I think this is version 3! Anyway, we’ve just done some work to our bin calendar search following some feedback on the service (never let it be said that we don’t listen to you, our users!) in which people commented it would be better to be able to see green, black and brown bin information on the same calendar. This initially looked like it may be a little bit tricky because there is no recurring pattern to help us match one green round to a similar black and brown round. We did a bit more research however, and now have a solution – here comes the techy bit…

By breaking down the Google Calendar URL into componenets identifying each individual calendar, we can actually reconstruct a new URL within the form to display both sets of calendars on one – simples! This should be the final version of this form but, as always, let us know if you think we can improve it further!

You can find the bin calendar search here…

Every year the membership association for public sector ICT professionals, Socitm, produces a report benchmarking the performance of council websites actross the UK. 2009 was a landmark year for Lincoln as it was the first review of our new website; we scored a ranking of “Transitional” “Transactional”, having previously achieved the basic level of  “Standard”.

In 2010, we are a non-mover gaining the “Transitional” “Transactional” equivalent of “3 Stars” using Socitm’s new star based ranking system.

One excellent thing that Socitm has done this year is to produce an “open” version of the headline results that I’m allowed to publish publically! That means I can now show a breakdown of Lincoln’s performance across all categories. Here we go (a Yes below shows that we passed that particular subject area):

Common Topic Tests (these benchmark how good the information on our site is for the following):

Jobs – Yes

Library Services – Yes

Schools – Yes

Family History – Yes

Planning – Yes

Rubbish Collection – Yes

Useful content – Does the website have the information that people are looking for?

Information – Do people find answers to their questions? – Yes

Links elsewhere – Are people referred to another organisation if the council does not have the information? – Yes

Currency – Can people rely on the site being up-to-date? – Yes

News value – Does the content capture people’s attention by its newsworthiness? – Yes

E-mail – Can people do business with the council by e-mail? – Yes

Transactions – Can people transact business with the council? – Yes

Participation – Do people have the opportunity to influence council policies and decisions? – Yes

Usability – How easy is the information to find and use on the website?

Use of A to Z list – Can people find their way easily to a specific topic? – Yes

Use of search engine – Does a specific word or phrase generally point people to the information they want? – Yes

Navigation – Can people rely on a clear and consistent style in finding their way around? – Yes

Use of location – Can people find information easily by using a map or postcode (or other similar)? – No

Accessibility – Can people use the site if they have a disability? – No

Resilience – Can people rely on the site to be available and working properly? – No

So there you have it. Obviously we have some work to do on the accessibility side, something I am aware of. I do disagree with their review that we don’t provide interactive mapping as I know plenty of examples on our website

I’ll open this out to comments – as a user of our site, do you agree with Socitm’s review? If not which of the points listed above do you think we need to look at improving on?

Does the website have the information that people are looking for?

No, your eyes do not decieve you; this is a web development blog from a council – City of Lincoln Council, to be exact. Such things do exist.

So what’s the purpose of this blog? Well, as part of an excercise to rethink and redesign our website we’re looking at getting some constructive feedback from our users, primarily Lincoln residents, of varying web ability and asking them the question “What exactly do you want our website to do?”. We kicked this off with a citizens panel focus group on 25th February 2010 to some very positive results, however this obviously does not cover our full range of (on average) 44000 website visitors per month (full stats here).

That’s where this blog comes in. We’re going to be holding open (but moderated) discussions on this website. Partially we’ll be looking to find further answers to that very question, but we’ll also be dipping our toes into the water to test new ideas for web services, new website designs, even things as basic as new website layouts. We want to provide the best web service we can to our customers and those very same people are best positioned to tell us whether we’re doing it right or not.

So, we’ve opened up the comments – let us know your thoughts on what we’re doing right and wrong on our website. What could we do to improve things? And does anyone have any trailblazing ideas that we could take on board. We would like to point out, however, that despite these comments being open we’d like to keep the discsussion on the track of improving the City of Lincoln Council website and our online services; any comments that deviate from this subject in any way could potentially be removed from the site. If you have any doubt, please read our comment guidelines here… Play nice and thanks in advance for your input!

Andrew Beeken – City of Lincoln Council Web Co-Ordinator