Just one in 468 council web sites rated 'excellent'

Of the 468 local authority websites across the UK, just Barking and Dagenham has achieved an excellent rating in a survey by the Society of IT Management (Socitm).

The study graded every local authority website on their content, accessibility and level of usage. Aside from Socitm reviewers, the survey also asked disabled groups, including RNIB, for their opinions.

Three other local authorities - Salford City, Surrey County Council and West Lancashire District Council - missed the top rating because of just one area, accessibility. Another 17 sites were designated excellent for content but found to be difficult to use.

"It is critical to make the customer journey as smooth as possible at every step," wrote report author Martin Greenwood. "This can only be achieved if one has a mechanism for seeing that journey from a customer perspective. There is no substitute for some form of user testing."

Aside from accessibility issues, Socitm said such sites remained poorly designed, with cluttered home pages, and require too much personal data during registration. But the report praised the use of search engines and mapping tools.

In the past year, there has been a 17 per cent increase in visitors to local authority sites, but satisfaction has dropped ten per cent, the survey found.

"Having a very good website is no guarantee that it will be used as much as it might. Some sites achieve this much better than others," said Greenwood. "We have been able to identify those which are doing well compared with others, which are not. Much more, however, remains to be done by everybody."