I have worked with many councils up and down the country at the metropolitan, county and district level, and whilst there are some variations on the theme, the ‘top tasks’ are generally very similar. You should always back up any decisions you make with evidence from both your analytics and from actual people, but if I see a site doesn’t do the following… well, then the alarm bells start to sound.
- The physical buildings: when they open; to a lesser degree, where they are.
- The activities, namely, swimming: when can I swim either as a fitness thing or with the family?
- If you have nice ones, it’s about parks and country parks - again, physical access.
Bin dates: when are you collecting my rubbish? This can lead to …
* Missed bin collections
The tip, another physical location. When is it open? Where is it? What can I take?
- Just before term starts and ends you will get a massive spike of people looking for term dates.
- School admissions is, increasingly, a large on-line thing, now, but it’s more than pointing people to a form or an app.
- The physical buildings again: when are they open? Where are they?
- Family history: Either on-line access or information about getting access.
- Renewals/charges: On-line book renewals because you’ve just found the library book down the sofa.
- Buses, when are they coming (timetables)1
- Making planning applications and looking at existing ones.
- Pot holes: Reporting and general complaining about thereof.
- Parking tickets: paying and appealing against.
- Changing what you pay: discounts, moving out/in are much more popular than paying on-line.
- Paying: setting up direct debit so you don’t have to come back here.
- Registrar’s offices.
Jobs will be the most popular by a long way, but people looking for jobs have a stronger incentive than most of your site visitors and will be looking across many sites for information - put jobs where they expect to be found on most sites - for example in the footer, behind a link called jobs.
Again, this isn’t a comprehensive list, and your results may differ, but if you cover the approx 20 tasks on the list above then you will more than likely address over 80% of what people want. Yes, there are many more services that your council may provide (around 600 more, according to the local government service list) and many of them are critically important to people, but on-line, this is the bulk of what people want. Get this right first.
Getting these tasks right first, lets you do two things:
- It gets you something fast. Most of these tasks are at the simpler end of what the council does, so you can apply your principles, and build something quickly, proving whether things work or not.
- It gives you momentum for the complex. Once the simple is ‘done’ you can use your success to tackle the bigger problems. If you do the simple things well, then people will see what can be achieved on-line, and you will get a greater buy-in to sorting out the bigger issues - and there you will need all the help you can get.
This is how the Government Digital Service approached the issue. http://www.gov.uk is the simple, clear and fast way to find things , but it doesn’t sort out your car tax or benefits (yet), that’s because the first job was to get the main simple tasks done and done well. Then building on that they started to tackle the harder problems.
Update: 1 Added bus time tables, after Marc Snaith quite rightly pointed out they are often high for counties.