish & recycling Report missed bin 41%
Schools/youth Apply for primary school place 41%
Planning Object to a planning application 34%
Business Register food business 22%

Better Connected 4 star websites in 2015-16

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