By Alexandra Grundy, Warrington Borough Council

It was an honour to host the Digital Managers’ Forum on web usability in Warrington on 19 January 2016.  I always look forward to these events as it is a very diverse group with representatives with a broad cross section of skills.  We have representatives with technical, operational and customer service backgrounds and because of this I feel the group is most effective.

At January’s meeting, we had a presentation from Rahna Riley, Digital Services Lead, Rochdale BC, on Building a Customer Focused Mobile Responsive Website.  What I love about Rahna’s approach is that it is totally focussed on the customer.  Her primary objective is developing best possible experience for customers and therefore driving channel shift; she speaks passionately from personal experience and is eager to share. 

We all know that mobile is overtaking desktop as the primary way by which customers access the internet and so we need to ensure that our websites are mobile responsive, we recognise how and when users are accessing our sites and utilise the analytics available.  Rahna was able to demonstrate how they have taken this approach at Rochdale and the benefits they are seeing with their online usage.  A great example of sharing best practice!

The second part of the meeting was a workshop facilitated by Shelley Heckman on What Actions we Can Take to Make Sure Our Websites are as Usable as Possible.  Working through a series of questions, at first individually, then in pairs and finally as a whole group, we identified what we need to do in order to increase usability for our websites.  Due to the diversity of the group this led to some thought provoking discussions on what is really important and what we can and should do.  With the aid of Shelley’s excellent facilitation skills (based on ICA:UK’s Technology of Participation group facilitation methodology) and a miracle sticking wall we came up with eight principles we should adopt:

  • Use clear, simple design
  • Test the entire experience
  • Maximise the right technologies
  • Review, refresh and regularly update content
  • Make an enjoyable user-experience
  • Build “buy-in” internally and externally
  • Learn and share from the best
  • Make content easily found


I will be utilising these principles as part of the review of Warrington Council’s Digital Strategy and continued service improvement.

Overall it was a very enjoyable, thought provoking and an informative morning’s work.  As always I took something away from the session and my latest bedtime reading, recommended at the meeting, is Gerry McGovern’s The Stranger’s Long Neck!