Stepping in the right direction

SOCITM Better Connected 2014

SOCITM is the Society of Information Technology Management. It is the professional body that promotes the effective and efficient use of Information Technology in Local Government and the Public Sector. You can read a little bit more about SOCITM on their website.

Each year, SOCITM test and evaluate public sector websites in a report called Better Connected. This year, the full report (236 pages) was released on 3 March 2014.

This was the first year mobile versions of websites were tested as well as the standard desktop survey, completing tasks for each council, selected by type of council. The report covers all 433 local authority websites with a team of reviewers carrying out a structured survey with 224 questions for local authority websites, followed by four shorter surveys on specific topics. This research has been supplemented by seven additional sets of data, supplied by SOCITM’s partner organisations.

The report looks specifically at accessibility, usability and customer journeys with the purpose to identify good practice in the development of local authority websites.

Our story

Two years ago, Monmouthshire were at the bottom of the SOCITM rankings- we failed almost all of the tasks set, our accessibility was really poor and we were beaten to the bottom spot by only one other local authority.

Working closely with our Customer Access Manager, Tim MacDermott, I worked with individual departments using analytics to identify what content wan’t being read and we worked on streamlining and rewriting content.

In the Summer of 2012 we moved to a new content management system, Typo 3 and reduced the content from 22, 000 pages to around 1, 000- improving customer journeys and making content much easier for users to understand- we cut out jargon, stopped any ‘council talk’ and worked towards quality, concise content.

In November 2012, we embarked on a full redesign project to make the site responsive. We made the decision to move to WordPress and added a new tone of voice to the site- we were starting to build the Monmouthshire brand through quality content.

We worked with Joel Hughes and Russell Britton on developing audience persona and developed ideas for the new site’s functionality.

During this redesign, we added touches of personalisation, added a commenting function and gave the site a new responsive design.

The most valuable and important part of the project was the work we did with the Digital Accessibility Centre, testing the site to ensure it was accessible for all users.

In February, 2013, Claire Lewis joined the team for two days per week. Claire’s attention to detail added a new layer of quality assurance to the site and meant we could work faster on improving the site’s content.

The 2013 SOCITM report came out shortly after and Monmouthshire had jumped from the bottom to the middle section on developing the content alone- and we still had a long way to go.

The WordPress site launched in September 2013 as a new baseline for future improvement and development. The main changes are how the site works on a mobile device and the vast improvements to accessibility.

We now have under 500 English pages on the Monmouthshire County Council website and the content will continue to develop and improve with the help of experts in the relevant teams. We are really pleased that the 2014 SOCITM Better Connected report recognised our achievements to date and has placed us as one of 8 recommended websites throughout the UK.

We had special mentions for the following tasks on the corporate website:

  • Our process of renewing a library book thanks to the hard work Claire Lewis has done
  • The responsive design and how the site works on a mobile device so huge thanks to Joel Hughes, Russell Britton and the SRS Development team.
  • Our new care home page got a special mention following the work me and our head of adult services, Julie Boothroid and her fab team of social services officers

Our vision

We are really pleased to have climbed up the SOCITM scoring but are still at the start of our journey.

The content and navigation on the website still has massive room for improvement and we commit to continuing to improve the site accessibility and search engine optimisation.

Our aims for the following year are to move the site from a publishing platform to a more interactive, transactional site with developments in mapping, eforms, payment systems and increased personalisation.

We welcome any constructive comments or ideas on how we can make the site better for our residents and businesses in Monmouthshire- please send us your thoughts to


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