Highland Council Website Review Reveals Positive Results
23rd February 2015
A six month review of the Highland Council website, which was launched in 2014, reveals high satisfaction levels amongst Highland residents.
The majority of people visit the website to access services or to find information on Council meetings.
The website has approximately 800,000 views each month, with the most popular pages including planning, bin calendars and job vacancies, with seasonal trending towards school enrolment, recycling and winter maintenance. The new school closures webpage has been a particular success and received 173,800 views in January 2015.
There has also been a significant increase in the traffic referred from Facebook users, with an increase from 1,467 referrals in October 2014 to 63,545 referrals in January 2015.
Over the period from October 2014 to January 2015, there has been a significant shift in the number of people using mobile devices to access the website. Use of mobile phones has increased from 17% to 41% and tablets from 15% to 23%. This trend underlines the need for the digital strategy to allow users to easily access more services online.
A survey was sent to 323 community groups who make up the Communities Panel, with a response rate of 17%, and to 2,637 individuals on the Citizens' Panel with a response rate of 34%.
The survey indicated more work to be undertaken to ensure the navigation features make it easier for people to access what they are looking for. 55% of the Communities panel and 16% of the Citizens panel indicated that they could not easily find what they were looking for. However, the recent introduction of a Google search tool, the use of an A-Z functionality and the application the Scottish Navigation List (SNL) is expected to result in an overall rise in the satisfaction rate in this area. Additional changes to the home page also aim to make navigation easier, with links to committee agendas and topical areas of interest such as the severe weather page and school closures.
Significant numbers of respondents agreed that content was relevant and up to date. (58% of the Communities Panel and 64% of the Citizens Panel. However, there is room for improvement here and work is being done to improve this figure.
An independent survey by Sitemorse also carried out a review of the website and ranked it as 25th out of 429 UK local authorities compared with a rating of 87th previously. This means the website now ranks in top 6% of UK local government websites.
A small number of residents (around 6%) surveyed make use of accessibility features, such as magnified text and browsealoud. A further survey by the Digital Accessibility Centre reported that "it was obvious a lot of consideration had gone into making the site accessible".
In response to increased customer demand, there is a further expansion planned for "Apply", “Pay”, “Report”, and “Request” themes which allow easier navigation. This, together with a steady increase in the number of services available online, will enable a growth in customers using the website to carry out transactions easily at any time of day or night to suit their needs.
The introduction of the “myaccount” service from the end of March aims to give people a simple and secure way to access public services online throughout Scotland. The Highland Council will be one of the first two local authorities to provide this service.
Chair of Resources Committee, Maxine Smith, said: “It is evident from the positive results of this review that the continuous programme of development and improvement is bearing fruit. The new website has been an important investment and gives us a platform on which to build a much improved online customer service. This allows the council to deliver services in an accessible way for which there is an increasing demand.
“The accessibility features are very important and it is equally important to remember those who have limited access or digital skills and therefore the Council will continue to offer telephone and face to face access for services, where required. I am pleased to see the range of work being done to promote digital inclusion, increasing access and skills for all members of our communities.”