Lessons learnt from local council website redesign by Kevin Brewer from Derby City Council

Last year, I started a group exclusively for local govvies on Huddle called LocalGovWebStars with some help from a good local gov buddy of mine, Ken Eastwood (Assistant Director at Barnsley MBC and founder of publicsectornomads.com) to talk about website redesign projects in local gov. The group resulted in some very interesting discussions and tips.

Kevin Brewer from Derby City Council has kindly allowed me to share the lessons they’ve learnt so far (as of June 2010 – when the post was written) on their website redesign project. So I thought it would be an interesting article to share with everyone who might be going through their own council website redesign. Hope you’ll find it useful.

By Kevin Brewer (Web Development Officer at Derby City Council)

Lessons learnt so far (more to come I’m sure):

  • Start your content audit way way before anything else; it’ll take longer than you’d ever believe it would.
  • Get buy in from as high as you can and from as many places as you can. Try to get a ‘champion’ on board; either a Member, Director of Comms or Customer Services, or better still Chief Exec, to give some weight to the project. You’ll need it.
  • Delegate the content audit to people in the know. We’ve locked down the CMS so authors can no longer use it (except for critical content changes) and dissected the content and placed into spreadsheets. We’ve then allocated what we call Content Co-ordinators for each navigation area (these are a selection of good CMS Editors) and got them to go out to subject matter experts to check and amend content for accuracy. This also helps us to pinpoint content owners in the future. We’ve given everyone deadlines of around 2 weeks per channel and if they’re not met their content won’t get migrated. In effect, the Content Co-ordinators are simply doing your legwork for you, in gathering the information from the services. But this is a key role and we couldn’t have done it without them. We’ve also worked out a system for retiring poorly visited pages. I could spend hours talking about just the audit, but if you need any more info let me know…
  • Which brings me to my next point – don’t be afraid to get rid of the crap. We have 2400 pages of content and are aiming for a a cull of at least 30% of the unloved, jargonised, meaningless and irrelevant.
  • Realise that devolved authoring can never never never work. Use the web refresh/new CMS to force a sea change to get full time web editors in place. You will need them for rewriting the content before migration and for moving forward. If you can’t achieve this you may as well stop now.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Keep some things out of scope and look to phase them in later (some examples might be intranet, extranets, integration with third party apps, social networking, partnership working).
  • Communicate with everyone. Manage expectations.
  • And finally, repeat this mantra to everyone: “Who is this website for?”. The answer should be “for the public”. Use this at every turn to get your arguments across.

Hope this helps. Kev.

Also don’t forget to check out other useful stuff like:-

Hope this was useful!


Liz Azyan

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