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Agenda Item No. 8

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources): 10th February 2015

 

Report of the Head of Performance and Development

 

Website Development Update

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To provide an update on the development of the Council's website, digital access channels and Vale Connect service.

Recommendation

1.         That Committee note the progress made in developing digital services.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.         To ensure that the Council is meeting customer expectations regarding digital access to services

Background

2.         The external website plays a crucial role in achieving key objectives in the Council's Connecting With Our Customers strategy. This report gives an account of actions taken to date to develop the website, including the use of social media as a key contact channel and the deployment of the Vale Connect email subscription service, both designed to drive traffic to the website.

Relevant Issues and Options

3.         The website has been reconfigured to promote transactional opportunities for customers. Top tasks are prominently displayed on the homepage, together with opportunities to pay bills, access Council Tax, report issues, request services and register for Vale Connect.

4.         Between Quarter 1 2013/14 and Quarter 3 2014/15 average weekly visits to the website increased by 21% from 23,483 to 28,542. Over the same period average visits to the Welsh language site increased from 87 to 104. (Appendix 1).

5.         Understanding of how our customers access the website has grown with improved reporting. Between April and December 2014 website sessions totalled 1.14m, of which 57.34% were desktop sessions, 25.74% were from mobile phones and 16.92% were from tablets. (Appendix 2)

6.         Of the 488,377 sessions which were made from mobile phone or tablets, 65% were made from Apple devices and 19% from Samsung. No other manufacturer achieved greater than 2.5%. (Appendix 3)

7.         The experience of accessing the website using smart phones and tablets has been improved using responsive design. Content layout and menu presentation now changes depending on what device is being used to view the site.

8.         Customer Relations has commissioned a 12 month pilot for a mobile app to allow customers to report service issues. The IOS version of the application is available already (Contact1Vale). The Android version is expected to be available in the week commencing 2 February, with the Windows version following shortly afterwards. A promotional campaign is planned for February and March 2015 to encourage take up and use of the application.

9.         The Vale Connect email subscription service was launched in 2013 with the aim of proactively providing customers with information about services that specifically interest them. The service is used to promote the use of the website to access services and to minimise telephone calls to Contact OneVale, thereby delivering operational savings.

10.      The service was launched with circa 8,000 individual subscribers and this has grown 23,295 in December 2014. (Appendix 4)

11.      Customers can subscribe to receive updated from 32 individual topics and as of December 2014 these amounted to 44,714 or 1.91 topic subscriptions per customer. (Appendix 5)

12.      As of the date of this report the top 3 subscriber topics are Library News (10,754), vale of Glamorgan eNews (8,625) and Job Vacancies (3,969).

13.      As of 25 January 2015 20 bulletins where issued via Vale Connect with a total of 282 links to the website. These generated 6,015 unique clicks to the website.

14.      The Web Editor is working with service areas to increase the frequency of bulletins during 2015/16 and encourage further take up of the service.

15.      In April 2015 it is intended that Core Brief will be issued via Vale Connect, allowing staff with no access to a computer in work to receive the information via private email account. The additional functionality available via Vale Connect will allow for a more creative presentation of corporate information which will be more engaging for staff.

16.      Social Media has grown to become an important contact channel during 2014/15. As of the date of this report the main corporate Twitter account, @VOGCouncil has over 9,000 followers and the Facebook account Vale Life has 5,580.

17.      These channels are becoming increasingly important in answering customer enquiries and in proactively informing customers of events and incidents.

18.      Klout is a method of measuring social media influence based on the number of people messages reach and how many social media interactions are undertaken. This is expressed as a number between 1 and 100. The Vale of Glamorgan has the second highest score (62) of any Welsh Local Authority, outscored only by Torfaen Council on 65. 

19.      The website is also a key element of providing a Welsh language service to Vale residents. While the most popular content of the website is available in both Welsh and English, much content and transactions are only available in English.

20.      The organisation currently employs one part time Welsh translator for the website content. The focus for this resource has been on translating the 100 most popular web pages and new corporate content.

21.      It is already the Council's intention to significantly reduce the number of web pages (currently over 10,000, not including Cabinet reports and minutes etc.).  This will also reduce the amount of Welsh language content, and the Web Editor has started to review content with service managers to consolidate content and remove duplication, unpopular pages and broken links. For Visible Services this has reduced circa 25% of web pages for this service. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

22.      Budgets are being identified to create promotional and marketing activities to increase take up of digital services.

23.      Additional translation resources may be required to ensure that the Welsh language website matches the English language version.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

24.      The increasing use of electronic media aids in reducing the carbon footprint of the Council and its customers.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

25.      We are waiting for the Welsh Government to understand the Council's statutory responsibilities under the Welsh Language Measure to be implemented later in 2015.

Crime and Disorder Implications

26.      None.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

27.      Digital Inclusion activities are being undertaken with partner organisations to ensure that citizens are not excluded from taking up digital services. All other channels of service access are being maintained.

Corporate/Service Objectives

28.      The Corporate Plan 2013-17 has as an objective (CL 3), "Develop and promote the website and social media to enable the public to contact and access Council services as much as possible online".

Policy Framework and Budget

29.      This report is for Members' information.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

30.      Not applicable.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

31.      Corporate Resources

Background Papers

None

 

Contact Officer

Tony Curliss, Operational Manager, Customer Relations

 

Officers Consulted

None

 

Responsible Officer:

Huw Isaac, Head of Performance and Development

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