2013 in a nutshell

As it is the end of the year, I thought it would be a good opportunity to highlight what we have done on the website this year and some of the projects we are kicking off in 2014…

Web Redesign

We started the year with our engagement and persona development on the web- working with CMC2, Russell Britton and Joel Hughes to ensure the web development is around what our users want.

On the Valentine’s Day this year we were fortunate enough to have Claire Lewis join the web team for two days a week and, in all honesty, I don’t know what we ever did without her! Claire focuses on the detail of every web page, has worked on improving our search engine optimisation and compliments the team’s skills.

We spent weeks in February and March wire framing (web layouts), accessibility testing and rewriting hundreds of web pages to start the design process. In May 2013, we presented the designs and started the build and implementation of the website for it to go live in August. If I can take you back to JADU, we had over 22,000 web pages with each user clicking on an average of 14 pages before getting the information they wanted. We now have 560 English pages (and an additional 274 in Welsh) with the average user hitting only 2 pages- a much better user experience!

Comments on the new website include the following message from Abby Rudland from Gov UK:-

“Monmouthshire’s new website is a great example of how a genuine wish to serve communities better, innovation, commitment and a need to save money can come together to create something great. The colours, fonts and layout is fully accessible to the visually impaired and customer feedback and interaction are integral to its design and ethos.

This is all great. But when you consider it was created by a team of two people on a budget of less than £12,000, it starts to look pretty remarkable. And the fact that there are no annual hosting or maintenance costs is just the cheery on a very nice – albeit green – cake”.

But the work we have done this year is still very much the start- we want to continue to iterate and improve the website using resident feedback- we can never be perfect as technology and user expectations change too quickly but we can get better every day.


From January to June this year I worked for two days a week with CMC2 to ensure we were engaging with community groups and keeping digital inclusion at the forefront of everything we do. I was lucky to work with many community and town councils on their web developments, three historic societies across Monmouthshire and Wikimedia UK on the development of projects such as MonmouthpediA. This is all a core part of the work that needs to be done on channel shift and the digital by default agenda. Key dates with this work are as follows:

  • we attended the LGC awards in London on 13th March
  • we visited Wikimedia in London on 9th April
  • we rolled out a huge engagement event with town and community councils to talk about web developments on 25th April
  • I worked with Durand Primary School on 1st May to help children with learning difficulties make Health and Safety videos
  • Steve Beard and I trained and facilitated the Community Befriending Project to use Yammer to communicate and engage effectively whilst delivering this volunteer service across rural areas
  • I developed the digital toolkit for use by community groups

Web Accessibility

Our digital accessibility on the website has improved tremendously this year. This includes broadband access and navigation to use of the site by sensory impaired users that rely upon assistive technologies. On 24th May, Tim MacDermott and I visited the Digital Accessibility Centre in Neath to see the site being tested by these users in person- we saw someone who used speech recognition as they are unable to use a mouse or keyboard through to a user who has been blind from birth- it is a passion of mine to ensure the site continues to be accessible to all users and I am putting together a video over the festive period of these users on the Monmouthshire County Council website.

New web team

From October to December I have been working with some officers across the county on web training to ensure we have additional resource and contingency on the website. I have put a list of the officers below and what they are specifically working on at the moment:

  • Gavin Breen has reduced the content on the MonYouth website from 140 pages to 20 and hoping to move the site into the corporate website soon
  • Damien Weeks and Richard Cook are working on making bus timetables more accessible and easier for users
  • Kim Lloyd has taken on the systems thinking for planning on the website- streamlining content and using Flesch Reading Scores to make sure the content can easily be understood
  • Hilary Webb and Catherine Arnold are turning off the MonLeisure website and moving content into the corporate website
  • Richard Jones has been working on the website KPI’s to ensure we are measuring and improving in the right ways
  • Linda O’Gorman is improving licensing applications
  • Jessica Williams is looking at the commenting function and how this links with complaints on the web
  • Dewi Jones is improving the content page by page and moving news items into engaging stories
  • Claire Lewis is cutting costs by turning off the libraries content and working on the web as a whole

Other highlights

  • June- new server infrastructure to ensure the site doesn’t go down again
  • June- Working with Warwickshire and Devon councils to ensure security and stability in WordPress
  • Awesome Gov is a new web based platform for democratic services
  • The snow protocols have been revised and improved with options for residents to subscribe to service notifications

Personal Highlights

We have been recognised a very quickly getting up to speed and raising the bar for digital in Wales this year so I thought I would include some of my personal highlights of the year which, I think, has helped to no end

  • In June I completed my 2nd undergraduate in Web Design
  • In September myself, Helen and Jess did a digital publishing and app development course
  • In September, I was elected as Chair of Web Group Wales
  • Over the summer I became part of Google Academy and became accredited in Accessibility, Analytics and AdWords
  • In December, Welsh Government identified us as a lead authority in digital and asked us to be instrumental in the digital strategy
  • Also in December (just last week), I confirmed a strategic insight partnership with the University of South Wales

Plans for 2014

So, still hoping 2014 will be faster and better than 2013, here are some of the top items on the to-do list:

  • Improve and develop the internal search on the website
  • Develop new eforms with residents and internal systems in mind
  • Tackle our mapping system to provide a personalised web experience
  • Starting a Strategic Insight Partnership with the University of South Wales to look at digital strategy and ensuring cost reductions through measuring both online and offline more effectively
  • Events development- so communities and residents can post their own events on our website
  • Job adverts on the web for income generation
  • Live streaming in the cabinet chamber
  • Reduce our current website presence as we currently have over 30 websites throughout the authority with little traffic, accessibility issues and mobile compatibility issues (plus they are costing us money)

I hope you made it to the end and I didn’t put you to sleep.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Please take a moment to vote… | Joanna Goodwin

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