Delivering Digital Services:
To meet the objectives of the Government Digital Service (GDS) and ensure that members of the community can access services as easily as possible, the Horsham District Council Systems Development Team and Web Team constantly monitor how the authority’s main website and microsites look and perform in the hands of site visitors.
As the Systems Development Manager, Tony Hill manages sixteen people working across both teams. He is also a member of the WebSussex user group in West Sussex: a group comprised of web teams from the County Council and all District Councils in the county, that deals with compliance with the Digital Design Standard, set out by GDS, which calls on all government departments to become digital by default.
Local Government Digital Services Standard
Tony Hill and his team also have to ensure that the Horsham District Council (HDC) websites meet the Local Government Digital Services Standard (LGDSS), which offers guidance for local authorities on using public funds efficiently to deliver good quality, user-centred services:
“There is a current drive to increase the number of interactive services on the website so that there is more self-service via the website rather than people having to telephone in to carry out a particular service,” reports Hill, “The HDC website provides information to local citizens about the services that the Authority provides. Current interactive services available on the website include online payments, a forum to comment on planning applications, a personalised refuse collection calendar, and we have eForms for the majority of services.”
Continually monitoring performance:
The web development team has to constantly monitor Horsham District Council’s website performance to ensure that it meets the needs of local citizens and visitors to the district. It has included a feedback facility on the site to allow users to report any issues.
The WebSussex user group is constantly looking out for the best ways to ensure government digital services.
“One of my colleagues at Arun Council, got in touch to let me know about a new website performance and user journey monitoring service called RapidSpike,” recalls Tony Hill. “I contacted the company and we trialled the software. I was impressed with the interface, the service is well-priced, and the company is UK-based, so we began using RapidSpike.”
Early warning system
Horsham District Council is using RapidSpike to provide baseline setting and measurement for its website, so that the IT team can see what normal performance looks like and be alerted if a site goes down.
Once the normal site performance levels had been established, Tony Hill was able to use RapidSpike to set uptime alerts, so that his team receives a text or email as soon as anything falls below normal. The RapidSpike alerts provide a useful way of monitoring the council’s websites around the clock and forewarning the IT team of any issues: allowing them to take action if anything changes.
“RapidSpike’s basic uptime monitoring services are free,” reports Tony Hill. “The professional monitoring service also provides alerts on domain name and SSL certificate expiry dates, which is extremely useful.”
Complying with Local Government Digital Services Standard
In addition to reassuring his team that the council’s websites are performing as expected, Tony Hill values the fact that RapidSpike’s service is also helping Horsham District to meet parts of the Local Government Digital Services Standard (LGDSS), which sets out the best practices to make online services accessible.
“LGDSS takes a standards-based approach to guide local government departments in best practice. I believe that RapidSpike is helping us to meet points 4 and 13 of the Standard” states Hill. “Point 4 of the LGDSS states that we must ‘Build a service that can be iterated and improved in response to user need’ while Point 13 requires that local councils ‘Identify performance indicators for the service, incorporating existing indicators and publishing to a performance platform, if appropriate.’”
Managing cost effective public services
In addition to meeting parts of the LGDSS, Tony Hill also cites the cost benefits of ensuring the availability of online services:
“If a certain webpage goes down, this increases the number of calls that the council has to handle, which increases costs. RapidSpike helps us to monitor and demonstrate the performance of the website, which enables more council services,” Hill explains.
While the Web team at Horsham District Council could see where people were clicking within pages, Tony Hill reports that his team is missing information on site flow – “We want to be able to see end-to-end, how visitors find their way around the site in order to follow a particular process, such as registering for a residential parking permit,” he explains.
Tony Hill reports that the User Journey Monitoring provided by RapidSpike is of interest to the council, particularly as LGDSS Point 8 requires that local governments should, ‘Be able to test the end-to-end service in an environment similar to that of the live version, including all common browsers and devices.’
“The trialled RapidSpike ‘User Journey Monitoring’ is something new that other web monitoring tools do not provide. It gives a clear journey path for a particular service on the website and flags up any issues along that journey,” comments Tony Hill.
“The Overview Report that the system supplies is very simple and clear to understand. I would recommend RapidSpike’s services to other councils,” he concludes.