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Reshaping public services online by getting the basics right for local government websites

Frustration

There is nothing more frustrating than being in government right now if you are looking for change or motivation in your work. With almost no funding available, fewer colleagues to carry the burden, feeling of loss and uncertainty, we are facing an all time low. Everyone knows that with fewer resources, it makes it harder for local authorities to operate effectively and efficiently.

Getting the basics right!

However without us realising, we are also faced with a big opportunity to put things right. Focus on what needs fixing and most importantly, get the basics right.

I’ve been a doctoral researcher for local government websites for 5 years now and I’ve observed many innovations in local government website designs, usability and accessibility. Many of which, are inspiring and deserves great recognition for what its achieved.  However if we look pass the shiny exterior of these accomplishments, we have somewhat lost our way in getting the basics right.

We have made a lot of pathways for better citizen engagement and increased transparency. But after many awards, expensive consultation and reports, we are still failing to get a local authority websites to write in plain English, easy enough to navigate and complete a transaction successfully.

Let’s learn and do it right!

We need to start talking ‘textbooks’, listening to our customers and stop making things way too complicated! Our websites are aimed at citizens therefore should be easy enough to understand by the average citizen and be useful and accessible to them.

With that being said, Local Directgov will be starting a variety of discussions regarding getting the basics right for local authority websites with get help from our friends at Directgov and in local government from far and wide and across the world.  These discussions will be available in their forum under the themes labelled ‘Learn’, ‘Do’ and ‘Achieve’.

If you are interested in getting involved, here’s a taster of some of the things we will be discussing

  • Managing content (write for the web, focus on top tasks, audience analysis, optimize search, inform visitors of major changes, keep content current, design templates and etc)
  • Usability and design (usability testing, design templates, using comparison testing to refine website designs and etc)
  • Management and governance (Developing policies and procedures, outline of strategic plan and etc)
  • Web analytics (Ways to evaluate your website, developing a web metrics strategy and etc)
  • Accessibility (Provide access for people with disabilities, provide appropriate access to data and etc)
  • Multilingual websites
  • Requirements and best practices
  • Going mobile

Hopefully(!), this won’t be reinventing any wheel and will be getting information from current practitioners on how all of this is being done, as well as seeing how other countries are using best practices.

Help Local Directgov get the word out about your efforts in getting the basics right for your website and making Directgov truly Local for you and your customers.

You can email me at liz.azyan@camden.gov.uk or simply join the Local Directgov CoP and start discussing your concerns on our forums now.

Local Directgov would also like to find out how you think Directgov can help local authorities. Any ideas?

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Hope this was useful!

Liz xxx

About Liz Azyan

Liz is a CREATIVE digital professional dedicated to helping individuals, governments and businesses realize their digital goals. She offers digital consultancy services on her website LizAzyan.com Liz is also a Google Fellowship Recipient (individuals selected based on their work and initiative in the arenas of technology, politics and social entrepreneurship), an invited expert panel on the Guardian’s Public Leader Network and has spoken at many public events and conferences on the subject of digital engagement.

One comment

  1. I’ll admit it now – I was initially against local government venturing into social media et al for exactly these reasons.

    So many LG websites get the basics wrong, so what makes them think they can run before they walk?

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