Critics attack new Birmingham City Council website
Birmingham City Council’s new website has finally been switched on - and immediately attracted a storm of critical comment.
Six months late and at a cost of £2.8 million, the new version of www.birmingham.gov.uk did not satisfy many users of the social networking site Twitter.
Scores of Birmingham people posted messages claiming that the updated website was no easier to use than the version it replaced.
Others complained that when they could access the site, which was intermittently on and off-line during the morning, they found it difficult to navigate.
Jake Grimley, managing director of Birmingham web designers Made Media, described the website as an “abomination”.
Mr Grimley added: “The website is absolutely littered with beginner’s mistakes. And content from the old website appears to just have been cut and pasted in with no quality checking whatsoever.”
Clive Reeves, PR Director at Ward Lovett in Birmingham, said: ““What an expensive disappointment.
“This looks like a project that’s been controlled by a committee made up of people who don’t quite know what they’re looking for, what’s achievable or even what they really want.”
But the criticism was dismissed by Glyn Evans, director of business transformation at the council, who described the new website as a vast improvement.
Mr Evans, who has overall responsibility for the project, said he wasn’t interested in adverse comments on Twitter.
“We have tried to design a site that is suitable for the majority of our residents. We are not designing it for the Twitterati,” he said.
The website failed to contain a direct link to council agendas or lists of meetings. The only clue to users was a section on the home page entitled Your Council, which led to a section called Democracy in Birmingham.
But the trail petered out with a message announcing that the page did not exist.
Mr Evans promised the link would be restored by lunchtime, which it was, and added that anyone interested in reading agendas could still do so by using the search engine.
He added: “How many of our residents are actually interested in council meetings?
“They are interested in finding out about what events are on and big issues like the library. These big items are of critical importance to our residents.
“There aren’t huge numbers of the public queuing up, generally speaking, to get to our council meetings.”
Mr Evans insisted the new site was faster and easier to use with a superior search facility.
By the beginning of next year the website will begin to feature “citizen accounts”, enabling people to access council services on-line, keep track of their enquiries and pay bills.
Mr Evans said: “This is definitely the first step on what I see as a journey.
“I wouldn’t claim that what we have now is a world class website, but what we have done is turn a poor website into one that’s fit for purpose and robust technically.
“It’s not perfect and there will always be broken links, especially when you have 17,000 pages. But it is a lot better than what existed before.”