How automation drives digital compliance for local government websites

19 Mar 2019

Maintaining digital compliance around accessibility, content quality, spelling, code and other key areas is absolutely critical for local government websites. However, compliance is almost impossible to achieve through a manual approach alone. The sheer number of tests, checks and measures required to adequately assess accessibility compliance alone is overwhelming. You need to increase that number substantially to achieve compliance across all areas.

Local government organisations and their respective digital teams simply don’t have the resources and budget to carry out these all these tests manually. The effort required can even result in local authorities choosing not to even bother to test for compliance in the first place.

Automation is the only realistic approach

Automation is by far the most efficient way of carrying out the scale of checks and tests required to assess and achieve digital compliance. Automation is both consistent and reliable and removes the human limitations that make manual assessment an unrealistic option for local government. Automation is the only realistic approach if you want to achieve higher levels of digital compliance. 

Sitemorse has completed millions of webpage assessments, and in every case where a site is certified as 'passed' via manual checking, it has been found to fail A or A/AA of the WCAG standards when assessed by Sitemorse automation. Perhaps more importantly, in over 90% of cases, sites passing the Sitemorse Automated Accessibility assessment have also scored well on manual reviews.

The impact of automation on local government websites

We recently announced our partnership with Socitm to support local authorities (LAs) in achieving digital compliance. As part of the partnership, Sitemorse will deliver automated assessments of the first-visited 125 HTML pages and 10 PDFs on a local authority website, reporting on their compliance with accessibility standards.  

In addition, Sitemorse already benchmarks the local government sector as part of the Sitemorse INDEX. The Sitemorse INDEX runs every quarter, assessing sites and giving them a score and subsequent rank based on user experience, optimisation and compliance; factors such as loading speed, spelling, function and accessibility are taken into consideration.

The March 2019 results of the Sitemorse Local Government INDEX* once again show that compliance to digital standards across the sector remains strong across leading organisation, mainly down to taking an automated approach. 

An overall total of 263,000,000 tests across public pages (with 1,600 unique tests, checks and measures run across every page), reveal the following top 10 organisations;

  1. Richmondshire District Council
  2. Orkney Islands Council
  3. Broxtowe Borough Council
  4. North Devon Council
  5. Eden District Council
  6. Spelthorne Borough Council
  7. Cornwall Council
  8. Ards and North Down Borough Council
  9. Scottish Borders Council
  10. Harrogate Borough Council

The highest climber was Daventry District Council, rising 324 places to rank no 72 in the INDEX.

Daventry District Council Homepage Screenshot

 Other insights revealed by the latest INDEX results for the sector include:

  • 2.05% of tests found functional failure (broken links, missing images, emails that do not work etc)
  • 36.95% were missing basic metadata (page titles, descriptions - key SEO elements)
  • 10.65% pages passed accessibility (WCAG 2.1 Level A)
  • 55.65% of checked PDFs passed accessibility
  • Two sites failed accessibility A and AA on every page

To view the full results, please visit: https://sitemorse.com/index/uk-local-government/2019-q1

The benefits of automation

Harrogate Borough Council, ranked in the top ten for Q1 2019 and achieving the top ranking in digital compliance across the sector for Q4 2018, has used automation. Clare Cryer, Web Officer at Harrogate Borough Council, comments:

“By using automation, we are able to maintain the quality of our site and highlight any issues which would prevent our customers from accessing information. It would be impossible for any team to achieve these results, let alone a single web officer, without such a service.”

Head of Service, Mike Carter - Sitemorse, comments,

“The level of compliance seen at the top of the table in the local government sector is very encouraging. Not only are organisations working hard to make sites compliant, but they are maintaining those standards too. Our partnership with Socitm will only increase compliance across the sector and bring about innovative ideas and solutions that will ultimately drive down digital costs and improve efficiencies.”

*We recently announced, in line with the EU Directive on the accessibility of public sector websites and mobile apps (Directive (EU) 2016/2102 using European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 (2015-04)), that we are changing the way that public sector sites are ranked in the Sitemorse INDEX. This directive requires all new public sector websites to follow agreed accessibility standards by 23 September 2019. Therefore, from Q4 2018, sites scoring zero (out of ten) for accessibility will be excluded from the INDEX as being unsuitable for ranking, regardless of their performance in other areas.