Essentials for a perfect website
Creating an effective website for your council is not easy - and certainly isn't something you can leave to the IT service, or to corporate communications section to deliver for you. Creating a website that delivers real value to the organisation, and real savings in cost takes a corporate effort and requires the following essential elements:
- A clear corporate vision of the purpose the website is to deliver - in practice, it needs to deliver three things - easy access to information (greatly reducing the need for people to phone or visit the council), easy access to services (being able to request or receive all the commonly-used services on-line, any time of the day), and outreach (enabling the council to engage better with its customers and citizens)
- Clear ownership of the website within the council - within customer service - the website is there to meet the needs of customers, and needs to be the key element of the customer service strategy
- A strategic framework - a clearly defined and corporately agreed strategy for the web, alongside equally clear strategies for customer service management, customer access, information management and ICT.
- Clarity about the most frequently used tasks that customers undertake - what are the most commonly asked-for pieces of information, what are the most commonly requested services? By their nature, these are generally easy to implement in the website so that people can serve themselves - this gives you immediate benefits from your investment in the web
- Clarity about your customers and their requirements - and if you have evidence to suggest that there is a low take-up of internet in your area, don 't take that as a reason for not developing the web, do something about it; research your customer needs (using data you have to hand already - the numbers of contacts you deal with currently, what these contacts relate to - that tells you what your customers are contacting the council about).
- A sound technical base - of a content management system (CMS) for the website (and you don't need to spend a lot on this - if the CMS is costing more than £30k a year, change it); in general, don't try to host the website yourself - outsource it to specialist providers who can provide cost-effective 24x7 support, at much less cost than hosting in-house
- Clear publishing procedures and guidelines - often the best way of ensuring good content is for the web editors to be part of the customer service team - this ensures that the content reflects the customer interest (as opposed to simply saying what the council wants to say).
- Monitoring and benchmarking - since you are using the website to deliver savings through shifting customer contacts from more expensive alternatives to self-serve on the web, you will need objective monitoring of the volumes of contacts shifted, the customer satisfaction of your users, and the failure rates of attempted transactions.
So how do you go about creating an effective website? Click here for a step by step guide
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