Manchester City Council

New look website puts residents first

Manchester City Council's new look website launched today has been completely redesigned to be simpler and quicker for residents to use.

The site, which is already used by around half a million visitors a month, has been transformed based on research into what people want to do when they visit, ensuring they can find what they are looking for with just a few clicks.

It has also been built using the latest responsive technology which recognises what type of device visitors are using and adapts the site's appearance accordingly. The site is designed to be navigated just as easily on a smart phone or tablet – devices which 30 per cent of website visitors now use – as on a desktop computer or big screen smart TV.

While residents visiting the old site had to search through columns of subjects to find what they wanted, the bold redesign sees these replaced by clear icons guiding people to the pages they need.

The design of the previous site, which was four years old, had become outdated and difficult to navigate on mobile phones. 

Research has shown that 80 per cent of people visit the site to carry out specific tasks – for example to pay a bill, report something or find a piece of information – and the new site has been designed with this specifically in mind.

Visitors to the new site will be greeted by icons covering the most searched for subjects and tasks.

Once users click on these, they will find clear and easy-to-read text as well as buttons taking them straight to pages enabling them to perform tasks such as setting up council tax direct debits or arranging the collection of a bulky waste item such as furniture or an old fridge.

Information about other services, for example schools, taxi licensing and reporting environmental problems, can be found by clicking on the relevant icon from another easy access screen.

The new website has been tested by groups of people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds. In trials carried out, working with Manchester-based research company Keep It Usable, they were asked to perform various tasks using a range of devices. 

They were able to carry these out within minutes, with many praising the site's ease of use.

The site was also tested by organisations representing blind or partially-sighted people and their feedback used to make sure it meets high accessibility standards. 

Councillor Nigel Murphy, Executive Member for Environment for Manchester City Council, said: "We've looked carefully at what residents actually use our website for and redesigned it with their needs in mind. It's also been tested by real people who tell us that they find it refreshingly easy to use.

"The way people use the internet has changed dramatically, and as half of all visits to our website will be made using tablets and smart phones within a couple of years, we've made sure it can be used easily on these devices as well as more traditional computers. We price ourselves on being a modern, digital city and it's important for the council to have a website in keeping with that. 

"Encouraging as many people as possible to access services online, whenever and wherever they want to, not only helps residents but also enables us to deliver those services more cost effectively. Having a well-designed website is therefore hugely beneficial.” 

 Lee Pilmore, Head of Creative for content management system Jadu, said: "This website demonstrates the benefits of true collaboration. Design and web teams at Manchester City Council looked after creative decisions and content, while Jadu took care of the website structure design. All decisions were based on sound research and feedback from local residents. By making it easy for everyone across Manchester to get the information they need no matter what device they are on, we have created a bright new standard for local government website design.”

Lisa Duddington, head of research for Keep It Usable, said: "The user testing was a great success. Everyone was very positive about the new direction and it was evident that a well designed council site improves people's perception of the council and changes their behaviour. The site was so easy and quick to use that people who traditionally always called the council said they would now use the website."

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