Our new website
We've re-designed the Suffolk County Council website to make it simpler and easier to access the online services you need.
We've also re-written much of the content based on our new content guidelines to ensure information is clear and easy to understand.
See what's new
Watch our short video we created about our beta website to see some of the new features and improvements.
What happens next?
You can provide feedback at any time by clicking on the "Give feedback" icon in the bottom right-hand corner of all pages.
Based on your feedback, we'll continue developing and updating suffolk.gov.uk.
Find out more
Read below to find out more about what we're changing, why we changed it and what'll happen next.
Have you got questions about our new website project? Read the FAQ tab below.
New content guidelines
The first area we addressed was how content should be presented to users on our website.
We created a new set of content guidelines to help website editors to write, style and format information on suffolk.gov.uk.
You can read our content guidelines here.
We've followed these guidelines while rewriting the content for our beta site. We believe it'll help you access the information you need by making content clearer, more consistent and easier to read.
New design and features
We've opted for a clean, modern and mobile-friendly look for the new Suffolk County Council website.
Our aim was to make the site feel clearer and less cluttered. We believe this will lead to a simpler user experience, where you can access services and information quicker.
Some of the new and improved features of the website are:
- The simpler homepage gives you quicker access to reporting, applying and payment services
- Information categories are more intuitive, mobile-friendly and use icons
- Redesigned features allow easier access the news, campaigns and service updates that matter
- Landing pages provide faster access to the most viewed pages in the section
- Content pages are clearer, more concise and written in plain English
- New reporting pages to make it faster and easier to report a problem
We believe the new Suffolk County Council website is a significant improvement. It should be quicker and easier for you to find the council information you need.
We also think that the new site will make accessing the online services you need faster and simpler.
Digital channels are increasingly becoming the preferred method of people communicating with Suffolk County Council.
Our website is the most used channel for people in Suffolk looking to access public services. 100,000 people use our site every month to find council services and information.
So, it's vital that suffolk.gov.uk meets user needs effectively.
The challenges of decreasing budgets
We also face rising demand for services and a decreasing budget. With online services increasingly becoming the most cost-effective way of delivering services, our website needs to be simple, quick and easy to use.
As part of Suffolk County Council's Digital Transformation Programme, we began assessing suffolk.gov.uk in July 2014 with a view to building a new website. We wanted to find out:
- Where the website wasn't meeting user needs
- How we could update it to improve services and meet budget challenges
- What we could learn from other best practice approaches
How we evaluated suffolk.gov.uk
We began by trying to understand how our website was being used, and how it compared to modern best practice digital standards.
We focused our work on the following areas of insight and analysis:
|Data analysis||We analysed our usage statistics to find out how people are using suffolk.gov.uk|
|User testing||We asked independent internet users to test our website and find usability problems|
|Online feedback||We reviewed online comments from users to discover what they thought of our website|
|Content audit||We assessed the readability, consistency and accuracy of information presented on our site|
|Best practice||We surveyed other digital public services approaches and learnt from best practice examples|
What did we learn?
Our insight and analysis into the website project highlighted where improvements could be made on suffolk.gov.uk.
- information was hard to read and understand
- services were complicated and confusing
- organisation of content made navigation difficult
- searching for the right page wasn't easy
- design was cluttered and distracting
It was clear from our research that Suffolk County Council needed to improve to effectively meet user needs and achieve online cost savings.
It was also clear that other leading councils in the UK had solved many of the issues we faced, showing us how we could improve.
Why does Suffolk County Council need a new website?
The main reason for the website update is to enable people in Suffolk to access services and information more effectively. By improving our web content, navigation and design it’ll be easier for people to find what they need.
However, Suffolk County Council is not actually procuring a new website or Content Management System. The ‘new’ website has been built by an existing supplier who has responsibility for maintaining our current website.
Why have you chosen this design?
Our design reflects two principle user needs: access to services (e.g. reporting, applying or paying), and access to information (either on-site or being directed the right page off-site).
