Bradford council are updating their website. They’ve blogged about it.
Interesting, because I pay my council taxes to Bradford. (Idle is actually a place, not just a state of mind).
Interesting, because there was a point in my life where I accessed the Bradford website through a proxy server – to serve up a hacked-together responsive version of their stylesheets I’d pulled together one lunchtime so I could read their website on my phone. (The Bradford council has moved on a little since then.)
Interesting, because they’ve blogged about this work in the first place. Usually this stuff happens behind closed doors.
And interesting, because the blog seems to reveal that while this is moving forward, the way the council is approaching the site redesign isn’t that much of a move into 2015.
In the first paragraph: It’s a website. Branding at the top of the bulletpoints, the surefire sign that there’s some marketing priority in there. Why is branding so important? To who? Compliance with various standards, with the throwaway feel of a chore. And so on - because the general public will know what that detail is.
As I read on I was getting an overview but not the details.
The process started with an understanding of what we wanted to achieve through the design.
So what is the council looking to achieve? How did they do that? Who did they speak to and speak with?
Then we produced layouts using graphics software to create mock-ups of how the finished site will look, including examples of the home page, content pages and how it might look on mobile devices.
Did they miss out focusing on the content, even doing some basic prototyping or wireframes and jumping straight into their graphics software?
And what are mobile devices?
Through a process of consultation and elimination and of tweaking the original design ideas.
Consulting who? The public? Or just “internally”?
And so on. I could go on. I could add in they’re already on about (possibly even on with) integrating into a CMS.
I could go back through what I have just tapped out and add more detail – but I’ll feel bad, worse for doing it.
On a positive, the council is going to roll out some “test pages”. A small section of the council’s online service built as static pages so it can be tested in the wild?
And another, around the CMS notes is an indication they’re taking into account users of an online service not many do: Those who will have to add in content.
And again, at least the council is trying to openly talk about this.
But it feels too far down a beaten path. Local government can do better than this. This is 2015. And it does.
The way Nottinghamshire county council went about designing and then “launching” their new website (visit it here) felt like a local government body actually got it.
From collating user needs – and actually putting an emphasis on the users of their online service – to a testing with them to a beta roll out to saying “Making a site live is not the end of a process, but is actually closer to the beginning” (on this page) – all good stuff that felt like positive ways to design a digital service, get a platform out there, and keep iterating, keep evolving it.
At a time when the expectancy from people is to just use the internet, just hop on through, say their phone. It’s almost second nature these days. And the expectancy is decent digitally delivered services. And when public expectancy is one thing, that access should help, should empower an organisation to deliver well, to help transform it in these times of austerity.
It might be the blog post misrepresents.
As it is the approach Bradford council - my council - has taken to to this feels like we are – to quote Rita, Sue, and Bob Too – in the days of Methuselah. Out of touch, out of date.
And in a time of openness and collaboration to make things better, too. More the shame.
(Sorry. If you’re working in the council on this.)