Over 780,000 people live and work in West Sussex and many people travel to work outside the county, while other people commute in, particularly to the Gatwick area. The economy of West Sussex is predominantly small business based, with around 73% of businesses employing up to 4 people and 86% up to 10 people. Gatwick Airport is a significant international gateway which helps boost the economy in the north of the county. The county also has a relatively high proportion of older and less economically active people mainly concentrated in the rural and coastal districts of Adur, Arun, Chichester and Worthing.
West Sussex County Council provides a clear commitment to ensure services deliver the most appropriate combination of quality, value and choice to all residents. The Council’s mission and vision is encapsulated in the phrase: “With you, for you, Making the most of West Sussex” The vision and purpose behind the phrase is to put the customer at the heart of Council services and ensure that relevant services are driven and designed by customers, enabling them to experience a better quality of life in West Sussex
The majority of the Council’s websites were managed using the APLAWS+ Open Source web content management system. This included the Councils main website of over 7000 pages, West Sussex Grid for Learning (5,000 pages) and the Council Intranet (6,500 pages) as well as a number of smaller, public facing websites.
An evaluation of the websites commissioned by WSCC identified a number of areas for improvement, particularly around the provision of online services:
- The coverage of council service information, while generally good, was let down by poor navigation;
- Design and styling of the websites was dated;
- Inconsistency across multiple sites was a major issue, in terms of interface, function, structure and presentation;
- Transactional services were not effectively promoted to visitors;
- The customer experience when using transactional services was generally poor,
- There was an opportunity to make improvements in terms of accessibility for disabled users across most websites.
Meanwhile a consultation in February 2009 with over 2,000 residents and visitors to West Sussex about their experience of, and attitudes to, using the Internet confirmed that, while satisfaction with the website was reasonable, there were a number of irritations that detracted from their overall experience and limited their ability to find and utilise information. In terms of accessing local services online, demand was found to be high and outstripping the ability of the website to provide the services that visitors expected to find.
Early in 2010 WSCC appointed Unified Solutions to help them redesign and migrate their main public facing website, the Intranet and 5 other smaller website from Aplaws to the Alterian Content Manager Corporate Edition. The overall objective of the project was to eliminate the use of Aplaws within the council; address many of the immediate problems that had been identified with their websites and provide a sound base for future development of web based services.
The council’s new website went live on 7 September 2010, followed by the Intranet on the 3 March 2011 and a number of micro-sites, which were incorporated into the main Council site. "Your Space" went live in early Summer 2011. The final site - "Grid for Learning" was completed on time, shortly before schools returned from the summer break. The last site in particular is testament to the hard work that both the Council and Unified team put in and the ability to work closely together to achieve an excellent result.
The feedback received on the new website has been overwhelmingly positive. An independent review of the new website, post launch, records the following findings.
"The new county council website is a significant improvement over its predecessor. It provides visitors with easy access to information that is well organised, well written and consistently presented."