About Northumberland County Council
Northumberland County Council is the local authority for the North East of England and like all other County Councils in the UK, is responsible for providing a wide range of services to the local community. These include all planning and building applications, schooling, recycling, council tax and parking payments, housing and much more. They are responsible for all the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the area. With such a diverse set of stakeholders to satisfy online, it’s important for Northumberland County Council to provide a website that’s not only easy to navigate but also provides a wealth of functionality for the user.
The Business Challenge
As with many public sector organisations, there is a need for Northumberland County Council to continually evolve their digital capabilities in order to meet growing online demands from stakeholders while reducing staff time and costs. Following a digital review, Northumberland County Council took the decision to move from their existing Immediacy CMS platform which had become out of date and no longer supported the functionality required by NCC’s stakeholders. They required a CMS that would
not only meet current but also future requirements of their organisation and online visitors as they continued to develop and with approximately 60% of website users accessing the site via a tablet or smartphone, it was imperative the new design was responsive. A further goal was to ensure seamless integration of existing processes and third-party products including SharePoint, Capita and Lagan Self Service forms.
The Unified solution
Unified Solutions had previously worked with Northumberland County Council on their previous website project built on Immediacy. As a Gold Partner of Kentico with a wealth of expertise and experience in developing its functionality, coupled with knowledge of Immediacy, Unified Solutions were selected as the preferred development agency and Kentico as a solution that had the ability to become the backbone for the Council as future websites are built. The priority for Northumberland County Council was to migrate their website from Immediacy to Kentico’s robust and scalable CMS thereby delivering an improved online experience to their stakeholders. Kentico allowed for this smooth migration along with providing the ability to completely redesign the look and feel of the website and site structure ensuring improved navigation. This was a big migration project for the Unified team as the existing website housed thousands of interlinked pages which had to be stripped down.
The redesigned website now includes a smart search box allowing the user to search for over 700 services so they can easily find what they are looking for. This predictive search field or ‘also known as’ brings up alternative search keywords the site visitor can use, in addition to adding a hash tag to identify previous or similar searches.
The redesign also includes eye catching tiles highlighting the most popular tasks which are continually updated to show only what the user needs to know in real time. Northumberland County Council's website is unlike any other Council website using clear and attractive tiles highlighting top searches to make navigation easier. The website works on many devices including Smart TV, games consoles, PC’s and laptops and as it's now responsive the online experience for smartphone and tablet users is much more friendly and efficient.
A fundamental component of the project was Unified Solutions ability to work closely with the Councils development team ensuring continual collaborative development, communication and project tracking. Unified Solutions delivered training and knowledge transfer to their internal team on the use of Kentico so editors can now create content shared over a number of channels. The Council also required the recreation of specific website design concepts all of which were provided in PDF format from their design agency. These were neither to scale nor responsive and required the graphics team at Unified Solutions to redesign the concept into website reality.
Unified were able to react quickly and implemented new template designs effectively to achieve a ‘Go Live’ date of the 12th October 2015. Since the website has gone live there have been many positive outcomes predominately to do with the new search feature which has been very well received by site users.