Police websites – a vital channel to the communities they serve
Websites run by the UK’s police forces are now a vital communications channel between the police and the public they protect and serve, so the quarterly Sitemorse benchmark of how efficiently those sites work is an important marker.
The police are never out of the news, and their websites are the most important place to get their messages across before the inevitable filter of journalistic coverage. Our benchmark shows some sites are very good at getting those messages across, which has to mean that vital resources can be saved for “front-line”
Of the sites we surveyed on quality, user experience, accessibility, performance and search engine optimisation, the Cleveland force’s site was once again ahead of any other police website, with a total score of more than nine out of ten possible marks.
The testing is undertaken by Sitemorse using automated software that reads the first 125 pages of each site to generate a ranked table.
Cleveland have previously topped our survey table a number of times but had dropped back slightly in the summer. This time their score of 9.04 with an accessibility mark of 8 brings them back to the top of the table.
Covering a 230-mile area on the fringe of the North York moors, the Cleveland force looks after more than half a million people. Their website carries news, surveys and a feature that allows users to type in their postcode to see details about their local police officers. We rated the site very highly on code quality and accessibility.
The Dumfries and Galloway force, second in this survey, was rated highly on function, accessibility, code quality and performance, and on these criteria it was more than a point ahead of third-placed North Wales Police, another consistently high performer in our Index.
It was refreshing to see the recent performance of the Metropolitan Police website, which has crept into fifth position, just after that of Fife Constabulary, which maintains its place at 4th. Just three years ago the Met were almost at the bottom of our benchmark table in 51st place, and they have now moved up a further 12 places since our last look at this sector in July.
Sitemorse surveys the websites of businesses and organisations in a number of sectors, and has been benchmarking and publishing the detailed results for a decade. The full results from this and other recent surveys can be seen on our website, www.sitemorse.com.
Climbers this time include the Derbyshire force, up 15 places to take 8th position, Cambridgeshire, again up 15 places to 10th, Bedfordshire, up 14 places to 13th overall, Surrey, up 19 places to 25th overall, and Hampshire, up 22 places to 36th.
Big fallers in this survey include North Yorkshire, down 22 places to 31st, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, down 30 places to 45th, Northamptonshire, down 26 to 47th place, and Sussex, who drop 44 places to 55th overall.
At the bottom of the benchmark this time, with a total score of less than three out of ten, is the South Yorkshire Police website, closely followed by the website of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Greater Manchester, Devon and Cornwall, and Sussex forces are also in the bottom five with low scores.
Interesting data on accessibility
The 'digital inclusion' of disabled people is important for many of the sectors we survey, as well as being backed by the force of the law. If someone with a disability, such as sight loss, can't access the information on a website then it could be seen as discrimination.
The Equality Act came into force in October 2010, replacing the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in England, Scotland and Wales. Like the DDA, the Equality Act was introduced with the intention of comprehensively tackling the discrimination which many disabled people face.
Highest scorers in the Police sector on accessibility, rated 9, were Dumfries and Galloway. Cleveland, North Wales and Bedfordshire scored a creditable 8.
Only three websites, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and the ‘Ask The Police’ site scored zero on accessibility, but around one-third of the sites surveyed scored poorly in this area, with scores below five out of ten.
Police forces are never out of the news, and it’s clear from the benchmark that many forces are now making serious efforts to use their web presence to keep in touch with the communities they serve and provide important messages on their pages. There’s some evidence that online leaders tend to have the best procedures, something that in this context can save time and money, while ensuring valuable resources are deployed in the community.
The difference between a poorly-performing website and a good one, as we often say, is not to do with how much budget it has but about how much care and attention is put in to eliminate small errors, ensure pages work and that every site complies with laws on accessibility that have been part of the legal background for several years now.
About our surveys, and how they work
For more than a decade, Sitemorse has been the world's only single solution for web content governance, monitoring, recording and benchmarking.
Our unique Index publications, published several times a year, provide an up to the minute snapshot of the best and brightest business websites, with insight into which are passing – and failing - vital tests in performance, compliance, and accessibility.
Our software is used to test the sites of major organisations in a variety of sectors, (for example, FTSE All Share companies, and the UK Top 500 retail companies) to compile an index of who ‘does the web’ best.
Sitemorse is now the suite of choice for organisations wishing to ensure their sites provide total, holistic web governance and a great user experience. Our hundreds of clients across major corporates, local and national government, utilities, financials and the health sector rely on us to help them improve the performance, compliance and quality of their websites, delivering control and web confidence.
Web content management systems alone cannot hope to cover major issues such as performance, compliance, brand, accessibility and quality without help. Our products integrate (including pre-live checking - within your CMS) to ensure these vital areas are constantly under control.
We offer three levels of products, from our enterprise platform 'Governisation', a blend of governance and optimisation, to a suite of tools called the Web Managers Toolkit, designed to help web teams, as well as free in-browser tools that can be used by any web user to quickly ensure pages are error-free. All our services are SaaS based, with no set-up or management and are designed to ensure that our hundreds of clients in major corporations, the financial sector, and central and local government have total confidence in their websites.
This survey took place on October 2, 2012 and involved benchmarking more than 100,000 separate URLs. Poorest code quality was recorded for the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency plc site, with more than 14,000 failures. Fastest overall response time from any site tested was the Suffolk Constabulary.
More information about our surveys and what they test can be seen on our website at www.sitemorse.com
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