On Tuesday 5 July we held a meetup for local authorities to discuss web redesign, as from conversations across our work we’re aware a lot of local authorities are looking at this currently. We thought it would be good to bring people together to facilitate some discussions and identify some next steps.
We had over 40 people attending from local authorities, LocalGov Drupal, Perago and CDPS. We split into breakout rooms to discuss where they are in the process and what their current thinking is around this, and for third parties what you have to offer to support LAs.
The groups discussed for 20 minutes and then fed back to the wider group. We identified a handful of key themes from the session:
- User-centred design,
- Collaboration and sharing,
- Learning from others,
- Asking the right questions.
There was a focus on user centred design, and the importance of considering this before any procurement or technical work. User needs, user research (talking to users) and customer journey mapping were all mentioned here which was great to see. Most local authorities are at the early stage of their web redesign journey which makes these conversations really timely and useful.
Collaboration and sharing
There was discussion around how best practice can be shared and delivered across 22 authorities, whilst recognising the unique differences in processes, back-end systems, and coding languages. Authorities recognised that they had similar problems and a need to share best practice service templates and patterns to save teams reinventing the wheel every time, and work in a more joined up and consistent way.
The point was also made that whilst technology choices aren’t always the digital team’s to make, it’s important to focus on the user research, user experience and customer feedback and data that already exists within authorities to inform web redesign. We heard from some local authorities who are already doing this work to good effect which was really heartening. It was interesting to see an agreed need for examples of good services, and what these looked like in reality.
Learning from others
During the session we had industry experts and councils sharing some things they have learnt with the group:
- We heard about how local government in Ireland has a shared service catalogue, which we’re really interested in seeing to understand how that works.
- Rugby Borough Council has also published a story of collaborative commissioning and targeted funding for teams trying to solve common challenges and improve public services to meet users’ needs.
- There were a few members of the LocalGov Drupal team in attendance and said if any officers have questions, to email firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll put you in touch with the right person.
- The Local Digital Declaration collaborations between English local authorities is a “path well trodden that I’m sure they would be happy to share experiences, lessons learned, etc”.
- CDPS have recently completed their discovery on Tech Net Zero and shared that websites built with sustainability, accessibility and user needs from the start are also better for the environment.
Asking the right questions
It was clear during the session we still have many unexplored questions to talk through as a group. Some of these are captured below:
- We need to understand the role customer accounts has with a web redesign.
- How many councils have or intend to use the GOV Design system on their websites?
- We need to gather insight about what each of our ideologies are for the future (quote from the session: “as as though we all agree – I would imagine our internal politics warp our ideologies”).
- It would be good to understand/see what tech stacks council is using. Some oif the items here included what CMS, CRM, Customer Account, Forms, Software Development Languages, API standards, or Cloud adoption is in each council. We have a published list of Content Management Systems here!
- What approach to standards and process should be shared? The following comment was made during the session, “It seems like utopia at the moment, this is were my mini-rant about the Service Standards come from – this seems to be lip service with no-1 held to account to show how they are either meeting those standards or working towards it”.
Over the summer, the WLGA digital team will conduct a survey with councils to help answer some of the questions above.
We picked up on a few comments asking what the role of the WLGA Digital team is in this work going forward. Our delivery plan for 2022/23 is already overflowing but we do have a commissioning process so it would be good to understand the needs from councils to enable collaboration.
In the interim, we are keen to keep these conversations going and so will plan another session imminently.