If accessing public services is the 4th main reason for going on-line then why do council search facilities vary and what happens when they fail the citizen when they try accessing public service websites for information? This is my very personal account when I was on one council website recently, this week, when the frustrations got the better of me, so I just couldn’t help but blog about it!..
Finding Public Service Information via Websites
I just couldn’t find anything, in fact I kept getting presented with a blue smurf error, which at first is funny but just got more and more annoying, especially when it reads; “Check if your spelling is correct” – yes my spelling is correct (it’s not often as I’m dyslexic, but in this instance it most certainly is). Then the helpful bit of advice suggested that I “Remove quotes around phrases to match each word individually”: “Blue Smurf will match less than blue smurf”. (well bully for the blue smurfs), no quotes were used and when using the exact words on their own, it just retrieved a lot of irrelevant information.
Consider loosening your query – unhelpful comments from web pages
Next it suggested “Consider loosening your query with OR: blue smurf will match less than blue OR smurf”. (again loosening my query – see earlier blog on LA speak, what does this mean to the average Joe?) Ok so after reading this, I can see that it maybe suggesting that I put OR between the words, why can’t it just say this?
I’m all for techie speak but when its customer facing, really council X is this what you want to say? My Auntie Jean – not a capable computer user at all, I will admit but realistically will she know what to do with the OR AND etc. or will she just get confused with all those blue smurfs!
The importance of using meaningful language
As citizens we need to help our councils by telling them how we find information, how we search and what we expect – to find the information that we are looking for straight away. We don’t want to be directed to several links either, trying to understand where they have put the information in what order and what section am I supposed to be looking in to find the answer to my query.
So council X please do organise and manage your information in such a way that I can find it! However I think this message is falling on deaf ears as I did phone the web manage and he said it was not a priority, so come on members of the public join the message, as a collective we can change opinions and I can’t be the only one wanting to find information from my local council. We want and should demand a search facility that enables us all to find the information we are looking for, regardless of what keywords we have used when searching – invest to save is a message we need to be sending out.
I would be interested to hear from others about their experiences of finding information on Council or Public Service Web Sites.