Today’s Telegraph has a piece looking at the large sums being spent by many councils on new or revamped websites.
In itself, an expensive website is not necessarily a poor use of funds as good, popular sites often also save costs (e.g. by reducing the number of phonecalls the council has to handle). As a result, Medway Council – one of those picked out in the article – may have a good case for spending £250,000 in revamping its site given that the last major revamp was in 2003. In the last seven years the internet has changed significantly as have people’s expectations of how information is presented online. The current site gives the impression of having additions somewhat uncomfortably shoe-horned into an old system and set of templates.
On the other hand, Haringey Council’s website is certainly a fair target of criticism:
Haringey Council spent more than £500,000 on a redesign in 2003, which included annual recurring costs of up to £200,000 per year, not including staff salaries. Haringey has admitted it intends to cut the cost of some of these services, including a £36,925 per annum contract to provide webcasting and video hosting. [My emphasis]
The webcasting cost reinforces my view that webcasting, particularly when the footage doesn’t then end up on YouTube, is the biggest mistake councils made with online engagement. Let’s hope at least that some of these funds see the current paucity of RSS feeds on council websites reduced and maybe even a better blog or two.
The Telegraph should be congratulated, by the way, for providing the background data in a useful and detailed form. Nicely done.