Rochdale Borough Council

Ingredients that make great website content.

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/ service

Rochdale Borough Council aims to deliver a useful, usable and used website. The site serves a diverse set of users. Not only are there different types of content on the site there are different sites that are indexed. We’ve combined customer insight with the power and sophistication of technology and the knowledge and skillset of staff to deliver an award winning site search function on the council’s website that’s both accessible and digitally inclusive. Delivering a customer focused site search allows us to improve search results to help the right people find the right content at the right time leading to improved outcomes, an increase in the take-up of digital services and savings

Why do you think it should win this award?

There has been a strong shift in the design and layout of council websites to a more customer-centric model. As a council we’ve adapted to this digital shift, iteratively improved the website and achieved national success over several consecutive years. We always set our standards high and aim to make our digital services more accessible, engaging and easier to navigate with the simple aim of delivering a high quality service for customers.
Search engines are good at indexing words but not so good at understanding user information seeking behaviour and returning a set of pages that you’d be confident are about that topic. We’ve integrated sophisticated customer language with search technology to help customers find and use content. Poor classification or misleading topic suggestions don’t help the user go from search to find and from find to discover; our search facility has this depth of capability.
The success of our website work has contributed towards an invitation to Number 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.

What are the key achievements?

– Website awarded maximum 4-star rating in 2016, one of only 13 councils in UK to maintain its 4-star rating from previous year, in 10% of top performing UK council websites for second consecutive year (Socitm)
– Awarded Best Local Authority Website in the Country for ‘Search, Navigation and A to Z’
– Achieved Internet Crystal Mark
– In 2015 Socitm experts praised several areas of the website including the performance of the website’s search function and navigation
– In 2014 the ‘outstanding’ site was classed to have a ‘faultless’ A-Z and an exemplary site search
– In 2013 the website was classed as one of the reviewers 8 favourite sites from over 400 websites. The endorsement was as a result of a concerted drive to improve the council’s website to make it easier for residents to find what they are looking for. Reviewers praised the approach and said it was a useful model for other councils to follow.
– Classed as one of the top 10 performers for what the public thinks when using the site search (Socitm). The site search engine is a critical navigational device for finding information and the most likely alternative to using the site’s main information architecture.
*Socitm, Society of Information Technology Management