Majority of Council websites still not meeting government’s Digital by Default Service Standard for good performance
Survey finds a drop in councils’ website performance by five per cent - 69 per cent of UK councils fail website performance test compared to 64 per cent in 2013
Thurrock Council outpaces its peers - website was 122 times faster than the slowest
Local councils need greater visibility of their online services if they hope to deliver on the government’s 'Digital by Default Service Standard’ introduced in April.
The standard requires that a user’s experience of digital services must be so good that they prefer to carry out the transaction online rather than by phone, post or in person.
New research reveals that 69 per cent of councils' front-line websites are underperforming. The study of 227 UK councils found that 69 per cent (156) failed to meet the threshold of good website performance, five percentage points more than last year.
The study also suggests that councils have no way of judging how well their services are being delivered, since many rely on external providers with no way to measure users' experiences.
The survey by netEvidence, the SaaS provider of technology monitoring and visibility service Highlight, provides an insight into how residents experience a council’s web services i.e. how fast a council is responding to them and if they encounter any problems.
Thurrock Council was the top performer and the worst was a Scottish council, whose webpage opened 122 times slower. Richard Thomas, CEO of netEvidence says, “UK local authorities are increasing their use of digital services to replace high cost call-centre services but if digital services fail to deliver a good end-to-end experience, it can result in all sorts of problems such as delays in getting benefits or an officer’s inability to resolve a customer’s issue even during face to face meetings.
“A council’s website is just the first point of contact; it is effectively a supply chain linking a whole host of digital services that all need to be performing well to fulfil a customer’s request,” continues Richard. “However, having outsourced key parts of their infrastructure, many UK councillors and officers - particularly those at a senior level - now lack any real-time visibility into how these online services are performing and more importantly, what experiences people have when using services. This visibility and knowledge of how people experience digital services is fundamental to achieving the government’s aim of making it the preferred form of contact for public services.”
netEvidence measured good performance of a website as one that responded in under half a second (0.4 seconds). Using its Highlight service, netEvidence measured how fast the websites opened for the 227 councils during the month of September 2014.
- 69 per cent of councils failed the half second limit (156 councils out of 227) compared to 64 per cent last year.
- Thurrock Unitary Council came out top – its site responded in an average of 0.04 seconds
- The worst performer was a Scottish Council - it took over 40 seconds on average to open, more than 122 times slower than Thurrock.
- In a repeat of last year, the best group was the Welsh County Councils with only 36 per cent underperforming (8 out of 22)
- English County Councils came bottom of the league with 86 per cent of websites taking over half a second (24 out of 28)
Users are likely to experience a slower performance than those measured in this study since most will visit a council’s websites from a home-based internet connection compared to netEvidence's high speed test facility. Website delays can be caused by anything from network issues, server issues, design issues (graphics, links etc) or a combination of all three. In the case of the councils being monitored, the Highlight service indicated that, in the majority of the cases, the cause of the delays was caused by either server or design issues and not by network issues.
- Published: 03 November 2014