In 2009 I reviewed and compared all the inner metropolitan Melbourne local government websites. I’m now going to do the same for the broader online presences for the same local governments. Some have replaced their websites in this time, and most demonstrate that they are investing more in trying to communicate with the people they represent.
Mostly, however, their communications are amateurish and well behind what may be described as best practice. One of the clearest indicators of an amateur client in web development is when they allow a developer to advertise themselves in the footer of the sites they build for clients.
Progressive developers realise that this is unprofessional behaviour and do not do it, but many do. Most local government sites contain these links. This suggests that council are naive clients who have employed unethical developers to build their sites.
Another common fault is blurry or pixelated council logos in social media accounts, which suggests that their staff do not have the basic image manipulation skills required to insert the correct sized image file in the correct location.
This analysis is not exhaustive. I am sure I have not found all the sites managed by these local governments, particularly because some are not linked to from their main sites. If you are aware of more examples, please post the links and I will update this post.
The City of Yarra has a website (with developer links), Twitter and Youtube (barely used). It has separate Twitter accounts for its leisure facilities and libraries but no Facebook. I took the liberty of setting up a clearly identified unofficial City of Yarra page with the URL https://www.facebook.com/CityOfYarra just for laughs as they had not reserved it.
I criticised the City of Yarra for their inept website in 2009. It was replaced with a new site in 2010, but that was done badly and it continues to be badly managed. Its information architecture is repetitive and confusing. They do offer a mobile version of the site.
Their staff seem incapable of embedding Youtube videos in their website, which is such a basic skill to fail at that I can only conclude that they are incompetent. They also seem to have no awareness of brand management. Compare the following 3 screen shots of their Twitter account profile headers: why do the library and leisure accounts have full sized colour logos while the main account has an unnecessarily small grey logo?
They publish a confusing multitude of Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and blogs for different services. Overall, their online presence is a poorly designed and managed mess that should be simplified and consolidated. Absurdly, they don’t link to their main Facebook page on their website, either on the homepage or in their list of Facebook pages.
They offer multiple social media accounts that are well indexed, which is understandable given Melbourne’s role as a local government and as the CBD with its unique role as an entertainment precinct.
The City of Moreland has a website (without developer links), Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Their website is non-responsive, is not mobile friendly and they offer a mobile version of their site that provides only a limited menu, not their complete site navigation.
They also have a separate business site, Facebook page and Twitter account. There’s no need for this content to be published in separate locations and I think it would be better for it all to be in their main platforms.
The City of Port Phillip has a website (without developer links), Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Their website is non-responsive, is not mobile friendly and they offer no mobile version of their site.
These sites and their associated social media accounts have many features in common, indicated consistent trends in local government online communications:
- A lack of content strategy – haphazard use of websites and social media accounts indicates a lack of understanding about what content should be put in what platform
- A lack of integration – many council Youtube accounts reveal very low video views, and this is partially because councils rarely embed their own videos in their websites
- Poor brand management – the use of blurry, pixelated and incorrectly cropped logo images in social media accounts looks amateurish and unbefitting of supposedly professional organisations
- Poor web development – the websites are mostly not mobile friendly and rely on clunky archaic content management systems