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Designing effective LPA websites – event update

by on February 26, 2013

Thanks to all the LPAs and presenters for braving the weather to attend our ‘Really Useful’ event on 13th February in Huddersfield.

Thanks also to Kirklees Council for providing excellent facilities and hosting the event free of charge.

With snow falling for the whole day, LPAs came from as far afield as Norwich for what was a useful and thought-provoking event.

Louise Tierney of Shropshire Council gave an insight into Project WIP – the council’s redesign of the planning services web pages and the key message of ‘designing for the customer and not the service area’.

This was followed by Linda Beckett of Kirklees Council who provided an overview of their ‘paperless’ planning office.

Over the past two years the Portal has been working in partnership with Kirklees to implement many new ways of working electronically and encouraging greater take-up of online services by their regular agents and citizens.

Now the council is receiving around 60 per cent of applications online, Linda highlighted how cultural change and buy-in at a senior-level was key to delivering real change.

Helen Williams of SOCITM gave a comprehensive overview of their annual better connected review and making local Government websites fit for purpose.
Again, the report underlined the importance of focussing on customer needs when planning web pages.

Finally, after lunch and saving delegates from death by PowerPoint, user experience and design company Technophobia ran a workshop on how to improve customer-facing websites.

Attendees were split into groups and asked to think about key customers of planning services and their different needs and requirements. Everyone threw themselves into this enthusiastically before some heading out on some long journeys of their own through the snow!

Presentations and resources from the event can be accessed below and if you have any questions please get in touch. The presenters have advised that they are happy to discuss their projects in the interests of sharing best practice to achieve a channel shift of service delivery.

Thanks again to everyone for making it an enjoyable and useful event.

Resources from the day:

* If you have problems downloading a 9MB file over your network please let me know.

  1. Socitm’s Better connected 2013, the latest edition of the report on the annual survey of the performance of all council websites is out on Friday 1 March. One of the ‘top tasks’ tested in this year’s survey was objecting to a planning application. We have published a commentary taken from Better connected reviewer comments how well this task was presented and facilitated. You can find the trailer on the Socitm website at The majority of councils subscribe to Socitm Insight and any employee in those councils can access the Better connected report and associated material by registering as a user on the Socitm website. The above link will take you to the details. If you are reading this. you will probably be aware that planning accounts for a huge volume of visits to council websites and possibly that there is a lot that could be done to improve the user experience of those visits.

  2. A common navigation tool would be a good start. Currently it is like driving a new car every day.

  3. Clive Milburn permalink

    I think the problem is in the title of the blog ie “Designing Effective LPA websites” whereas it should read “Designing An Effective LPA Website”

    Planning and LA Building Control is a National service administered by say 375 Offices. There seems no real reason why all Councils should not adopt the same website, with the same page layouts and same navigation process. Their own officer, contact and policy information can then be added to the template.

    At the moment it takes an age to familiarise yourself with each different Council’s website before finding a way in to get the information you require.

    It seems to me there is a bit of competition amongst Authoroities to produce the flashiest website which then only adds to the complication for members of the public to find their way around.

    I am an ex Head of Building Control and still have problems finding my way around some Council’s websites.

    If there is an opportunity to have one common, easily navigable website, I would definitely support it.

    • glenn1949 permalink

      Hear, hear Clive. If only it would happen. On a cynical note I think it is a plot to confuse the enemy, agents/applicants. As an ex civil servant I always preached that the art of good forms design was to make the form impossible to complete so you didn’t have to action it.

      • Clive Milburn permalink

        Thanks for giving me something to smile about Glenn – been one of those days.

        What we should also do is try to find out how many permutations of emila addresses these places have….. sorry but it still bugs me that they cannot all use

        One address, simple, everyone knows it……….

        Instead there is – to my knowledge – planning@, plan@, planinfo@, developmentcontrol@, development.control@, devcon@ dev.control@, plantech@, planningadmin@……..

        Is this all in the hope we won’t bother……… 🙂

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