West Berkshire Council

Digital Services Blog

Highlighting the work of our Digital Services Team


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Seeing through the eyes of your users

How your colleagues see things probably isn't the same as your users

Written on: 23-3-2017

Making your digital services and information accessible to all is important. This includes everything from opening up the language so it's understandable by as many people as possible, to designing your forms and templates so they work with screen readers and other accessibility aids.

Something more fundamental than this that affects almost everyone is the size of screen they use, and yet it can often be overlooked. Most websites now use responsive design or even better RESS which is great, but it's important to check how each service or page looks using different screen sizes.

Sometimes colleagues don't understand this, but it's easy to demonstrate the stark contrast between the two groups by comparing screen resolutions. So based on Google Analytics from the whole of 2016 here's how users view the internet:



and here's how colleagues see the internet



so when building a service or designing content, to make sure it's accessible to all, remember to see through the eyes, or to be more exact the screens of you users.

Services so good people want to use them

We aimed to get more people to use our online services and information. How did we do?

Written on: 14-3-2017

In 2014, as part of our Choose Digital Project, we launched two new websites, one hosting over 100 online services, the other focusing on easy to understand information. The aim was to make our websites so good people used them over traditional channels.

To measure the success of the project we looked at website sessions, calls to our contact centre and direct calls to officers' phones.

Of course there are other methods of contact, face-to-face and email for example, but we have no consistent measure for them across the whole of the council.

Where we do measure them they're a tiny proportion of contact; for example less than 10% of requests for service to our Highways and Transport Service come via email.

What we found is a 15% shift from phone to online, and the latter is now our primary channel for contact with our customers, with a 60% vs 40% split between online and phone in the last quarter. 

We asked residents to choose digital and our analysis shows that more and more are doing so.


Booking Dot West Berkshire

Re-designing how the council takes bookings

Written on: 6-10-2016


If you've heard of digital transformation you'll probably know it means re-designing the services an organisation offers, so they use the internet to better meet the needs and expectations of residents. Without the jargon, what it really means is re-designing how our services work so they're cheaper to run and are available to you 24/7.

From arranging someone to officiate your wedding, to booking a slot to speak at a planning committee, there are lots of things our residents can book with us and we're starting to look at this as part of our digital transformation work. To help us with this we're asking for five minutes of your time to fill in a short survey on what you book online now please.

Whether you live in West Berkshire or not we'd be really grateful if you could take part in the survey here and share it with others please. Your answers will help us provide an improved service that better meets your needs, 


PALS get a little help from Digital Services

Written on: 11-8-2016

Here in Digital Services our primary responsibility is to our customers, residents and service users who will use our online services.  We're always working to make them better, easier and more joined-up to save time, money and give a good impression of our council.

But it's not just our day job - team member Lizzie Roe is a volunteer for a local West Berkshire charity, PALS, and has been doing great work to help our communities outside of work time.

PALS supports children and young people from aged five to 25, who have physical disabilities and/or a sensory impairment, to do different activities.

Lizzie tells us "I became involved in PALS a few years ago and was recently contacted by Helen, the manager, to see if I was available to volunteer for activities after not having attended for a time. I agreed, and now regularly help out at the youth club.

"Helen mentioned in passing that she was working to commission a new website and updating the information and images. I offered to help, and have since spent a little under 10 hours working with Helen to improve the site.

The website uses WordPress, and is hosted by a local company.

"The first thing we looked at was updating the information - which was horribly out of date!

"Previously the sections 'Who We Are', 'Mission Statement', 'Who Can We Help?' and 'Our History' were all on one page, so we split out the information onto separate pages. Moving the information to individual pages decreased the size of pages and makes it easier for the reader to find what they want. It also allowed us to use more images, giving a taste of the different activities.

"'The PALS Committee' and 'Activities We Run' are two of the pages that have seen the most changes.

Helen and I decided to include images and a small bio about the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Committee and images of the other Committee members, to be updated when more become available.

The 'Activities We Run' page has been totally rearranged and includes more images demonstrating the wide range of activities PALS does with children and young people. The information has been updated and rearranged into easy-to-read sections.

"We added several new sections to the website including, 'Testimonials' and 'News'. The donate buttons that feature on every page are also a new addition. As PALS is a charity that is entirely funded by donations, it is important for them to encourage donations and make it easy for people to make them."

Helen said "It's been brilliant to have Lizzie back with us; she's a fantastic volunteer and a great asset to have helping at our youth groups. Lizzie has also been the lead person in helping to revamp our website, a task I could never have achieved on my own!  We are all thrilled with our new website and it is thanks to Lizzie."

You can see more about PALS on their website!

Our Digital Principles

The principles by which we build and manage our digital services.

Written on: 6-7-2016

In June our Customer First Programme Board agreed a set of Digital Principles to which our public facing digital services should be built and managed. You can see them below.


Traditional Practice

Digital Principle

Consider face-to-face, email and telephone as the default channel for delivering services and information.


Consider digital as the default channel for delivering services and information.

Deliver digital services on a service by service basis to a varying standard.

Adopt a corporate, joined-up approach to delivering digital services to a national standard, focusing on user need.


Conduct periodic mystery shopper exercises.


Capture, measure and act on user satisfaction and usage data for each digital service.

Procure IT systems and develop online forms to support existing processes.


Redesign existing processes to take advantage of the efficiencies and improved user experience digital can provide.

Clearly define the desired outcome and the solution for each project from the start.


Clearly define the desired outcome for each project from the start. Discover the solution through user research, prototyping and user testing.

Deliver all projects using Waterfall methodology.


Deliver projects using an Agile methodology, where appropriate.

Duplicate existing functionality as part of a solution.


Re-use existing functionality and design as part of a solution and make sure capabilities and data can be re-used where possible.

Work alone to procure or develop and deliver services.


Work with other councils and partners to procure or develop shared digital services.

Delivery to a defined project schedule, with a distinct end point.


Continue to develop and improve digital services in response to user needs

Focus mainly on the technology being developed or procured to deliver the service

Focus on the skills of the team developing or procuring the technology to deliver the service..


The challenge for us now is (where appropriate) to move from Traditional to Digital as an organisation, making sure we include everyone.

If you'd like to know more please get in touch by emailing digital@westberks.gov.uk.