The Council launched a refreshed website in January 2020 with greater transactional functionality in line with our Customer Service approach of ‘click, call, come in’.
The new website has been designed to display effectively and function well on mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones. This is because analysis shows us that more than 50% of our online customers now visit the site in this way rather than from desktop or laptop computers.
In addition, new Accessibility regulations came in to effect in September 2020 and all content on the Council must meet Accessibility Standards from this date.That includes text on a page and also any attachments such as word documents or PDFs.
The priority for developing the site is to increase the range of transactions that customers can carry out online.
Based on recommended best practice, efficiency and consistency, we operate a centralised approach to updating the website. This guide explains how you can arrange to update content or create new content for your service area.
Jump to section:
- Managing the Council website
- Website structure
- Creating Content
- Preparing information – writing and editing
- Structuring information – page layout
- Accessibility Regulations
- Need any further Help?
The Digital Assistants are part of the Communications and Engagement team, based in the Council’s Southbank Marina HQ.
Day-to-day responsibility for the website sits with the Communications and Engagement team that comprises the Digital Assistants, Communications Advisers and Graphic Designers and they all have a role to play.Technical expertise is provided by ICT who support the continuing development of the website and the new online transactional features are being progressed through projects within the Council’s Transformation Programme.
The structure of the Council website is now structured according to the most popular areas to create a more customer-friendly experience.
Changes to Service Delivery/Introducing new Services
Surveys and consultation
Writing for the web is not the same as printed media. The content of printed materials should not simply be copied on to a web page, it will need to be edited.
Successful writing on the web should be:
- Concise, efficient and informative
- Written knowing that it will be scanned by the reader rather than read
- Objective - using the Council ‘voice’, with a consistent tone
- Familiar, but not over-friendly
- Simple and free of jargon, abbreviations and acronyms – use Plain English
- Written assuming that the web user has not necessarily read preceding pages
- Written not assuming prior knowledge of the Council (structure, priorities etc)
- Spell checked and proofed.
Consider your audience
Website visitors will be looking for information on the Council, its structure, councillors and committees. The content you create should be specific to the audience you are targeting.
Keeping content simple and straightforward
Keeping the content simple does not mean avoiding the use of technical terms. You can use them but you need to explain what they mean.All technical terms and unusual terms should be clearly explained.
Good online content is easy to read and understand.Try to use:
- Short sentences
- Sub-headed sections
- Simple vocabulary
You should also make sure text is gender neutral wherever possible - eg firefighters not firemen, Chair instead of Chairman, spokesperson not spokesman, etc.
Avoid formal or long words when easy or short ones will do. Some examples:
Try to use the active rather than passive voice.
Active example: The Council is achieving greater results due to excellent work with the Trust.
Passive example: Excellent work with the Trust has led to greater results being achieved by the Council.
Reading versus scanning
People read differently on a screen:
- They read more slowly
- They tend to scan, so headings are very important
- They rarely read things in order.
If you are converting existing documents for the web, please remove references to specific pages and the order of sections. Replace these with direct links to named sections or pages wherever necessary.
Make it easy for the reader to access more information by providing links where possible, including links to the author or appropriate organisation that created the document.
When structuring the content of a web page, simple formatting makes a huge difference to how readable the page is. You should consider the following:
- Headings should be meaningful and contain keywords related to the subject. Use a capital for the first letter of the first word in a heading and also the first letter of any proper nouns
- Break up large sections of text into smaller paragraphs where appropriate, but don’t break up content at random.A better solution is to edit text to make it more concise
- If a section of text contains a long list, it may be better to use bullet points rather than writing a paragraph - lists should contain a maximum of 10 bullets
- Numbered lists should only be used to indicate a series of events or items that must be followed in a particular sequence
- Always align and justify content to the left - including bullet points.
- Consultation page titles – maximum of nine words including signs such as & or - etc
Remember, most people do not like ton scroll too far down a web page, if at all. A good guide is that the visual length of a page should go no more than one screen past ‘the fold’ - the place from where you would naturally have to start scrolling.
Attachments or links can be used instead of text if the page is too long.
