LGA Conference: Culture, Tourism and Sport
The Web Publishing Portal exhbited last week at the Local Government Association’s annual conference for culture, tourism and sport. Our stand attracted a high number of the 120 Local Authority delegates who were interested in how web and mobile app technologies could be harnessed by their Council to increase visitor numbers and promote growth from within through local community engagement.
Some of the key questions and messages we received from Council delegates were: [more]
- How can web and mobile technologies help me spend to save when it comes to boosting visitor numbers?
- How can mobile apps extend the reach of my Council’s tourism proposition/brand?
- How can I encourage visitors to stay longer in my area?
- How can I encourage visitors to spend more in my area?
- How can web technologies enable joined up working across departments and stakeholders?
- How can I target specific visitor types and attract them to my area?
- How can I reach the wider population and those visitor groups who prefer smartphones to computers?
- How can I tap into new and emerging technologies in a way that is sustainable and future-proofed?
Mobile apps are of particular interest with many delegates looking to apps to support the communication and distribution of data and spatial content unique to the Council and their locale. Using our own apps and development frameworks we were able to demonstrate how a well designed app helps visitors make better use of their time in the area and encourages them to spend locally. Through our corporate projects we were able to demonstrate how websites and mobile apps help local communities make better and more regular use of Council run and Council sponsored resources and facilities provided for leisure, sport and tourism.
Over the coming months we hope we’ll be able to report back on the Portal about the specific opportunities that came out of the LGA Conference that have been converted into tangible projects and deliverables, features and functions that answer many, if not all, of the questions raised by delegates at the Conference.
WPP_Ride North Wales press release.pdf (90.68 kb)
WPP_LGA Flyer.pdf (2.07 mb)
Listening to Customers: Cambridge City Council responds with relaunched website
The new Cambridge City Council website provides tangible evidence of how local public engagement can lead directly to improvements in Council services for residents and customers.
During the summer of 2012 Cambridge City Council undertook a survey to discover what residents and customers wanted from the Council’s website. Using surveys, focus groups and direct communication on Twitter and via its Facebook page the Council identified from the public feedback key areas of its online business and information services that could be significantly improved through the Council website. [more]
The feedback formed a central part of a Council action plan to redesign, reconfigure and rethink its online presence. The plan included an invitation to tender for companies to submit a proposal outlining how they would work with the Council’s web team to deliver the objectives of the action plan through the Council’s flagship corporate website. The Web Publishing Portal consortium of JDi Solutions, Artychoke and Blue Fox technology came together and successfully submitted a bid in response to the tender in the Autumn of 2012. The contract runs for 3 years.
The new website encompasses a number of key improvements in areas of design, accessibility, functionality and ongoing content management by the Council’s web team. The new design and layout focuses on uncluttering web pages, making it easier for visitors to identify and use the feature or service available online that they require. The simplification of the design and layout also ensures that the responsive design implemented for the website will work well on mobile devices as well as static PCs. Such consistency is important now that people use multiple devices to interact online.
Greater prominence has been given to those tasks and services that people use regularly with site navigation prioritised around those ‘Top Tasks’ whether it’s looking for confirmation of bin collection days or paying a bill. Quick and easy was a mantra soon adopted by the team!
A central calendar means that residents and customers can see in one place what events and Council meetings are coming up on a daily, weekly and monthly basis thereby creating a high level of transparency and openness in Council activity.
Underpinning all the improvements to the public website is a Content Management System that allows the Council web team to not only maintain the website’s content but to also make their own improvements to the features and functions available to the online visitor of the website. Under the contract with Cambridge our development team will continue to deliver updates and improvements to the Council’s CMS and website as part of an ongoing support and maintenance agreement. This will include further integration with other Council systems to facilitate the delivery of more Council services and local information online through the improved online presence the website now provides.
In addition to the corporate website our development team has also delivered the new Cambridge Corn Exchange website and is currently working on the Council’s new corporate Intranet site. Drupal, the open source web development framework, is the main platform for delivering these improved websites and services.
Cambridge Corn Exchange: new theatre website launched
If you build it, he will come.
That famous line from the Hollywood film Field of Dreams summarises the digital strategy for the new Cambridge Corn Exchange website: to design and build a clear and effective website that appeals to both the general public and to the seasoned theatre-goer.
