Whakatane District Council has taken out the top spot on the annual ranking of local government websites conducted by ALGIM – the Association of Local Government Information Management.
Every year between February and April, ALGIM conducts an audit of all New Zealand city, district, regional and unitary council websites and publishes a ranked table of the results.
In 2015, the web audit consisted of five assessments including:
- Compliance with the NZ Government Web Standards;
- Website functionality and online services available;
- An accessibility audit undertaken by the Blind Foundation;
- Enquiry response time test via email and social media; and
- A best practice review of online services.
The ALGIM web audits began when newly-appointed ALGIM board member, Jason Dawson, joined the team back in 2006 after returning to local government from overseas.
Jason, who is currently Hamilton City Council’s GM customer relationships, had come across the “Better Connected Survey” undertaken by ALGIM’s sister organisation SOCITM (Society of Information Technology Management) during a study tour in the UK. By publishing an annual league table of results, it drove discussions at the top table of UK local authorities.
“The main purpose for introducing the ALGIM website audits and annual rankings was to drive improvement across the sector with regards to websites, online services and the use of social media,” says Jason.
“There was an inconsistency across the sector in the online experience with customers suffering with usability, findability and accessibility issues. Plus the ‘cost to serve’ model was far cheaper online, especially as budgets were squeezed and efficiency targets needed to be met.”
Jason says it was difficult back then to secure investment within councils in digital technologies such as websites and social media which were seen as ‘emerging’ tools. “We wanted to raise the profile of digital technologies as a key service channel and for CEOs to take notice.”
And take notice they certainly did. Since the web audits began, there has been a major performance uplift in web, online services and social media across the sector. In a non-competitive environment like local government, it drove a major increase in compliance with the Web Standards, and online services such as payments and rates information became more widely available.
In ALGIM’s rankings, assessments are adjusted annually once compliance levels are reached and new criteria is added to continue the performance improvement journey. This has seen previous high performers in the ranking table slip while others have jumped up the list.
Criteria around the availability of open data, mobile responsiveness and customer service have now been added.
In the past few years there has also been a focus on providing best practice information – such as the top five tasks on council websites – even though this does not contribute to rankings. This has led to a standardised rollout across all website homepages that focuses on “find, pay, request, say and submit” themes.
The ultimate goal of these website audits remains to encourage councils to provide information that is easy to find, publications that are usable and give citizens the ability to transact 24/7 with their councils through their preferred channel of choice.
ALGIM is keen to point outthe weighting for criteria has changed this year. This has led to some councils slipping down the rankings.
- To view the rankings and download a copy of the web survey findings, visit the ALGIM website: www.algim.org.nz/2015webreports
LIFT YOUR GAME: Each year, ALGIM works with its assessment partners the Blind Foundation to provide an individual evaluation report for each council website on the results and findings. You can order your copy from the ALGIM website: www.algim.org.nz/2015webreports
Weightings for Rankings
This article was first published in the July 2015 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.