This report analysed a small number of very high level statistics for local authority websites. The conclusions are necessarily broad.
It does demonstrate that there are interesting and useful insights to be gained from even these very small datasets.
Each authority has access to a wealth of much more detailed data and, as mentioned in the introduction,few of them publish these data.
Being able to easily access the full range of detailed usage data would increase by orders of magnitude the value of the insights that could be gained. I very much hope that local authorities will commit to publishing these data in the future.
For local government web managers
There is a ‘normal,’ or at least commonly experienced, set of data for a range of aspects of local government web use. This should be useful to local government web managers because comparing their own site to this normal state should lead to useful questions about its performance.
In particular it is clear that it is normal for around half of visits to be from mobile and tablet devices and this should strongly shape web and digital service design decisions. The fact that visits in more deprived local authority areas are less likely to be from mobile devices should also be factored into service design decisions.
The strong relationship between population and number of visits suggests that traffic levels to local government websites may be driven more by external, national factors than local factors. The fact that London boroughs do not have this relationship suggests that there is room for local authorities to buck the national trend.
Being able to exclude data from internal IP addresses may be helpful. More important is the fact that those users behave very differently from the bulk of users. Internal users represent around 8% of visits and so, arguably, should only have 8% of the influence on the design of the site.
Surprisingly few councils actively publish their website usage data. Accordingly gathering the data for this report was time consuming and placed a strain on already stretched local government resources. If all councils published their website usage data future reports could be created without resorting to FOIA requests and a great deal more detail could be included in the analysis. Google Analytics has a good API to allow the automatic publishing of reports and several councils are automatically publishing from the SiteImprove platform so there should not be any significant technical barriers.
For other web managers
Local authorities provide an interesting case study. They serve a very wide cross section of the community with services and information.
For many organisations, including CCGs, charities, and potentially even service businesses, comparing website performance with similar sized local authorities should raise some interesting questions.