Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

We’ve been invited to write a few guest posts about our team and the changes we are making to the Shropshire Council website, and hopefully shed some light on how and why we are making them.

The title of this post is a quote from The Wizard of Oz (1939), but is a perfect analogy to Shropshire Council, where some of the internal teams and processes are largely invisible to the public - hidden behind the public services we provide.

Since the creation of www.shropshire.gov.uk a number of people have been constantly working behind the scenes, writing up and maintaining pages, tweaking code and design elements to improve the way things look & feel, and by adding new ways for people to pay, apply and interact with council services online.

Sadly, because we were “behind the curtain” there was no real line of communication between us and the public. In general a lot of the improvements we added were taken for granted, and we only received feedback when things went wrong.

The drive to draw back that curtain and talk to people directly was the motivation to form Project WIP, an unofficial group made up of the Web Services team and a few other key people directly involved in the various Shropshire Council websites.

We realised that by explaining what we are up to on our blog (http://shropshire.gov.uk/projectwip) and through updates on our Twitter (@ProjectWIP) and Facebook accounts we could invite more feedback from the residents of Shropshire and share tips with other web teams in various public/private sector organisations. Our hope was that all this would give us a better understanding of what people want and how to do it effectively.

As it turns out, this approach was far more successful than we had imagined - heck, we were even named as an inspiration for the “alpha” prototype of the new central government website http://gov.uk - http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/2011/05/09/shoulders-of-giants/.

The amount of positive and useful feedback gave us the confidence to go a step further and start new.shropshire.gov.uk, a reinvention of our current website built from the ground up.

Our intention is to strip out a lot of the unnecessary council jargon and bureaucracy in our current website, providing fewer pages written in plain English, which, when coupled with a number of modern web features (such as easy-to-use “find my nearest…” services) should make it easier for everyone to find and understand the information they were looking for.

We are doing this because we really do care about giving you the best possible service – honestly, it’s what we love. Plus, as residents of Shropshire, we get to use it too!

The new website is a huge step towards improving the way the council provides information and services online, and to make them even better we need your help. After all, a council website is there to give you the information or service you want 24 hours a day, and hopefully save you an unnecessary phone call or visit to one of our Customer Service Points.

Please take a look at the new “Libraries” and “Recycling and Rubbish” pages and give us your opinions using the “Leave feedback” button at the top and bottom of every page.

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Project WIP Project WIP
Project WIP has emerged from the dark and dusty basement of local government to change the face of council websites as we know them. We’re busy developing the new Shropshire Council website ( http://new.shropshire.gov.uk ) bringing you, the residents of Shropshire, a new and exciting way of accessing the services you want without all that usual council waffle & bureaucracy. Here we’ll writing about our latest developments and new ideas, and you are more than welcome to join in and let us know your opinions. We really do want to hear from you about your ideas and suggestions - this is your website, and we want to get it right for you.

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