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Telegraph: Councils Spending Millions on Website Redesign vs. Citizen Access?
August 18, 2010 at 2:37 pm #108499
I was just reading this article in the Telegraph about local councils spending a bunch of money on website redesigns in light of projected employee reductions and lack of citizen access to the web. The article was last Friday, so maybe it's old news...but I'm just catching up here! What are your thoughts on this issue?Some excerpts:
=> "The City of Westminster spent £728,585 on external contractors last year, or £3 for every resident served by the Council. The last redesign cost an additional £128,968. The fees for the revamps, which come on top of salaries and other external costs, were criticised by campaigners who say the money would be better used ensuring residents have workable access to the internet.=> The spending is controversial because many people, particularly in rural areas, struggle to get online. Research suggests up to one third of the country does not receive a basic level of broadband. "It would be sensible for the councils to plough the money into helping to improve the broadband infrastructure first before designing their fancy websites," said Henry Robinson, vice president of The Country Land & Business Association (CLA).=> Some councils are pushing ahead with redesigns of their web sites even as they lay off staff. Medway Council, which has a £6 million budget shortfall threatening up to 50 jobs, has assigned £250,000 for a redesign of its website which was last updated in 2003.
August 18, 2010 at 2:41 pm #108517
Paola Di MaioParticipant
Thanks a lot for raising the issue, very important point. The interesting questions for me are:
- who is in charge of spending decisions, and do they have enough knowledge and competences?
are these decision making processes 'sound' or are they warped in some way?
In my experience, the poor decisions can be tracked to lack of competences in the field of decision makers, but also down to systemic failure to catch poor decisions and address them before its too late.
August 18, 2010 at 3:02 pm #108515
Too simplistic a survey. Circumstances will vary from council to council.
Spending £250k on a new CMS/redesign, for example, may facilitate greater functionality of the website so that residents can access a greater array of services online. Moving transactions online is likely to lead to savings, which could be in excess of £250k over the life of the new website.
In our case, our CMS is out of date and soon to be out of support. We have little choice except to find a replacement. Things have changed dramatically since our site was last relaunched in 2005 with templates designed in 2003.
I hope we can get away with spending considerably less than £250k!
That said, I'd be interested to know how that figure was calculated. I remember speaking to a colleague in another council who estimated their redesign would cost £300k or more. But, that figure actually included developer resource which would otherwise have been engaged in ongoing work rather than redesign.
August 18, 2010 at 3:30 pm #108511
Do any of you have examples of council websites that were built inexpensively AND offer an excellent visitor experience? Maybe if other councils had models of ways to revamp far more cheaply (without sacrificing quality), they could cut costs...vs. cutting people.
August 18, 2010 at 4:29 pm #108507
August 18, 2010 at 5:32 pm #108505
I responded to Steven Clift's post about this on e-democracy.org on the 16 August as follows. However, I'm drafting a longer, more detailed response on my blog (in due course) -
As one of those on the end of said FoI request this does nothing but display the lack of value of FoI requests!
The questions are vague, the answers resulting are thus variable.
How does one truly measure the cost of a web site? The cost of the CMS licence, the webbies salaries, what if support is externalised or resposibility for content spread throughout the authority. It's comparing apples and oranges and ending up with bananas!
It is even more complicated if one wants council web sites to be consistent nationally to plug into central government. Each one must comply with the LGSL, LGNL etc and that means 700+ services, so no out-of-the-box solutions.
I've been responsible with council web sites for over ten years now. It's not like putting up the sh**e commercail companies can get away with...
OK, there's the odd silly mistake, but out of how many hundreds of web sites in the UK?
August 19, 2010 at 7:25 am #108503
Mick - absolutely.
It also brings to mind Peter Barton's excellent post "Let's turn off the web"
Following up on the CMS licence cost, we're seriously considering open source for our replacement CMS. However, that does not mean it won't cost anything. There's will be design and database/content migration costs too. A "paid for" CMS might (or might not) include these as part of the package - part of one expenditure line.
This kind of FOI is "all about the cost and nothing about the value", which is my phrase for the week.
Look forward to your full post.
August 22, 2010 at 6:17 pm #108501
Hi Pete and all,
I've just posted a more detailed response to this on my blog at:
I could have gone on for pages, but with Freedom of Information, comparative costing for every incomparable service and lot of other issues that have poltical sensitivities, what's the point?
A frequent question on here is why are we here? We are here to serve a public via our political masters - it's a two-headed thing that's not easily satisfied. What pi**es me of is poor journalism and unrigorous academics, that can't appreciate that and give it three heads. There's no way of appeasing Cerberus!
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