We’ve received a lot of feedback from users that our current website design was cluttered, which distracted from accessing services. People also told us content was poorly presented on web pages, which made it hard to understand the information.
So we’ve opted for simple, less cluttered design and tried to improve the styles of text and fonts used to present information.
Who did you get feedback from when building the new website - how do you know this is what people really want?
We currently receive more than 200 online feedback submissions each month about our current website. This has been very useful in highlighting areas of the current website that needed improving.
During the design phase for our new website, we used Streetlife to arrange public sessions in Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich. We showed attendees mock-ups of the new website, recorded their feedback and improved our designs.
We’ve also asked staff who create web content for Suffolk County Council for their input, as well as senior council officers and elected representatives.
How do you know the new website is better?
We’re asking for online feedback so people can tell us if they think our website is an improvement. You can provide feedback at any time by clicking on the "Give feedback" icon in the bottom right-hand corner of all pages.
We’re also asking internet users to test our website to find out if our online information really is simpler, clearer and easier to understand.
However, this only provides a snapshot of a website in development. We’ll also be tracking website usage and monitoring online self-service over the longer term; this will show us if people are using the website more to report problems, submit applications, make payments and other digital interactions.
Is the new website accessible for everyone - who have you consulted with about this?
We’ve added accessibility options to the site, so users can adjust font size and colour contrast.
We also asked users with visual impairments to test the website and give us feedback on their experience. This led to us making several changes to the website to support users with accessibility needs, e.g. amending background colours to make text stand out more.
Will the new website work on smartphones and tablets?
Yes. We've optimised the site for use on smartphones and tablets. The HTML is served up ‘responsively’, and will attempt to align for optimal presentation within the available screen.
Why have you picked those icons?
We’ve used icons to help people understand what information or service they can expect to find on specific pages or sections of the website. This approach especially helps users who find it difficult to read text online or have low literacy.
We’ve chosen these specific icons because we believe people will easily associate the icon with its content. We’ve researched what icons other similar local government and public service websites use, and have also incorporated suggestions from staff and the public.
Why are there fewer images on the new website?
Images are valuable when they explain something that people might not understand from simply reading text. However, if they’re used without a clear purpose they can be distracting, confusing and generally make it more difficult for people to understand the information presented.
We feel that fewer images on web pages helps people focus on what’s important – the information itself.
How long has the new website taken to build?
The initial discovery phase started in July 2014, and an alpha website was created in October 2014. A beta website was launched in February 2015 and replaced the current site in May 2016.
How much money will the new website save?
The website is expected to save a significant amount as a result of enabling more people to self-serve via the web rather than more expensive channels, such as telephone. For example, every 100,000 requests that successfully self-service via the website saves around £250,000.
Why aren't you promoting your phone numbers?
The new website has been developed to enable users to self-serve as much as possible.
However, there will still be situations that require telephone contact. We do promote telephone numbers on the site where telephone is the most effective means of contact.
What about people who don't want to access council services online?
Our aim is to make online the most effective channel for communicating with Suffolk County Council.
However, we recognise that online will not always be the most appropriate option for some people, and they’ll still be able to contact us using other means.
Will you genuinely listen to suggestions to change the new website?
Yes. We regularly review all feedback we receive, and we do make changes based on your comments. However, we cannot guarantee everyone’s suggestions will result in the website being updated for a variety of reasons, e.g. sometimes we'll receive conflicting feedback on the same issue.
How can I leave feedback about the new website?
You can tell us what you think of our website at any time by clicking on the "Give feedback" icon in the bottom corner of all pages.
Will other county council websites be rebranded?
We’re trying to improve the customer journey of people who interact with Suffolk County Council content.
Our initial focus has been the www.suffolk.gov.uk website, but we know that users will navigate to other Suffolk County Council-provided websites within their journey.
All of the work we have done on the new website will be available to our strategic partners. We’ll work with them to make the user journey between our websites more seamless.