Local council usability report 2009

For the past 3 years we’ve been publishing an annual report into the usability of the best local council websites. We take the top 20 councils from the Socitm Better Connected annual survey and subject them to our usability criteria to see how they measure up.

The last 3 years has seen a steady incremental improvement in the scores achieved by each crop. In this year’s report the average score (out of 100) went up to 59.9%. This is very good in my view and I see no reason why this trend shouldn’t continue.

However, this year the findings from our report have highlighted that many of the great and the good are still falling short when it comes to bread and butter usability.

For example, high quality form design and processing is a fundamental part of offering transactional capabilities and an area where many local council websites offer a poor user experience. When filling in forms users can become easily frustrated when they make mistakes and can’t get the job done. It’s a real shame because there’s a mind-boggling amount of best practice out there on form design.

The commercial rationale behind getting your local citizens to transact or self-serve online is obvious so I won’t bore you with that. But I do worry that the benefits of online won’t be realised on the balance sheet if end-users are turned off by a negative online experience.

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