I design and host modern town council websites which contain engaging and compelling local content and provide you with the tools you need to collect and disseminate town information online.
The websites I make rely on data, which I programme to appear in your webpages in ways that are immediately familiar to the public, your staff and your members.
I can provide you with much of that data, and of course the means to keep it up to date.
No programming knowledge is needed on your part. No extra software needs to be installed on your computers.
All your data is kept in a central place which is available from anywhere - not just in your office.
You are then free to investigate modern ways of working, delegate to as many contributors as you wish and enable them to login and work on your website remotely, but you retain full control.
My main objectives are to help you properly serve your public, within budget, by:
If you suspect your current website is not going to match your ambitions, well you now have a viable partner ready to help you push the boundaries of what your town council's website can deliver.
Are you ready to punch above your weight?
If you are not familiar with the acronym CMS (Content Management System) let me introduce it to you in a single paragraph. A CMS is a means whereby non-programmers can keep a website up to date using another webpage which they log into with a password. If you ever bought anything online, or filled in an online form, then you can use a CMS. In common with many others, parts of my CMS feature a small word processor with buttons which look and behave like those in Microsoft Word, in order that people are working in a familiar environment.
The CMS (Content Management System) I have designed for you to manage your town data has evolved over many years and is designed only for town councils (or maybe larger parishes). It is built from scratch with one job in mind, to provide a purely localised view of all the data we can lay our hands on about your town - right down to street level.
This is all mixed and mashed together with your own content - your own important messages - and presented to your public as webpages using as many familiar website navigation aids as I can, ways that make it as really easy for the public to find things - whilst minimising the calls for your valuable staff time.
That information (data) comes from various sources, such as :
Your website will contain many special features which:
Mine is currently the only service providing these levels of data integration for town councils.
If you are familiar with how a CMS works then the main difference between your old system and mine is probably that you would spend far less time creating and updating and uploading 'documents', and instead be updating 'data records'.
Once changed, that data change cascades down though all your webpages. Its just a faster and less error-prone way of working.
The problems with your old 'document' based CMS will derive from the fact that it is probably built upon a generic CMS. A CMS such as this is routinely used to create many different types of website and your design company are only interested in shoe-horning your data into their systems.
Councilsites websites are designed from the ground up to serve one market only, towns and larger parishes. There are no wasted features. The events diary is built upon the experience that managing local events is not the same as the events for a shoe shop or a schools.
Recognising those differences, and creating and testing workflow solutions just for your industry will save your staff a lot of time and irritation.
Your team will enjoy using efficient tools and your website will become more relevant and useful for your public. This will make your council look good and leave your 'upstream councils' looking flat-footed and remote.
That is why you need to acquire the best tools for the job. Contact me to find out how to upgrade your CMS now.
All of the features below, and many more, are ready to be used and are included in the price. These website features are a result of you manipulating your CMS and the output being remixed with data, much of it being data I get for you.
Don't be overwhelmed, use as many from this list as you wish and add others when you are ready - the cost is the same.
Your public will love your site because you provide:
Your website will also have many other built-in features which update automatically, such as :
Show me - visit Godalming in Surrey (opens in a new window)
Your new website can be designed to sport any look you want, and if you wish can look and behave just as your existing site does.
My websites seek to demystify local government for the public - and that starts with your town council.
For example, everyone knows which road they live in, but who (apart from your members) knows which ward they live in?
Residents can simply pick their road and your website tells them their ward, and of course who their own councillors are. That's how it should work - websites I design and host do this.
Your website will be able to identify returning residents and show them information relevant to them, their road, their postcode area and just their ward.
You will show that your town council is listening and that you care. Almost every webpage has a prominent comment form for the public to use, and no, they don't need to send their email address nor do they have to remember yet another password .
I am making improvements to the system all the time, in the pipeline are:
Whenever new features like these have been suggested, agreed, built and tested they are immediately available for all councils to use for no extra charge.
You can subscribe to my development blog or twitter feed to keep a watching brief on what I am doing for town council websites (see contact details below).
