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Local Government is quite good at telling the public what it thinks they want to know, but not necessarily as good ...
Local Government is quite good at telling the public what it thinks they want to know, but not necessarily as good at telling them what they really want to know.

Research by internet specialist Open Objects Software shows exactly what the public looks for in a council website and what should be offered at the highest level - and it is not messages from the chief executive or the objectives of the corporate strategic plan.

Many of the people who use council websites are council workers and they are often interested in employment opportunities. Planning, council tax, maps and local plans are all high on the list.

The Norfolk Connect Partnership wanted people to quickly find everything they need, without having an intricate knowledge of local government tiers - parish, district or county - and which is responsible for

each service.

The Norfolk Portal - it isn't exactly a portal, but we couldn't think of another name - provides this.

The councils and the police have a joint search engine, and metadata - data about data, providing basic information such as the author of a work, the date of its creation, etc - makes navigation easier. There is an all-Norfolk search option that searches every site - parish and town councils, police, health, and more. The research shows we are doing a pretty good job but we are always looking to improve the service.

We found that in Norfolk, over a third of people navigate by search engine rather than clicking through menus. Now we can customise search results and we have added a 'frequently asked questions' option. As hot topics emerge, like foot and mouth, flooding and consultations, we can add pages to deal with these and ensure they are prominent. The site is invaluable to everyone who has to answer questions from the public.

Listening to users' views is key to this service. We use an information gap process to ask users to state the sort of information that would be of use to them, so we can include it in the future.

Alan Tidmarsh

E-service and efficiency director, Norfolk CC

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