28 Jun 2012
The best government websites are a very mixed bunch at the moment, according to new research from Sitemorse.
We looked at nearly 340 government websites from all over the UK on quality, user experience, accessibility, performance and search engine optimisation criteria, and found the most efficient sites to be scattered in all parts of the governmental hierarchy, in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The testing is undertaken by Sitemorse using automated software that reads the first 125 pages of each site to generate a ranked table.
The top performing site, with a Sitemorse score of nearly 8 out of ten possible marks is Plant For Wildlife, part of the Countryside Council for Wales, the Government's statutory advisor on sustaining natural beauty, wildlife and the opportunity for outdoor enjoyment in Wales and its inshore waters.
Sharing the top five honours are the websites of health watchdog the Health and Safety Executive, Northern Ireland Prison Service, the Intellectual Property Office, a part of the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, with the aim of helping inventors patent their ideas, and the political party The Scottish National Party, which has risen 40 places in the table to take fifth position. Previous winners the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) have dropped 27 places this time.
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.
Much improved sites for this survey were the East of England Development Agency and the Department of Transport, both of whose sites moved more than 200 places up the table since the previous survey in Q1.
Disappointing results for the HM Government and Scottish Parliament sites, down 159 and 165 places respectively, however.
Other big fallers – we always expect some volatility in large surveys because of the sheer numbers involved and the fact that so many websites are improving - are the Land Registry, down 180, the Biotechnology Research Council, down 194, and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, down 207.
Whizzing 18 places up the survey to seventh position is the Driving Standards Agency, The UK Atomic Energy is up 21 places to 22, and the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, 5oth last time, is now in 25th position.
But the survey was a washout for previous high-flyers the Met Office, down 28 places to 32, the Liberal Democrats down 72 places to 100th position, and OFSTED (The Office for Standards in Education), down 106 places to 157.
Interesting data on accessibility
Sitemorse has provided survey data this year for the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, who prepared policy briefing on ICT for disabled people for Parliament and the Lords. The briefing summarised major issues in the 'digital inclusion' of disabled people.
Quoting Sitemorse research from our Q1 2012 government survey, the POST briefing noted:
“Any public sector website must conform to at least AA standard under e-government guidelines2. If it does not, it risks being withdrawn from service. Despite this, a recent survey of 350 central government websites showed that none were AA compliant on every page. 16 websites did not even reach the A standard. These problems will largely be addressed after the introduction of a single government domain, due in late 2012, which will provide an accessible and consistent format for any government website with a gov.uk address.
Compliance in the private sector is also low - less than 5% of all websites meet the A standard, despite the risk of possible legal action. Nevertheless, there is a strong business case for an accessible website with studies noting increases in the number of users, user satisfaction and revenue after the inclusion of accessibility features.”
Whereas most government departments score very poorly in this area, we found two dozen sites with high scores, eight and nine out of ten. The Office for Disability Issues, which “leads the government’s vision of achieving quality for disabled people” rose from 150th to 134th in our table this time, with a score of just six out of ten on accessibility.
There are some signs of improvement in the websites of the government sector, and some of those who do get it right have decently efficient websites. The highest score here is less than eight of ten, a lower standard generally than other sectors we survey, which often have top websites scoring more than nine.
Congratulations to the HSE and other top performers here, but many of the great offices of state still have pretty mediocre websites in terms of their efficiency, at least.
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 April 22, 2012 and involved benchmarking more than half a million separate URLs. Poorest code quality was recorded for the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board site which had more than 59,000 failures. Fastest overall response time from any site tested was the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment website. Just six sites out of 339 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
View all news articles