The CMS system I designed for you allows you to control all of the data which fuels the public facing webpages. Many of those key aspects such as the A-Z, menus, local government links and maps are automatically created and maintained "behind the scenes".
This System is continually evolving and improving and is hosted online so that I do not have to visit your premises to alter things, so both of our costs stay down.
Armed with an internet connected computer, and a password my CMS gives you control of 99% of your website contents, most of the updates are done in real-time. You get access to:
My CMS lets you to record the actions taken and by whom, and then finally "close" each comment.
An "add your business" submission form which allows staff to approve and add the entry with a single click.
My CMS lets you to monitor activity on the site such as:
You can easily edit staff contact details and job descriptions. There is also a means of delegating tasks, naming which people can login and edit (and in some cases having "read access") each part of the CMS. You can delegate tasks to people such as:
Woven into the structure of the website and CMS is very simple Customer Relations Management (CRM) functionality.
This is transparent to website visitors and seeks to identify those fairly frequent visitors who claim to live on a Road in your Town and who exhibit normal user activity ( they search for things, check their own councillors etc ). This means that we can treat them slightly differently, "You live in this road, so here are your councillors" [list them, show photos of councillors]. If a resident makes a comment or reports an error, then can choose to give extra credence to their claim, and so on.
No personal data is collected, releasing us from the need and expense involved in maintaining email addresses and passwords for the public at large. It also frees both myself and your council staff from potentially costly and time-consuming Data Protection obligations, Freedom of Information requests etc.
The introduction of this simple CRM-lite system opens the way for many new types of interaction and information gathering through the website. CRM-lite is a name I made up.
(Photo credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr some rights reserved)
Town and Parish Councils hold a unique place in local government and are the first port of call for many residents who do not understand how local government works, how it is structured or who does what. Your town council website should reflect not just your council services, but should try to be the best and most reliable jumping-off point to the providers of all local services covering your townsfolk.
Each website evolving from my CMS will automatically inherit behaviour which is a result of my experience in local government and the preferences of the few local council clerks I have worked with.
If you, or your council members, do not share my ethos then it is highly unlikely my services will suit you.
The following points are ranked roughly by importance, and I am sure I have missed some out. Just because you disagree with a few does not mean we could not get along fine - I can make a few tweaks. However, if you find yourself disagreeing with many, then it's probably a sign my service would not be a good fit.
In my opinion a good town council website should:
**If tourism is important in your town then lets talk. If it so important that it already has its own website perhaps there is a case to re-using some town content?
I am seeking to work with a relatively small number of ambitious town or larger parish councils willing to challenge me to help them shape the future of online digital service delivery in their town.
My services are probably going to be a best fit for those town councils where:
(Photo credit: Piermario on Flickr some rights reserved)
You rent from me an online CMS to manage your data. You website is made of webpages whose content is extracted from the CMS. You pay me to a) load up this data b) design your website c) keep your website online and support your endeavours to maintain you website.
Pricing is really simple and is based upon the number of inhabitants in the catchment area which your town represents, based on the last reliable census information. More residents means more work on my part, more server use and more internet bandwidth used.
For example, for a town of 13,000 inhabitants I charge £1,300 pa - hence 10p per inhabitant per year (I have a minimum charge of £1,000 pa). There are no other payments to be made for design or maintenance, and all the CMS services (modules) are freely available.
I will draw up 2 schedules which form part of any agreement.
Annual payment is due the day site becomes "live" and available to the public.
The minimum contract period is one year.
As you already probably have a website, then you are fully aware of 'hidden costs', the biggest being the staff time and energy needed to find and update out of date information.
One of my stated primary goals is to help you reduce those costs, and I do this by:
Fundamentally, I hope that you will discover that adopting my Service will involve doing what you already do, but in a slightly different fashion - maintaining records online - in order to maximise the benefits of sharing that information.
So before you judge my price, think carefully about how much money you and your staff currently spend on pointless, time consuming tasks such as:
The idea of maintaining so much data must seem very daunting to you reading this page but the reality is that once the information is on-line and in the public gaze, then the public will gladly help you keep it up to date - because it is their website too. Experience has shown that the maintenance of this data takes very little time out of any one's day.