A good page title not only tells customers what your web page is about, .ut has the power to boost Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) - see below.
- Include keywords in your page title
- Remember the first few words of your title are the most important
- Make sure your page title is clear and accurate
- Keep title short (Consultations – maximum nine words)
Example: If your keywords are “SEO Mistakes,” then “SEO Mistakes and How to Avoid Them” would be a more effective title than “How to Avoid Common SEO Mistakes”
- Duplicate titles – each page should be unique
- Confuse the customer with unhelpful titles
Links on web pages can successfully signpost visitors to more relevant information or resources. They are also important for search engine rankings. Good keywords in link phrases play a crucial role in Search Engine Optimisation.
If you are linking to an external website please link directly to the required page .This is known as ‘deep’ linking and saves the user from multiple clicks on the new site.
Good: For online payments, visit the Online Payments Service.
Bad: For online payments, select the following link to be directed to the Online Payments Service.
Avoid using “click here” as it’s not informative, not SEO-friendly and is outdated.
Linking to PDFs
Ideally, you should give a brief description of an attached PDF to help customers avoid downloading documents unnecessarily.
When creating a PDF for the web you should remember the general writing for the web principles and accessibility standards. The web customer may download and read the document on their screen, so it should be succinct, in easy to read sections and any images should be optimised for the web. It’s important to avoid very large file sizes as this may prevent or deter the user from downloading it.
Images should be used carefully to ensure they add value. They should not create clutter on a page as this slows visitors down and creates obstacles.
The standard size of embedded images on web pages should be 200 x 200. This is best achieved by editing the original image using a graphics application such as Paint before uploading.This changes both the size of the displayed image and the size of the file.
Be aware that some software packages only change the displayed size of the image not the file size. This can result in poor web performance for the users if the file size is too large.
Images to be used on the Hub slideshow need to be 1250 x 450.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a website by increasing the number of visitors the site receives from search engines.
SEO is also about making your site better for users. By using good key words for your pages they are more likely to be found by a search engine.This helps customers find what they are looking for.
It is important that customers are able to navigate around the website to find information and perform tasks with ease. We want their website visit to be a positive experience. How they travel through the website is known as the customer journey.
You should consider the customer journey at all times. Make sure that your web content helps the customer at every stage to find the information that they need or to carry out the transaction they want to make effectively. They should know how to progress through the site or through a task and how to return to an earlier page or stage if they need to.
You should make sure that the customer does not bypass crucial details by following links that take them deeper into the task before they have all the information they need - eg taking them directly to a form without reading the instructions on what they should use the form for or how they should complete it.
As indicated in the introduction, new Accessibility Regulations came in to force for pre-existing public sector websites in September 2020.They mean that all website content must be accessible from that date, including text and images on pages and also any attachments including word documents, PDFs and forms.
It is the responsibility of the Council Service to ensure that any documents that need to be added to the Council website are accessible.
Documents must be appropriately structured, using titles and headings within the programmes they are creating them in and not simply underlining or using bold for headings or new sections.
Any images in a document must have ‘alt text’ applied to describe them, so that a screen reader can understand the content for those that use screen reader technology.Tables must also always be formatted so that they meet accessibility standards and can be understood by screen reader technology.
The publication of PDFs should be a last resort for accessibility. The most accessible website content should be published within a web page and the information should be as simple and straightforward as possible.
If a document attached to a page is the only way that information can be published, then it must be created in an accessible format. Programmes such as Microsoft Word have accessibility checkers built in to the programme and these should be used to ensure the document is accessible. Only accessible Word documents should be converted to PDF and the accessibility criteria should be included within the PDF.
A Website Accessibility Guidance section has been created within the Employee Zone of the Council website. Please ensure that any content for the website has been made accessible before submitting it for publication.
If you need assistance or advice on creating new pages or sections of the website, before completing your Change Request form, please contact the web team by emailing email@example.com.
If you need assistance or additional advice on writing for the web, or for wider communications support, contact one of the Communications Advisers by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you need ICT assistance in relation to the website please email or phone the ICT Service Desk: Email: email@example.com Phone: 601 8888