Council website usage on the up

Socitm report

A survey of local authority websites across the UK shows that for 2005, visits rose by 40 per cent compared with the same period the previous year.

The survey is the third of its kind and shows that take-up is on an upward trend ahead of the national drive to boost greater awareness of government websites.

Socitm Insight, the research arm of the society for ICT professionals in local public services, produced the report as part of its Website Take-Up Service and is based on 7,667 surveys of over 2.1m unique visitors covering a sample of 46 UK council websites.

It found that there were 11.4m visitors to council websites, representing around 15 per cent of the UK population. Of those who visited, nearly four-in-five found what they were looking for and were satisfied with their experience.

Moreover, three-quarters of respondents said they are likely to return to the website they visited.

The most popular reason to visit a council website was to view job vacancies, with 14 per cent of people doing so. However, this is becoming less so as the sites are starting to increase their usage, with enquiries on library services (eight per cent), planning applications (five per cent) and leisure facilities (five per cent) growing.

According to Socitm Insight programme manager Martin Greenwood, it is more important than ever for councils to get to grips with who is using their sites, for what purposes, and how they find the experience.

"The government's advertising campaign which breaks in May will have a significant impact given that usage of council websites is already on a sharp upward curve," he says. "What will be important is for councils to maintain the levels of satisfaction we are seeing and the surveys available through the Website Take up Service are an important contributor to that end."

Building usage of council websites: summary of findings from the Socitm Insight website take-up service Issue 3 is now available as a pdf to Socitm Insight subscribers. The 16pp printed version, available from early April, costs £25 to non-subscribers (£20 to Socitm members) from www.socitm.gov.uk.

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