Yet, if there is one phrase that haunts me from past conversations with council clerks, committee secretaries and council staff it is this: "Yes its very nice, but we just don't have time to do that".
Hence everything I create in my CMS deals with the following fundamental questions: How can I speed up your workflow routine? How do I make an interface that is so simple, so "bleeding obvious" it does not need a help file? How can I add design this part of the CMS so that your staff are not allowed to make a simple mistake? While you are doing this job, what other relevant information can I show to help you? How can I reduce the amount of typing required to do this job? What can reuse?
In the vast majority of cases "updating a webpage" simply means "updating a record" or clicking a checkbox to approve information. It depends upon the type of record, but you have to imagine that when a record is altered the effects automatically cascade down into the pages on your website, into your A-Z, into menus and navigation bars.
On signing an agreement, we "seed" your website CMS by loading up the data from digital information you send us (word .docs, .xls files etc), or take it from your existing website - and we do that for free (except past committee documents, this will depend on how you want to proceed).
Remember, you do not have to implement every website feature from the first day.
Each record (be that a road, a business, and organisation or a meeting agenda) which your website holds is in effect a webpage, so in no time at all you will have thousands of individual webpages, and yet editing that information will seem as simple as editing records on a spreadsheet thanks to the very simple to use interface of the CMS.
Your new website can be "skinned" to look and behave just as your existing site does, if you wish.
Your council will benefit from having access to the most up-to-date information about your town.
You will be able to create mailshots, make intelligent and informed choices about how to contact businesses or local groups - and be in a position to help others do the same.
If someone walks into your office to tell you about a problem in a street, your staff can agree and pinpoint the exact location via your website.
Your .gov.uk domain name, only you can register for this. I can help you with the simple registration process - but your domain is your councils' property and as such should be separate from your website purchase (around £100 for 2 years). It is not included in my price. You send the payment, and tell the authorities that I am hosting your website.
My service is an approved .gov.uk domain name hosting supplier, so I can easily transfer your existing .gov.uk domain to my dedicated, secure server.
I currently provide no client support for your email. As long as your email is stored on my server, it is up to you to access it.
I will set things up so that your email client can collect your email, and you can advise me which email addresses you would like setting up, but I provide no spam filtering service and make no guarantees about what happens when you open up the email you receive. Email is an operational matter for you to sort out locally.
Honestly? I recommend is that you use a good webmail provider such as Gmail, and we simply divert your email to your various existing email addresses.
Using a good webmail provider you can still send and recieve email as email@example.com, and what is more you benefit from:
I do not provide public forums for council websites for mainly for reasons of security, but if you already have one, then I can link to it anywhere you stipulate. You could simply "add a new page" and introduce and link to your public forum from that new page. If you want to run a forum on another server I will be happy to advise you.
I do not provide blogs, primarily because nobody has asked me for this. Again, if you already have a blog then I am more than happy to provide links to them. There is provision within the committee system to add a direct link to a blog, or website for each of your councillors in any case.
My name is Paul Geraghty and my business is called Councilsites.co.uk, I am a qualfied full time web-developer and have worked on LA (Local Authority) websites for more than 12 years. I worked for a borough council for 10 years and so fully appreciate the pressures, fallibilities, challenges, work practices and drivers behind that mid-tier of local government
I completely understand "who does what" (and possess insights into the "why and how" too).
During that time I worked part-time, mostly as a hobby, for some town and parish councils and it is where I "cut my teeth" sometimes trying out innovative technologies.
I spent a lot of time talking with town and parish clerks and their staff.
More reasons you should trust me with your town council website:
I am sorry if you cannot find the exact information you need from this website. Following a few years of solid development I am now entering a marketing phase - so don't hesitate, please do fire off to me any questions or observations you have. I will reply to you as soon as I can.
If you have an RSS reader then subscribe to my blog or twitter feeds.
Thanks for stopping by!