Residents are using mobile devices more, and it’s time to act

Council websites contain highly valuable information for residents, which need to be accessed at all times. There’s advice on births, marriages and deaths, and much more – with actionable content for registering and obtaining certificates. That’s just one small part of a council’s website. It’s also the hub for housing, health care, schools, rubbish, jobs, communities, business, visiting enquirers, and data about the local area.
Google confirmed that in 2015 more searches were performed on mobile phones than on desktop computers. It’s a trend that’s been on the rise for many years. In a global report performed by InMobi, 37% of people used mobile devices most of the time while only 11% tended to use their desktops.
Due to this trend in mobile popularity, it’s imperative that council’s websites get fully on-board. Mobile optimisation will make it easier for residents to access information and will also reduce phone traffic. There’re some services offered which require on-the-go access, such as travel information during busy events or finding a play area for the kids.
Here’s a look at why council’s need to be mobile friendly, and how to make it a success.
 

Be focused

Mobile devices don’t offer a lot of screen room when compared with a desktop monitor. The content of your mobile-friendly website needs to be a lot shorter than you’re probably used to. You’ll need to be far more focused and smart with your space, while still offering important information in a concise fashion. Shortening the content means you’ll need to re-address wording.
For example, you may currently have four paragraphs detailing your bus operators, local services, timetable information and other facts. You could cut it down to a couple of sentences, with links to the appropriate bus service websites. The chances are people are looking for timetables, bus stop locations and the central route-planning site. Use your site stats and trends to establish what’s important to the end user.
 

Be inclusive

Although some cuts in content will need to be made, don’t alienate the mobile user. Many websites tend to take out a lot of content and useful navigation tools. As the number of mobile users rise, you’ll still need to produce a website with substance and all of the vital information that’s needed.
You should include as much of the original content as possible, edited down to make it bite-sized. You still need a working directory and search tool. If you don’t create a mobile-optimised website which is helpful, people will have to revert to the desktop website regardless and this could create frustration.
 

Simple forms

In modern times, the need to phone the council is lessening thanks to the online form. If you want to keep your call traffic low, you should make sure your online forms are simple to use on a mobile device. If your form has too many options, resulting in a lot of scrolling and data input, it could become time-consuming for someone on a small touchscreen.
The form page should be the right size for functionality, so the user doesn’t have to keep zooming in and out. It should also be easy to fill in, with basic language that’s short and to the point. If you use any external applications during the form-submitting process, ensure they’re mobile optimised as well.
 

Mobile site vs. app

If you’re considering developing an app instead of updating your website you may run into some issues. Firstly, creating and developing an innovative, quality app is expensive and time-consuming. If you go for this option, there’s no assurance that residents will even install the app. That’s not to say an app is not a good idea, but you need to ensure you have a helpful, easy-to-use mobile website first. Once you’ve created a mobile-friendly website that can be accessed by all, an app could be the next step as a companion feature.
As mobile devices start to become more convenient and accessible, councils should meet the needs of their residents by subscribing to the same principles.
Ribbonfish help local authorities operate efficiently and effectively with intelligent user-friendly business systems and enterprise applications. For more information about how we can help your organisation become mobile-friendly, get in touch.

Further reading:

Download our white paper, Councils and the Cloud, to learn more about how cloud technologies can help you build stronger relationships with residents.