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Putting the user first: designing effective LPA web pages

by on January 10, 2013

We’ll be holding an event for LPAs in West Yorkshire in February on the benefits and challenges facing local authorities undertaking channel shift strategies.

Now that online submission of planning applications has become the norm, we’re continuing to work with LPAs on effective methods to help drive the percentage of electronic apps even higher.

In addition, we’re looking at ways LPA websites can improve their user journeys and make use of existing content and advice on the Planning Portal.

Back in October we ran a similar event with local authorities in the South West. This was a well-attended day with speakers from Socitm and a workshop on how to develop effective user journeys and customer-facing planning websites.

The day was attended by around 30 LPAs and general feedback was good. So good, we’re running another in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, on the 13th February. We expect invites to go out at the start of next week.

We also picked up the following post from Shropshire Council’s development team blog about how they used some of the user-centred design techniques covered in the event to good effect while planning the redesign of their own planning pages.

Here’s a link to the User Journey presentation (2.7MB PDF) from the event in October. It’s an introduction to practical methods for designing web pages for your customers. The workshop was run by a user experience expert who kindly gave permission to share the presentation.

Finally, here’s yet another link to our guidance on linking to the Portal effectively.

  1. This sounds like a really worthwhile workshop, especially as we are all trying to move towards online and electronic communication rather than snail mail and the dreaded press notices! Is there likely to be one for authorities in the Midlands or East?

  2. Simon Evans permalink

    From a user’s perspective, my experience is that local authority websites are pretty awful but getting better slowly. My main gripe is that they are still far too difficult to navigate. Finding current policy documents, which ought to be made dead easy, can be a nightmare. Too often, you have to navigate from a link on one page to another almost identical one, and then another before finally reaching your destination. Much could be simplified.

    Pages dealing with applications are also in need of improvement and it would be helpful if all authorities used the same format. The pages dedicated to a particular application should ideally be a snapshot of the state of an application and up to date. All too often, documents that have been submitted do not appear on the website (including primary ones like application drawings). And representations that are in the public domain are rarely uploaded.

    One thing that I find very puzzling is that even when applications are made electronically, authorities print out the documents, then scan them and upload the poor quality result to their website. Surely it must be easier to upload the original electronic version (if it is in a commonly readable format like PDF)?

    I am sure all this will improve with time but I guess it is like turning a supertanker round!

  3. Rob Thom permalink

    My local council revised their web site and gave it a new year relaunch, unfortunately it had problems. This was during a holiday period whilst the Local Plan review was on and at a time when rate payers might chose to comment. They then corrected the site and commented “extended to 21st January from original date of 17th January due to unavailability of this website”, usual teething problems. Your comments also illustrate similar experiences of some 300 odd Local Authorities all selecting THEIR Formats, Layouts, Location of Documents, own/subcon IT Departments approach etc. The Planning Portals Best Practice is better than the current situation, but is it not about time these sites were rationalised as regards a National Format , Scope with beta testing before launch . It may be good for keeping up Local Government Staff Levels and their FSP’s but for a Country with a gross overdraft can we afford all this choice.

  4. Sounds like a really useful workshop. We are revamping our website at the minute so would be interested in attendng. Could you send us futher details as and when they are confirmed.

  5. Ted Leggett (Norwich City Council) permalink

    We are about to embark on a website overhaul. Is there likely to be another seminar run in the midlands/south? If not, please let me know joining instructions.
    Many thanks

    • Hi Ted

      We don’t have any planned at the moment but if the situation changes we’ll let you know. I’ll send you a link to the registration form.


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