Councils in London and the North East of England have the best website performance, according to an annual survey by Socitm.
The local authority IT managers' association said over two thirds of London councils had three and four star performing websites. Forty two percent of councils in the North East had top performing sites.
Star ratings are awarded according to twelve criteria for usefulness and usability, including responsiveness and web accessibility.
Overall, council websites have made a “modest” improvement since last year, Socitm said, noting that this follows stagnation reported in last year’s survey.
Progress is not expected to be easy as the coalition government continues to slash local authority budgets. The worst hit councils face cuts of up to 8.9 percent of their budget this year alone, communities secretary Eric Pickles has said.
Several areas underperformed on their sites, Socitm said. In Northern Ireland, no councils achieved three or four star status, and under a third of Scottish councils achieved the marker.
Many councils remain unaware that digital delivery is faster and more convenient for the public as well as cheaper for the taxpayer, Socitm said in its Better Connected survey. Nearly seven in 10 councils did not achieve more than two stars.
The “modest” overall improvement that nevertheless occurred was "despite significant increases in numbers using the internet and the opportunity for councils to reduce their costs significantly by shifting more enquiries to the web", said Socitm.
Socitm advised councils could focus on three areas in order to continue to improve their web performance:
-Think customer: managing the website should be seen as a broader part of managing customer access. The web team should be seen as part of customer service and its primary goal.
-Focus on top tasks: for website performance to improve, visit failures must be reduced by identifying and managing top tasks on the principle that the more the site is used for any task, the more important it is to make that task quick and easy to use.
-Go mobile: local authorities are not immune from the trend to smart phones and their websites must be able to respond to the demand for web access on the move. A "top tasks" approach to content presentation plays to this agenda as mobile devices are ideally suited to responding to a person wanting to complete a simple task.
The research is based on an analysis of the 433 local authority websites in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and 49 other public sector sites, including fire and police services.
The Top 20 Better Connected websites were: Brighton & Hove, Bristol, Carlisle, East Sussex, Eden, Edinburgh, Hammersmith & Fulham, Lancaster, Lewisham, Northamptonshire, Preston, Richmond, Rochford, Salford, Surrey Heath, Tandridge, Wakefield, Warwick, Windsor & Maidenhead, and Wrexham.