David Bevan, our Digital Improvement Officer, updates us on some of the features available on the new Northamptonshire County Council website.
This story begins in June 2008. I had been out of university for three years and still hadn’t found a career path that interested me when I got a job working on the council website. I was excited to get the job and I loved it. I still do. After my previous desk-based role, I enjoyed getting out and meeting services - travelling to places all over the county as varied as Wootton Hall Park, Burton Latimer Library and Brixworth Country Park.
That variety presented a great challenge – to find out about the needs of different services and to try to make the website work for each of them.
There was only one slight drawback. It soon became frustrating when we couldn’t achieve exactly what a service wanted. As many of you will know, the old website has a standard template and you have to work within those constraints. Even if we could meet a service’s requirement, it would have to be built on a separate, stand-alone website that none of the other services could re-use.
Eight years on, the council looks very different and it will look different again this time next year. For one thing, we’ll be working in a new state-of-the-art building. This is a time of great change for NCC and the good news is that we have a website to match the ever-changing needs of the organisation. Our cutting-edge digital platform is helping to make NCC’s transformation easier.
So when services come to us now, the scope of what we can do on the new website is massive. Those meetings are a lot easier these days. One of our aims was to take design off the table to a certain extent – we know it will look great, so let’s concentrate on the content and getting the customer experience spot on.
Today, if a service wants to do something that would require development work and they have a bit of money to spend, we can get it built in such a way that everyone can benefit – such as the blog developed for Health and Wellbeing that is also now being used by the Superfast Northamptonshire project and the Local Offer team for parents of children with special educational needs.
This is a great example of maximising the council’s resources and making the most of what we have, even when different areas are being re-branded and re-organised.
We’re currently working on a few different websites. They have specific needs, such as a timeline to show the historical development of a particular site, but any service can see this as a more engaging way of displaying content.
When it’s finished, the new timeline feature could be used to show any sort of timescales – in the future as well as the past. This is an opportunity for everyone to be creative and to make the most of the new developments available. We are basing the design for the timeline on the Stonehenge website:
Another development we’re currently working on is a social media widget which will pull feeds from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube into content pages. So many of our services, such as libraries, country parks and the Local Offer, are doing great things on social media and this will help to showcase that work and make their websites more dynamic and engaging.
We have used the Northumberland National Park website’s social media integration as a starting point for this:
We’re also working on a new map feature, to which you will be able to add your own layers of information. This will bring to life any location-specific content on your pages.
Our starting point for this feature is the award-winning Flood Toolkit website:
The variety of features we are developing demonstrates the flexibility of the new website, as you can see on our two latest websites: school admissions and Cycle Northants.
The school admissions website is clean, clear and easy to navigate. Parents have a specific task in mind and the site is designed to make that task as easy as possible to complete.
Cycle Northants is more visual and promotional. It’s selling a dream and trying to get people out on their bikes more often.
We’ll let you know when the new developments are ready for use on the site. Have a think about ways you could use a timeline, social media feature or interactive map. If you have any questions, comments or even ideas about new features that you’d like to explore, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are currently working on a few different sites, such as Business and Enterprise, Early Years, Information for Schools and the Library Service, to move them over to the new web platform.
If your area hasn’t been moved over yet, we’ll be in touch in the future to let you know when this is likely to take place.