Newest Review: ... with the counsellor to discuss why all the other 34 houses with students living had received there passes and along with my in-laws one ... more
A naked lady, a horse and...
Coventry City Council
Member Name: TJ-Mackey
Coventry City Council
Date: 19/04/01, updated on 19/04/01 (134 review reads)
Advantages: Suggestions for improvements are welcomed
Disadvantages: Poor structure, out-of-date information, and lack of cohesion
Not to worry, though – it's not as though the search facility is a particularly useful function of a website, is it?
No, I hardly ever want to search a site if I'm looking for something specific. I'd much rather browse around for a while before eventually discovering that the information wasn't there in the first place. What better way to waste a few minutes/hours? (delete as appropriate)
Anyway, I suppose I'd better describe the website a bit rather than just heap praise upon it.
First impressions then. Well, on loading the homepage, we're greeted with the traditional emblem of Coventry (a silhouetted Lady Godiva on her horse) on a delightful yellow background. Arranged around this logo are a number of hyperlinks, which I originally assumed were the sections the site has been divided into. These are as follows:
• Services for Citizens
• Council Details
• Full Index
• Tourism and Leisure
• Business Support
• Introduction to Site
For some reason, the first section's title reminds me of the film 'Starship Troopers' – I can't imagine why! Anyway, underneath this opening arrangement, we're invited to "take a peep!" at what's new on the site, accompanied by a weird anim-gif type thing. Looking at it again now, I still haven't the faintest idea what the designers were thinking of with this animation - it's ugly and just doesn't fit in with the rest of the page at all. If you're really curious, it looks like a sort of futuristic guillotine that someone's sticking his head through. I told you it was weird.
At the bottom of the page is a footer that tells me that "these pages are best viewed with a modern browser such as Netscape Navigator release 2
or Microsoft Internet Explorer". Fortunately I've recently upgraded my browser, so it's now fully compatible with these modern requirements, but please bear this detail in mind should you ever wish to visit the site (and why would you not?).
Also in the footer is a disclaimer, a contact e-mail address (email@example.com), and a date of 2nd February 2001 that indicates when the last update was made. Nice to know we have up-to-the-minute information at our fingertips.
Okay, I'll stop being a sarcastic git. Honest.
The first page I looked at was the one entitled 'Introduction to Site'. Here, we learn the possible reason for some of the design 'features' described above: "The current content is fairly informal, being an interim arrangement while the Council's strategy is defined".
We're also introduced to the navigation system employed by the site, which consists of a menu-bar of icons running along the top of the screen. The Godiva logo will return us to the homepage, the 'back' and 'forward' icons move sequentially through a section whenever appropriate, and a button with a question mark will take you to the aforementioned (non-functioning) search page. There's also another icon that supposedly returns you to the starting point of the section you're currently looking at.
Before you stop reading, I'll tell you now that I'm not going to bother detailing each individual section of the site. That'd be extremely boring (for both of us) and you'd probably rate me NU before you even got to the end. That's not the major reason why I'm not going to do it though. Oh no. It's because the 'sections' don't appear to be proper sections at all. In fact, all that most of them seem to consist of is a long list of hyperlinks; the majority of which go to external websites.
That's not to say there isn't much
information on the site – there seems to be quite a lot hidden away behind the clumsy interface, some of which may actually be fairly recent. What's annoying is the difficulty in navigating around the site to find it. After going to the 'Services for Citizens' page, for instance, I'm presented with a list of links, the first of which is an 'A to Z'. Not an 'A to Z' of this section mind, but of the entire website. Yet the hyperlink is grouped together with a list of press releases and documents related to this specific section. Also, the only thing the 'A to Z' has on it is the different council services and their relevant telephone numbers. That's it.
Also in this list is a link to 'Social Services', which is actually a separate area of the site, with a completely different design and, presumably, designer. This was last updated on the 13th February 2001, so it seems it's slightly more up-to-date than the main site, but not by much. Still, there are plenty of useful resources here, covering a whole range of social issues.
Another area of the site that isn't immediately obvious is the Best Value Performance Plan 2000/01. Now, I'd imagine this part of the site would be quite useful for any council employees working on their Best Value plans at the moment, so it's a shame it isn't more clearly signposted from the front page. Also, despite the misleading date in the heading, this section apparently hasn't been updated since 13th June 2000. Tsk.
I don't really know what the council thinks these 'citizens' are going to be looking for on their website, but if it's consultative documents, performance indicators and out-of-date questionnaires, well, they're going to be in heaven! There is the thrilling 'Street Watch' section though, where I found out about the council's aim to respond to complaints of stray dogs within one working day.
Whether this aim has changed since 1997 isn't made clear.
In my opinion, the biggest problem with this website is a complete lack of cohesion throughout. Hopefully this'll be the first thing that's addressed when the council finally defines their web strategy, although the lack of up-to-date and relevant information should also be high on their list.
To be fair, they have asked for people's views on how they can make better use of the Internet. They also welcome suggestions for what could be included on the site in the future. Losing the guillotine thing would be a great start...
Oh yes, I nearly forgot... they really need to get that search facility working too.