Agenda item

Review of the Breckland Council Website (Agenda Item 7)

Report of the Interim Deputy Chief Executive.


Members gave consideration to the report from the Scrutiny Officer on the ‘Review of the Breckland Council Website’.  The report detailed the evidence gathering sessions undertaken by the Panel as part of the Review and presented appropriate recommendations. 


The Scrutiny Officer introduced his report and advised Members that following their meetings on 15 January 2007 when they had undertaken a practical examination and given an appraisal of the website and on 13 April 2007 when they considered documentary evidence relating to the website’s performance and effectiveness and how it compared with other local authorities, their comments had been collated and researched. 


Following the Member’s recommendations detailed under Sections 5.1 to 5.9 inclusive of the accompanying report to the ‘Review of the Breckland Council Website’, the Website Officer and Corporate and e-communications Officer tabled their findings to Members as follows:


  • 5.1 The layout of the home page be reconsidered to ensure that it was not overburdened with information whilst at the same time it is user friendly and clear for users.  The Corporate and e-communications Officer advised Members that they were currently in the process of changing the navigation tree to comply with the LGNL (Local Government Navigation List) making it easier for users to navigate the site. A report regarding the web site “First Impressions” quoted the website as follows: “Nice home page. Easy to see what each section is about and geared directly to the general public. Good.”


  • 5.2 The website should adopt a “four click” approach to ensure that information can be found quickly and easily.  The Website Officer informed Members that regarding the planning links, they had implemented a “2 click” approach from the Council’s homepage to the planning search page.  In addition, he confirmed that web trend software had been installed on the website which enabled the monitoring of public ‘hits’ to the website.  Members were advised that this software would enable the web officers to receive information on how frequently their pages were being visited and if they were not being visited very often they would receive help to improve the pages functionality. 


  • 5.3 Information on the planning process should be bolstered on the website enabling the public to access pending planning applications and associated maps and forms.  The Website Officer explained that the planning process had been bolstered on the website by adding to the link already provided on the left hand navigation list.  He advised that to make the search more user friendly when using the search function the user would be taken directly to the main planning search page.


  • 5.4 A link is established with the Eastern Daily Press Events Page and actionbe taken to ensure that news items on the website are removed promptlyonce they are no longer current.  The Corporate and e-communications Officer advised Members that a link to the EDP Events page had been established for a trial period of 3 months, this would be reviewed regarding the number of “hits” the pages receive.  It was confirmed that all news items were live on the site within 2 hours of being released to the press and that old news items were archived automatically enabling the user to search for old press releases.


  • 5.5 Images are limited in size to obviate long download times, especially for dial-up users.  The Website Officer advised Members that all images on the website were optimised before they were published onto the site to avoid the use of images that would take too long to download for the user.  It was confirmed that monitoring this would be the responsibility of the Web Officer and the Graphic Designer. 


  • 5.6 A link to “Frequently Asked Questions” is installed on the home page and this be updated on a regular basis to ensure freshness.  Members were informed that a link to ‘Frequently Asked Question’ had been concurrent since the site went live and that all the FAQ’s were updated to ensure all information was timely with the questions being taken from the Contact Centre and put onto the website as they were asked by the public.


  • 5.7 The role of web editors needs to be defined and clarified, in relation to their general work commitments and job descriptions should be updated accordingly to take account of the role of web editors as this has such an impact on the site content being kept up to date.  It was explained that the role of Web editors has been defined and Service Managers will be asked to include the targets and commitment to web editing in their future Service Team Plans.  All service areas have been asked to confirm the web editor for their team to ensure that there was coverage on each of the service areas.  In addition the role of a web editor was defined for Members information as follows:


(1) To develop specific information resources for the service needs.


(2) To maintain and update pages as appropriate.


(3) Coordinate page development and major revisions with the web, communications officer and other web editors to ensure that links from top level pages are accurate (this often includes recommendations on links from the primary page to second).


(4) Serve as liaison to the Web and Communications Officer.


(5) Attend meetings of the Web Editors Group.


·         5.8The Council continue to work with external organisations in order to ensure best practice is followed to ensure that the design and operational usefulness of the website is maximised.  The Website Officer informed Members that the Web team were benchmarking against South Norfolk Council and were being evaluated by Socitm and SiteMorse.  In addition, he confirmed that along with the Business Improvement Team he has developed a number of online forms to be used on the Council’s website allowing customers to submit requests and report issues twenty four hours a day seven days a week. Members were advised that the forms currently available online were to report:

·   Abandoned Vehicles

·   Fly Tips

·   Compliments and Complaints

·   Other comments and feedback

The forms once submitted go straight through to the Customer Contact Centre for action. In addition, Members were informed that they were creating additional forms over the coming months to offer Breckland’s customers more online reporting options on the website.

  • 5.9 The Panel be charged with assessing the website improvement plan at regular intervals through 2007 and beyond as necessary.  The Scrutiny Officer advised Members that the website Improvement Plan could be seen by the Panel on a six monthly basis.

A Member expressed that he was pleased with the progress of the website however, did mention that he had been unable to access an agenda through the new system.  Following discussion with the Website Officer it highlighted that it was perhaps a user issue rather than system error nevertheless this would be clarified following the meeting. 


In addition, clarification was sought as to whether the ‘frequently asked questions’ that were posted onto the Council’s website were differentiated between those of the questions asked by the Public, Councillors and Officers, as it was felt only the questions of the Public should be posted on the website.  In response, the Website Officer advised Members that this was something that could perhaps be undertaken and may be looked into in the future. 


The Chairman expressed his thanks to ICT and Committee Services Team involved in delivering, adding that he felt the new system was much better and easier to use than the old one.




(i)                  that the Overview and Scrutiny Commission be asked to take into account the Panel’s views, together with the responses of the Website and Corporate and e-communications Officers as detailed in 5.1 to 5.9 above, and then recommend to Cabinet that the nine recommendations in the report be agreed;


(ii)                that the Overview and Scrutiny Commission be asked to recommend to Cabinet that the nine recommendations in the report be agreed; and


(iii)               that Members receive the website Improvement Plan on a six monthly basis. 




Supporting documents: