Six out of ten UK councils fail website performance test

Over sixty per cent of councils across the UK failed to meet the threshold of good website performance according to a new study by netEvidence – http://www.net-evidence.com. Sheffield Council was the top performer with a website that opened 700 times faster than the worst performer, which was a London Borough Council.

Using its Highlight ‘Digital Window’ service, netEvidence measured how fast the websites opened for 227 councils during the month of September. For the study, netEvidence determined that good performance was a website that responded in under half a second based on its knowledge and experience in monitoring for over 3000 customers.

  • 64 per cent of councils failed the half second limit (145 councils out of 227)
  • Sheffield Council came out top overall – its site responded in an average of 0.04 seconds.
  • The worst performer was a London Borough Council – it took over 30 seconds on average to open, more than 700 times slower than Sheffield.
  • The best group were the Welsh County Councils with only 36 per cent underperforming (8 out of 22)
  • English Unitary Councils came bottom of the league with 77 per cent of websites taking over half a second (40 out of 52)

For comparison, netEvidence tested the homepages for four leading UK supermarkets. Sainsbury and Asda came out top with just 0.05 seconds and 0.28 respectively. The slowest was 21 times slower than Sainsbury at 0.97 seconds.

Richard Thomas, CEO of netEvidence said, “Websites provide a vital part of the services that councils deliver to residents and local businesses. If they can deliver a fast and efficient service via the web, councils can minimise enquiries to call centres and thus save considerable costs. We decided to conduct the study after a colleague experienced dismal performance from their local council’s site. We wanted to see if it was an isolated problem. What we found was that whilst some councils were achieving excellence, others were failing badly in comparison.”

Having outsourced key parts of their infrastructure, many UK councillors and officers – particularly those at a senior level – now lack any real-time visibility into how their online services are performing. This report gives councils an insight into how the speed of their website compares with their peers. It also provides a useful guide on how residents experience their web services – how fast the council is responding to them and if they encounter any problems.

Richard continues, “There is no definitive measure as to how long a person will wait for a website page to open – it all depends on what they want to achieve and the importance of the task. However, as computing devices and their supporting infrastructures become increasingly powerful, our willingness to wait for a webpage to open continues to shorten.

“Ultimately, the main issue remains that without visibility, senior council members have no way to judge if their services are underperforming. And, if and when new investments are made, they often have no way of telling if any improvements have been achieved.”

Website delays can be caused by network issues, server issues, design issues (graphics, links etc) or a combination of all three. In the case of the councils being monitored, the Highlight service indicated that, in the majority of the cases, the cause of the delays was caused by either server or design issues and not by network issues.

From a users’ perspective, website performance is likely to be slower than those measured in this study since the majority of residents will visit a council’s websites from a home-based internet connection compared to netEvidence’s high speed test facility.

Councils interested in learning more are invited to call netEvidence on 01483 77 88 95.

The survey was conducted throughout the month of September 2013, with websites being tested every three minutes 24/7.

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