Mobile accessibility lags behind desktop, says Socitm survey of council websites

Written by Rebecca Hill on 17 June 2016 in News

The Better Connected survey has found that although 80% of council sites are now purposed for mobile use, just 46% passed disabled accessibility tests carried out on mobiles.

Council websites are still more difficult to use on a mobile - Photo credit: Flickr, Jeff Turner

This is compared with a pass rate of between 65% and 71% for websites accessed from a desktop.

The survey, the results of which are released in stages and have now been published in full, assesses local authorities’ provision of online services for disabled people.

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The overall results for 2016 show a marked improvement from last year’s results, with 64% of the 416 councils tested gaining a rating of good or very good this year, compared with 43% in 2015.

The Digital Accessibility Centre carried out the test, which ranks councils’ on how easy it is to perform certain tasks online, for instance paying council tax.

Socitm, which commissions the study, said that the most common reasons for poor performance were the heading structure of the website, no visible links to skip irrelevant sections, poor labels or instructions and excess movement on pages.

In addition, the survey found that many issues encountered involved third party sites, with a “significant number” using these for council tax and around half using them for renewing library books.

Meanwhile, the main issue for completing tasks on a mobile – which were finding the opening times for council tips and reporting missing bins – was a lack of sequential navigation, with illogical heading structures being another issue.

Council breakdown

When assessed by council type, both shire district councils and Welsh unitary councils saw their scores increase by 27 percentage points, with shire district councils reaching a 63% pass rate and Welsh councils 68%.

Meanwhile London borough councils increased their score by 25 percentage points, with 70% of these councils being ranked good or very good in 2016.

This put London borough councils second of the eight council types, behind Scottish unitary councils, with 81% gaining an accessibility of good of very good.

The Scottish councils were also top of last year’s assessment by a wide margin, with 72% gaining the top score.

Northern Ireland district councils had the lowest 2016 score, with 45% gaining a good or very good ranking. There were no results published for 2015.

County councils saw a small increase in their score, with 56% gaining a good or very good rating, compared with 52% in 2015.

Meanwhile, 64% of English unitary councils passed the assessment - up from 46% in 2015 – as did 58% of metropolitan district councils, up from 47% in 2015.

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Jane Roberts (not verified)

Submitted on 17 June, 2016 - 13:47
Digital inclusivity is as applicable to mobile as it is a PC or laptop. What can get overlooked is that the mobile is often the ONLY method of accessing council websites for some disadvantaged users due to economic or physical reasons. Therefore designing services that are platform agnostic, by which I mean they automatically resize and adapt to the device being used to access the website, has to be a priority when looking to design and deploy digital services. Ease of use is key. Otherwise, we risk creating services that achieve the exact opposite and disenfranchise some users.

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