The agreed definition of digital is clear, it’s not just about websites. It’s about capabilities, new ways of working and designing whole services. I agree with all of this. I have coached teams and pitched to executives with the same message, don’t fixate on the technology. So what do you do when things aren’t quite right with your website?
An accessible and well-designed website is table stakes for a service design and digital team. Like a lot of government organisations, Essex County Council doesn’t have one website. Depending on how you define them, we have about 60.
Where they’ve been designed carefully a resident might not spot the joins, but in places the inconsistency is stark. This can lead to uncertainty, frustration and people resorting to non-digital ways of accessing the service they need. It’s also unnecessarily hard to manage a variety of technologies and commercial contracts.
Our main website (essex.gov.uk) was launched in 2018 and was a significant improvement on what went before. It was built by an agile product development team, informed by user research and all of the published content was designed to meet a user need.
The content has remained clear and user focussed, but we’ve not been able to iterate the technology that powers the site. Over time this will become more of a problem, so we’ve decided to do something about it.
We will consolidate and redesign our websites, making them clearer and more accessible. Starting with essex.gov.uk we will move to the LocalGov Drupal platform. It will better meet the needs of our users, fit the skills of our in-house service design team and is supported by a healthy supplier market.
Content management systems are effectively homogeneous products. When this is the case, what matters most is strategic intent. The LocalGov Drupal platform, project and community are aligned with the commitments we have made as signatories to the Local Digital Declaration.
A procurement opportunity will be published soon, to help us find a partner to develop the platform for Essex. We will immediately begin contributing as one of the more than 20 councils supporting LocalGov Drupal.
Starting with essex.gov.uk, the SEND Local Offer and an open intranet we will then move on to migrating microsites. These all serve as foundational steps and solve a problem that everyone agrees needs to be fixed. From here we can continue our work in rethinking end-to-end services and delivering the huge ambition in Everyone’s Essex.
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