07 Mar 2012
New research from Sitemorse shows the best council websites are equally spread across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
But of more than 400 websites we surveyed in February on quality, user experience, accessibility, performance and search engine optimisation, less than two dozen scored more than eight out of ten. And only six could be described as ‘error-free’ by our methodology.
The testing is undertaken by Sitemorse using automated software that reads the first 125 pages of each site to generate a ranked table .
The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s website tops our survey this time with 9.2 marks out of a possible ten. The council, based in Barry, near Cardiff, South Wales has scored consistently well on function, code quality and performance in our surveys, and has risen eight places in the table to come top this time. Just behind them is the website of Blaby District Council in the heart of Leicestershire, with a very respectable 8.59, and third is North Down Borough Council from Bangor, Northern Ireland with 8.53.
Sitemorse surveys the websites of businesses and organisations in a number of sectors, and has been benchmarking and publishing the detailed results for a decade. The full results from this and other recent surveys can be seen on our website.
Also in the top ten websites this time are those of councils from East Dumbartonshire, Mole Valley, Gwynnedd,Fife, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Slough and North Devon, showing no individual part of the UK has the monopoly on well-run sites.
Websites change all the time, so there’s always bound to be some volatility in our surveys, but the local government sector has some serious climbs and falls this time. Harrogate Borough Council has risen more than 200 places in the survey, going from near the bottom of the councils surveyed last time to around the middle of the list at 211th place. Other big risers include Greenwich (up 196) Belfast (up 184 places) Dungannon (up 177) and Wealden (up 172).
Websites can fall as well as rise in our surveys and Surrey County Council , which rated 27th place in our Q4 2011 survey has now dropped a staggering 306 places to 333rd position. They are not alone, other serious fallers include Sheffield (down 273 places) Newport (down 267 places), Wolverhampton (down 250) and East Renfrewshire (down 227).
Council websites in Devon are particularly polarised this time, with those living in the North Devon area benefitting from one of the top ten websites in our survey, while the Devon County Council site is fifth from bottom of the survey with a score of just 2.3 out of ten. Site users may see a ‘performing well’ message next to the logo but this site performed particularly poorly in our survey, with 98.4 per cent of its pages failing all tests on accessibility. Others joining them at the bottom of the survey included Newport, Rushcliffe, Teignbridge and bottom-of-table Watford.
Sitemorse concluded: Local council websites serve a huge variety of audiences these days, and can help the local authorities who run them to keep a finger on the pulse of the local communities they serve. We would like to see more of them make a real effort to improve the basic quality of their sites as this is an essential step in making them more effective and interactive.
With so many failing basic accessibility tests – a criteria that is now backed by law – we wonder how they will measure up in the new climate of more external regulation, especially from the EU. We accept local authority budgets may be especially tight at the moment, but compared to any council’s spend , the cost of a decently-managed website would be tiny.
About our surveys, and how they work
For more than a decade, Sitemorse has been the world's only single solution for web content governance, monitoring, recording and benchmarking.
Our unique Index publications, published several times a year, provide an up to the minute snapshot of the best and brightest business websites, with insight into which are passing – and failing - vital tests in performance, compliance, and accessibility.
Our software is used to test the sites of major organisations in a variety of sectors, (for example, FTSE All Share companies, and the UK Top 500 retail companies) to compile an index of who ‘does the web’ best.
Sitemorse is now the suite of choice for organisations wishing to ensure their sites provide total, holistic web governance and a great user experience. Our hundreds of clients across major corporates, local and national government, utilities, financials and the health sector rely on us to help them improve the performance, compliance and quality of their websites, delivering control and web confidence.
Web content management systems alone cannot hope to cover major issues such as performance, compliance, brand, accessibility and quality without help. Our products integrate (including pre-live checking - within your CMS) to ensure these vital areas are constantly under control.
We offer three levels of products, from our enterprise platform 'Governisation', a blend of governance and optimisation, to a suite of tools to help web editors and managers, as well as free in-browser tools that can be used by any web user to quickly ensure pages are error-free (our web managers toolkit). All our services are SaaS based, with no set-up or management and are designed to ensure that our hundreds of clients in major corporations, the financial sector, and central and local government have total confidence in their websites.
This survey took place on January 21, 2012 and involved benchmarking more than a million separate URLs. Poorest code quality was recorded for the Conwy County Borough Council site which had more than 82,000 failures. Fastest overall response time from any site tested was the Slough Borough Council website. Just six sites out of 429 tested were officially “error-free” according to the Sitemorse methodology.
For further Information: Geoff Paddock, Head of Communications on +44 1525 375057, gpaddock@Sitemorse.com
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