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.