Council website is dull and overly complex, according to survey

Croydon’s efforts to go “online-only”, forcing residents to engage with council staff via its website rather than using a call centre, have taken a blow this week when a survey of local authorities’ digital offerings ranked Croydon 149th out of 191 local councils.

Fisher's Folly, aka Bernard Weatherill House: the money could have been spent on real priorities

The council offices, Fisher’s Folly: like the council website, a triumph of style over substance

The survey suggests that the content on Croydon’s council’s website is poorly written and overly complex. It has failed, therefore, in its objective of engaging residents and encouraging them to fill in forms and surveys online, all of which has the potential to save the local authority money.

Croydon Council’s online-only strategy has never been about delivering better services to Council Tax-payers. It has always been about saving money by making a few more council staff redundant.

But this survey, conducted by independent agency Visible Thread and based on government guidelines, shows that Croydon’s council website isn’t very good about getting its messages across.

In 2014, the government’s Digital Service issued guidelines which mandate Whitehall departments and local authorities to communicate online in a clear, concise and well-organised way. Visible Thread’s 2016 survey is their second, and includes a far wider sample of council websites for comparison. Croydon was included in the randomly selected sample – how they must wish that they were not.

“The findings are based on clarity of written content,” Visible Thread’s report says. “We measured up to 100 pages on each website, across the following four dimensions: Readability – How readable is the content?; Passive Language – Active Language communicates clearly. What proportion of sentences is passive?; Long Sentences – What proportion of all sentences are too long? Word Complexity Density – How many complex, hard-to-understand words does the content contain?”

Croydon’s overall ranking is only part of the picture. According to the survey, Croydon was 169th for “Readability” and 180th for its use of passive sentences.

The Visible Thread report can be read in full here

We look forward to the council’s website trumpeting this performance through a press release very soon. But we won’t be holding our breath.


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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2 Responses to Council website is dull and overly complex, according to survey

  1. farmersboy says:

    Never mind clarity or complexity I’d just like a bit more uptodatity. I’d offer examples but that would involve more website navigation than my phone battery will allow

  2. I am surprised it didn’t come in 191st spot.

    It is so difficult to navigate and find anything slightly more obscure. Multiple clicks to get anywhere. And to think it was redesigned not that long ago. Rather ironic considering that if you look at the council budget papers (assuming you can navigate your way there), they seem to be relying a lot on “digital enabling” to sack even more staff and make savings, although it would be interesting to be told if the target savings have actually been achieved. What is the betting they haven’t.

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