Today, the Telegraph reports that a number of councils have
spent millions on website design. The list should come as a shock to all of us, but it comes as a real shock to
those of us in the digital and new media industry. We all know we have
pitched for and worked on expensive web design and build projects, but these
projects are often for retail labels, popular bands, and financial companies –
not for a local council.
It takes little or no money to start a website. Blogging websites like Typepad and Wordpress offer a variety of customisable
features and cheap hosting for as little as several pounds a month. Small
companies do it all the time. Strapped with a strict budget, small to
medium businesses use these blogging sites or free software to get a web presence
that fits their budget. And why shouldn't councils do the same?
Conrad Quilty-Harper reports that a local community group
did just that. Conrad says that:
One notable individual who took the opportunity to improve
his local council’s services is Stef
Lewandowski. When he discovered that Birmingham City Council had spent £2.8
million on a website redesign, he got a group of volunteers together to build a
better site. The result was BCCDIY, a
fully featured site that uses the data from Birmingham’s site, but presents it
using entirely free tools and code.
That example really says it all. In fact, it would be
far cheaper for a council to hire Mr. Lewandowski for a day than spend many
thousands of pounds on a website. Hopefully, councils have learned their
lesson and if not, we will continue to name and shame them just like the
Telegraph did today.