Bracknell Forest Digital Services

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Document growth and cutting back

We use a lot of PDFs on our site (2177 at last count). This isn’t always a good thing, as PDFs can be inaccessible, require downloading, don’t look great on a mobile device, and are much harder to keep updated (ever opened a document and found it was out of date or had broken links? How annoyed were you?) Checking today, we have some 300 documents that contain broken links. The worst of these has a whopping 43 broken links and was last updated in December 2012. Not good.

We want this situation to change. Whilst looking at the current site in workshops with service teams, we’ve been taking a look at the documents they have on the site in order to sort these issues out.

Some of these we have already been told can be removed, or placed less prominently. This is interesting as in the three years since our last re-development, the number of documents crept up. We did manage to get the number back down last year, owing to the hard work of web editors questioning the necessity of documents, but there still remains a substantial number of documents on our site.

Some of the growth in documents is related to times of year, such as at election time, much of the information we were required to publish was only available in a PDF format. A big reduction in documents came about when a lot of planning documents were moved off of the site.

We still have a long way to go to get the number of PDFs on our site down to a minimum, and they won’t ever disappear completely, but there are ways to ensure that those we must provide, don’t impact on the customer journey.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the figures:

Document growth infographic

In a year, 1276 out of 2177 documents were viewed less than ten times. This suggests that a lot of these documents are unnecessary, or hard to find.

We can do something about this though, by removing those that we can, and by making sure that the relevant information in them is easily available on a page. This is also the case for those documents with large numbers of views – the information is obviously key (and the statistics show that it’s often timetables and prices with the most views) so lets take it and make it readily accessible to everyone.

Currently, before uploading a document, we ask our web editors to look at whether a document adds any value, and whether this information could be on the web page instead. We give examples of where PDFs should be used, for example for official council documents or for information that is too complicated to translate into a web page.

Providing guidelines has not proved enough in itself to limit the number of documents added online. This will change with the new website but we will need web editors and service teams to get behind the drive to add less documents, and ensure that those that are added, are up-to-scratch. Meeting with service teams, and discussing the statistics behind the documents they already have, should help with this.

How do you minimise the usage of documents on your website? Let us know in the comments!


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3 years and counting

Over the past few months we have done a lot of stock taking on our existing website. This has helped us inform the way we want to move forward with the re-development.

It’s also a good way of benchmarking for the future. Our current site is over three years old. In this time, we have gathered a large quantity of statistics about usage of the site. We can see what people come to our site for, as well as what type of information we present to them when they do – from content pages to PDF documents.

By looking at where we are now, we hope to get a good idea of how our re-developed site has improved the customer experience.

We’ve put together an infographic to highlight the most interesting (to us, at least) key statistics from the last three years. If infographs are not your thing, the statistics are also available below with a little explanation of the figures.

Key statistics from the public website since April 2012

Content growth

The figures around content show that the site has grown, despite attempts to keep page numbers down. This has sometimes led to unnecessarily long pages, something we are going to be looking at during the re-development.

Year Number of pages
2012 996
2013 1208
2014 1191
2015 1244

Likewise, the number of PDF documents on our site has also grown, getting up to nearly 3000 at some points. We have managed to bring this back down through careful assessment of the need for a document, but we still have a long way to go.

Year Number of documents
2012 1874
2013 2840
2014 1197
2015 2170

Overall key figures

Page views 17,752,383
Visitors 2,841,258
Visits 5,898,175

Yearly key figures

These figures show us that in terms of visits and visitors, we have had a steady increase in both, reflecting the general trend towards online services. Similarly, the number of page views has also grown over the years.

2012-13  2013-14  2014-15
Visits  1,581,131  2,172,729  2,354,903
Visitors 793,654  1,097,603  1,227,738
Page views  5,097,905  6,144,779  7,028,221

For a more detailed breakdown of our statistics, we update our website statistics page monthly.

We’ll also be back over the coming weeks to take a closer look at what these figures have shown us.