People go to council websites for information, not for pretty pictures and inflated egos. Forget about branding, forget about any sort of visual consistency. Instead just get the info out there, set out a consistent scheme for URIs and search-relevant features, then leaving everything else to the contributors. Then set up a search page with a truly configurable range of options (e.g. boolean, natlang, regex, ...) and ...more »
Good sites have an attractive, modern appearance that invites you to use them. Council sites should be no different.
And RSS. But maybe I'll post that elsewhere.
Although many Councils are tied into licensed products which they have invested heavily in, it's worth planning ahead. Open source software offers a great deal of flexibility.
Allow local residents to initiate petitions to council on the website.
Although the user has been championed elsehwere, I think taking a holistic, iterative user centred approach is key to making a good website (as per the ISO standard 13407). This includes: 1. Defining the audiences and context of use. 2. Researching/defining user needs (using analytics, customer feedback, interviews, surveys, user testing on current site). 3. Designing the user experience based on user needs. 4. ...more »
Encourage interactive interesting discussions about particular elements of a proposal - say, a new Local Plan - rather than shoving a large indigestible document out there and allowing the usual suspects to fire back a single (usually predictable) "response".
I know most meetings are considered important by the people in them but rather than just providing PDFs of a meeting it'd be great to be able to listen to the cut and thrust of a meeting as it happened.
LGNL is not user friendly but is important for site indexing.
Offer multiple paths to allow users to find what they need quickly.
Think about your users - organize information in ways that make sense to them, not in ways that match your organizational structure!
I know Newcastle City Council are already toying with the idea, but I may have a way for monetising all that decent traffic such sites generate via a self-serve DIY ad system, www.addiply.com You can see it in beta trail mode on www.TheLichfieldBlog.co.uk where both the local Tory MP, Michael Fabricant, is digitally engaging with his constituents and where Lichfield DC itself is due to follow suit. Beauty of Addiply ...more »
Learn from where your site works well; find out where it doesn't work well and improve it. Make good use of customer feedback and site analytics to identify problems, and customer-focused solutions.
Organisations should get e-newsletters working for them and the user:
- Make it easy for users to sign up from any page, get tailored info, manage subscriptions
- Actively engage the audience in consultations on that subject, user testing of those pages, growing the userbase etc
It needs to be low cost so the council is happy to change things quickly. Big investments lead to sticking with solutions that are possibly outdated or inappropriate, simply because of the money sunk.
Don't have a citizen have to search for the often needed and relevant information they are interested in e.g. next bin collection. Allow them to personalize the site e.g. postcode on the BBC site brings local news and weather to the front page. Even better, allow this information to be mashed up on other sites e.g. iGoogle so the citizen doesn't have to go to the website to read this inforamtion!