Preston City Council improves reliability and accessibility with new web content platform
A new website CMS - including an intuitive forms package - has helped Preston City Council improve its online service access for residents, and its back office efficiency.
A historic settlement and a boomtown of the industrial revolution, Preston is Lancashire's administrative centre. As one of the region's cultural hotspots, the city also enjoys enviable green spaces, coupled with independent bars and restaurants. Preston City Council borders five other local councils in a city proud of its heritage and multicultural community.
The Challenge: An outdated CMS that hindered digital transformation
Digital transformation is high on many councils' agendas across the UK - often dominating five-year strategies to help improve accessibility and efficiency. Preston City Council is no different; with its latest local economic strategy in full flow, improved service accessibility through digital transformation is key to streamlining processes and achieving its local economic ambitions.
But an outdated website content management system (CMS) - coupled with an internal restructure - made it difficult for Preston City Council's IT team to make quick changes and add new services on-the-fly. In addition, the council was experiencing significant downtime, affecting its ability to provide the consistent services its residents expect.
Preston City Council needed a reliable solution that would help provide consistent uptime, improved accessibility, and the ability to easily create and edit website content - while also providing the flexibility for third-party integrations in the future.
And with limited in-house developer support, the council also needed a vendor that understood the value of providing ongoing support, while also being able to work around the council's available budget.
The Solution: An intuitive, user-friendly, and future proof website CMS
After planning its key requirements, Preston City Council looked for a solution - assessing the capabilities of a wide range of vendors. After trialling several solutions, the council chose GOSS to deliver its new website CMS and online forms.
"We worked closely with GOSS to ensure the new CMS fit our needs to the letter. This involved an initial content audit of our existing website, and after receiving on-site training, it was then simply a case of using the intuitive drag and drop function to build the new website", explains Ian Heslop, Digital and Web Manager at Preston City Council.
The team identified around 3,500 pages on the old website's CMS that needed evaluating before transferring to the new system. Using web analytics to rank the pages in terms of traffic and importance, Heslop and his team split the pages into sections, sifted the content, and copied the remaining pages to the new CMS.
In addition, GOSS Forms was used to create simple website forms using pre-set templates. This enables new self-serve capabilities that improve service accessibility for residents and move Preston City Council one step closer to achieving its digital transformation ambitions. Following a successful go-live, the council was able to make additions and iterations on-the-fly.
"The new system we built with GOSS has far exceeded our expectations. It enables us to simply drop in new content or create new forms in no time at all. Its ease of use means that I've also trained around 60 new web authors."
Ian Heslop, Digital and Web Manager, Preston City Council
The Results: Improved council efficiency and high resident satisfaction
Regular visitors to Preston City Council's website will notice significant differences compared to the old website. It's now easier to navigate, has a more modern look and feel, and lets residents to serve themselves - helping eliminate paper forms and labour-intensive administration.
In addition, the new website's form automation capabilities and back-end integration have decreased the number of calls to the council's contact centre. Information is so easy to access that even contact centre staff now use the website to get quick answers to residents' enquiries.
Building on the new website's successes, Preston City Council is now working with GOSS to revamp its Visit Preston website and several other related sites. "The new system has been so successful that council managers are now asking me to create bespoke websites for areas like tourism and the local economy. GOSS makes it easy to replicate our main website, so even if there's an annual event that needs its own site, I can create it in no time", explains Heslop.
Looking to the future, the council is also investigating how it can expand and automate its self-serve capabilities. Preston City Council is looking across services from bin collections to licencing to see where it can free up council staff and focus on more impactful activities.
Preston City Council also hopes to create a single account portal with end-to-end digital and third-party integration capabilities using the GOSS Digital Platform. Heslop explains: "We're in a very good place going forward. While we still need to secure internal stakeholder buy-in for a complete digital platform, the results we've already achieved in such a short time suggest this won't be far off".