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UK local gov’t websites slammed

Poor usability and ‘overuse’ of online registration

Local UK authority websites are still falling down on usability, a survey published by the Society of IT Management (Socitm) has found.

Socitm's annual Better Connected survey found only one site - from the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham - that met the criteria for the top-level ‘excellent’ rating.

A report on the survey, warned that usability remained "a key problem despite overall improvement by many other measures", adding that online services that were reliant on third-party software were also "let down by poor usability". Website accessibility was "not improving".

The requirement for visitors to register in order to get access to online services was "overused" by local authorities and security of users' personal data was "at risk on many sites", the report warned.

Only 19 out of 168 requiring registration had a secure registration form and a clear explanation of the registration process - a failing the report highlighted as a "major concern".

But the council websites are increasingly heavily used, attracting a total 15.1 million visitors - around 25 percent of the UK population - in December 2006, a 27 percent rise on the same month in 2005.

The Better Connected survey examined all 468 local authority websites, and used a structured questionnaire to assess each site's content and currency, usability, the quality and availability of interactive applications, accessibility for disabled users and how "joined up" each site is with other public service websites.

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