It's great if your content is easy to find - but it still needs to be fit-for-purpose and focused on the needs of the user...
So while everyone was distracted getting ready for the snap General Election, SOCITM released the final star ratings and feedback for Better Connected 2016-17.
It is great to see that the latest survey shows an almost 50% drop in the number of one star rated sites (down from 88 to 46). This shows that generally things are really turning around as Local Government gets more focused on the user with a large increase in the number of three star ratings.
Disappointingly there has also been a drop in the number sites achieving a four star rating, down to just 36 in total - although it is pleasing to note that a third of these are powered by Jadu technology.
One of the key factors in low ratings seems to be a lack of investment in quality content and its ongoing maintenance - crucial on the basis that an out-of-date page can mean the difference between a four star rating and a two star rating for an individual task (even where all the key questions have been answered).
SOCITM note that there still seems to be a lot of work to do in engaging with services to create suitable online services, commenting that:
“Performance of council websites in service based tasks, where reviewers look at the whole customer journey and process for tasks, as well as the quality of information content and the way it is presented, is generally less good than their performance in the mobile and search, navigation and A-Z tests which focus on the findability of content and the performance of site tools.”
This is clearly seen in the number of examples where individual Councils have obviously heavily invested in the user journey, so it is simple to navigate and search for content, but haven’t followed through in ensuring that the content itself is fit for purpose or appropriate.
Erin Kissane states that appropriate content provides users with, “...precisely what they need, exactly when they need it, and in just the right form” (The Elements of Content Strategy, 2011). Imagine how frustrating the experience must be for a customer who can easily find what they are looking for but then discovers that the information is incorrect, out-of-date or just unusable.
It is important to remember that your content is your user experience - it is what customers come to your site for.
Common issues identified by the survey in relation to content include failures in:
- Providing the information a user would need to effectively complete the task
- Presenting information in a clear and uncomplicated way
- Keeping content up-to-date and accurate
- Avoiding the use of jargon and adopting Plain English standards
- Structuring the content in the correct order for the user
- Joining up the content and the process effectively
- Failure to deep link to primary sources or third party content
As part of our standard implementation process we invest in working with customers to help them understand the value of a user centred approach to content, and that managing your content effectively requires a long term strategy that extends beyond the confines the immediate project. Too often web content is treated in the same way as print content - it is written, published and then forgotten about (until that two star rating rears its head).
We like to say, “your website is never finished” - there will always be something that needs updating, pages that need removing, customer feedback to review and implement, processes to streamline. Content Management Systems can help you to manage your content - but they won’t manage it for you, there needs to be human intervention and a clear plan to follow. You need a Content Strategy.
Content Strategy has become a vital element that we have introduced into all of our Local Government implementations, providing consultation around topics such as:
- Guidance on content structure and voice and tone
- Building the business case for implementing a formal Content Strategy
- The provision of internal engagement with key stakeholders
- The development of key documentation such as style guides
- Planning processes for efficient URL management and remapping
Best of all this is something that we offer to anyone, irrespective of whether you use our Continuum platform.
Why not contact us to find out how we can help you build your strategy?