How to simplify tangled webs

WEB DESIGN isn’t just for funky people with black rollnecks working in converted warehouses. It is a major concern for council workers too — whatever their knitwear preferences. By 2008 the Government wants councils to deliver services online to everyone.

So far just 62 local autho-rity websites out of the 543 that have been reviewed meet government accessibility guidelines. But there is no need for councils to panic. Local Government Chronicle (April 6) reports that the Society of Information Technology Management’s annual benchmarking report, Better Connected 2006, contains five important tips to help make local authority websites “useful, usable and used”. They are:

1. Don’t try to control content. A hundred workers at Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council can put content unchecked on to the council’s website rather than one or two web editors trying to control and understand everything. www.shrewsbury.gov.uk

2. Scrap printed leaflets. Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council saved £200,000 by replacing paper leaflets with online factsheets. www.oldham.gov.uk

3. Work with neighbouring councils. In Dorset, individual council websites have closed to make way for a shared site. Users don’t have to figure out who does what because it is all on the one site. www.dorsetforyou.com

4. Make content engaging. The wags at Salford City Council have put a ghost-spotting webcam and the history of Eccles cakes on their website. Punters like a bit of humour and will come back time and again — the site attracts 240,000 visits a month. www.salford.gov.uk

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Meredith Weisser

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