The Executive Members for Corporate Services and Financial Sustainability submitted a report inviting Overview and Scrutiny Committee to review the performance of the East Herts website. Website satisfaction had been identified as an area of concern following the first meeting of the Committee in 2018/19 and this report had been requested from the Head of Service.
The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy confirmed that this report had been requested some months ago. He said that satisfaction levels with the website had been in the red category for some time, as measured by the Gov.metric system. The Committee was advised that there had been 2.5 million webpage views within the last 12 months and it was worth noting that face to face feedback was always higher than website ratings.
The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy said that wording could be uploaded to the website to explain that the online Planning Portal was not controlled by East Herts. The Digital Content Manager explained that updating the new website was an ongoing process.
The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy said the website was a useful tool for customers and the most commonly visited pages were council tax, bin collection/missed bins, planning and elections. He said that the planning portal was often subject to downtime which reflected badly on the website even though the portal was separate to East Herts.
The Committee was also advised that the Council Tax pages had technical limitations in terms of what customers could do beyond making basic payments. The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy advised that the Housing, Waste and Licensing pages were more popular. He said that the quality of the service customers received was passed on via the Gov.metric tool.
The Digital Content Manager said the new website had been redesigned with new 2019 European Union (EU) regulations in mind as all the pages on the website had to achieve the AA accessibility rating and the new website had this accessibility built into it at source. All of the content on the website also had to meet the same accessibility standards in terms of making the website more accessible.
The Committee was advised that the new legislation covered all documents on the website as well as all videos. The AAA rating could not be achieved if maps and videos were included on the website.
The Digital Content Manager said the Gov.metric tool or widget would be added to online forms and modernised as part of a better reporting system. She commented on the modular layout of the website and a data driven approach to making the website more appealing so that users had better journey when navigating the website.
The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy confirmed to Councillor M Goldspink the definition of SOCITM (Society for Innovation, Technology and Modernisation). Councillor A Ward-Booth said that the block style layout of the website was an improvement.
The Digital Content Manager said that the old website had a bounce rate of 50%, with visitors spending 2 minutes on the site. The new site has a bounce rate of 30% with visitors spending 3 minutes on the site. She stated that the aim was to achieve 3 “clicks” to get customers to the page they sought.
Councillor D Snowdon asked whether the time and financial savings could be quantified. He was advised that Officers would investigate and let Members know. He queried who to contact regarding the website and was advised that the Digital Content Manager was the relevant Officer.
Councillor J Frecknall said the East Herts new website was significantly better than other websites. Councillor M Goldspink said it was challenging to locate phone numbers for Officers on the website. The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy said most forms on the website did have a “contact us” section and that the website steered the public towards “self service”.
The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy said the new structured website format would avoid Officers having to go back to the customer as all the necessary information was secured at the first point of contact.
Councillor D Hollebon referred to those who did not use technology and in particular the proportion of over 65s who preferred to talk to someone. She was advised that there was no intention to do away with telephony or face to face customer contact at both receptions.
The Chairman commented that a report regarding the performance of the website would come back to the Committee in future. Members received the report.
RESOLVED – that the review of website satisfaction performance be received.