The new website is sponsored by the City Council and forms an integral part of our contract to design and build new Internet sites and a new corporate Intranet site for the Council. All sites are built within the Drupal development framework and like all the sites the Corn Exchange website includes a fully integrated CMS allowing theatre staff to update the website easily and quickly. [more]
Of particular importance to the administrators was the ability to quickly and efficiently publicise content about new confirmed acts, new dates and additional performances and to publish that content simultaneously across a number of web channels including the website and various social media networks
This integrated approach to content management ensures that unique features of the website such as the calendar, the ‘Just confirmed’ and ‘Latest News’ section, the ‘What’s On’ page and each show’s unique landing page are easy to maintain and are easy to access and navigate by the visitor to the website.
Alongside the Council’s corporate website the Corn Exchange’s new website is hosted on our servers as part of an expanding hub of Council websites designed, built and customised within the Drupal development framework. Both the Council’s web team and our own development team can directly access the CMS that supports the websites in the hub allowing us to provide a high quality, responsive and efficient maintenance and support service.
In addition the terms of our Software as a Service model also gives the Council direct and inclusive access to any updates and improvements we make to the Drupal development hub, ensuring that the Council’s in-house web team is keeping pace with how to implement great new user experiences coming out of the Drupal development community.
South Cambs DC: A corporate website that saves time and money
Before Christmas 2012 we completed the first phase of a 3 year contract to redesign, build, support and help to maintain South Cambridgeshire District Council’s corporate Internet and Intranet sites.
The new corporate website (click here or the image to visit the website) was launched on 17th December 2012 and marks a key stage in our use and development of Drupal, the open source content management and web development platform. [more]
One of the key features of the new website is a design and layout to encourage residents and businesses to use the ‘self service’ facilities that are available online and to undertake transactions over the web rather than over the telephone or face-to-face in Council offices around the district. The new online facilities accessed via the website are expected to save the Council thousands of pounds per year with estimates showing that a transaction carried out online costs an average of 15p per transaction while an equivalent transaction costs £8 if the customer needs to visit a Council office.
The new Home page for the Council website provides a focal point for the thinking behind how the website has been designed and built with priority given to user engagement and guided interaction as highlighted by the key phrases: Pay For It, Apply For It and Report It. The website forms an integral part of a series of improvements being made by the Council to enhance its award-winning customer care services.
Customer care is at the heart of how we are providing our services under the 3 year contract. The contract is based on the same model we use for our Software as a Service that covers a range of web-based software we have developed over the years. The South Cambs web team have been an integral part of the project team from day one. In addition to regular on-site meetings their direct input is managed via our ticketing system that allows them to view, report and assess on how the project is progressing and comment on individual features and functions of the website as they are developed and tested.
We will be providing full on-site training to the Council’s web team in the website’s CMS and will continue to provide ongoing support and maintenance over the course of the contract as the corporate website and its CMS reside on our servers.
The next phase of the project, to build the new corporate Intranet site, is already well under way and is also being built using Drupal. We’ll let you know more about that project on the Portal so keep coming back!
On Your Bike!: New mobile app for mountain biking launched
Last Saturday we launched our first iPhone app on behalf of Denbighshire County Council. It’s part of the suite of web and mobile applications we’ve developed for the Ride North Wales brand (click here for the main website) that promote North Wales as an exciting hub for on and off-road cyclists of all levels of ability. The hub covers routes and amenities through the Conwy Valley, Hiraethog and the Clwydian Range.
The app is free and can be downloaded from the iTunes website if you click here. The app builds on the data and content in the central database and CMS that supports the main website and features routes shown on the native mapping of the iPhone and on Ordnance Survey (OS) mapping.
The OS route maps have been optimised for use in conjunction with the iPhone’s GPS which means that even if cyclists can’t connect to the Internet to see routes on Apple maps they will be able to use the GPS in conjunction with the bundled OS route maps. In addition there are route cards that can be downloaded as further back-up.
The app also features places to eat and stay, local hire shops and bike facilities as well as location points for tourist information, first aid and public transport.
Plans are already in place for version 2.0 but with the launch of verion 1.0 we’re hoping to get some user feedback to help us refine and prioritise some of our ideas and technical solutions. [more]
There are also plans to extend the Ride North Wales hub to include graded road cycling routes in addition to the Easy, Moderate, Hard and Very Hard mountain biking routes already mapped. The development team are also looking at improving how the interactive maps can carry more information via waymarkers on the route maps and a function to help cyclists and app users identify what amenities are in their proximity while on or near the route.
This is an exciting development for us at the Portal so we’d welcome any feedback either via the blog or the iTunes store!