We’ve been looking at the top terms searched for using our internal search engine to make sure we are promoting the things you are trying to find.

As you can see from the word map below, council tax is the single biggest term searched for on our website, followed by leisure activities, planning and waste and recycling.


Top search terms tree map


(Please note that this chart includes all spelling and capitalization variations of the search terms.)

Is there anything on this list that you find surprising? How about anything you thought would be a popular term but is missing? Get in touch and let us know.

The Xpresionz project took a step forward this week with the completion of a consultation of young people as to which of our two design options they preferred. As you can see, design B was much more popular.

xpresionz website infogram

Below is a selection of comments made regarding design B:

“B, because it has clear boxes for information, and a clear main information box at the head of the website”

“I prefer design B because it is laid out in a way which makes it easier to find information.”

“I like the ‘[X]’ as the twitter and Facebook profile pictures since this is very effective. The grey backdrop on design b is too boring and didn’t initially grab me, however, the content did look better and more organised than that of design a.”

“Clearer design, looks easier to navigate.”

Now we have this feedback on the designs, we will discuss any final changes to the designs with our design agency Rouge Media and they will start work on building the site. Check back for more information in the coming weeks.

We’ve been a little quiet on the blog front recently, as we have been getting to grips with Drupal and starting work to build several sites, including Xpresionz for Youth Services.

It’s been a pretty steep learning curve to understand all that Drupal has to offer. From learning what a node is (a piece of content), to figuring out just how many ways there are to moderate content, we have been implementing a new system and that has taken time to understand.

However, we are getting there. We now have a fairly functional wireframe of the site up and running, although it doesn’t look very pretty yet.



These wireframes show what content is planned, and what functionality we hope to offer although it may be that this changes between now and the live site.

Other than building the site, we have also been working with the Youth Council and a design company called Rouge Media to come up with a design for it.

Rouge Media met with the Youth Council a few weeks ago to discuss what the site should look like. Rouge then went away and came up with three potential designs for the look and feel of the site.

The Youth Council ended up picking two designs that Rouge Media will take away and make a few changes to. These designs then have to go back to the Youth Council and then onto young people in Bracknell to make a decision.

Stay tuned for more news in the New Year.

According to statistics, very few people use the internal search on our website. We are finding that most people land on our pages from a Google search and just aren’t using our search engine to find content.

This review came out of a recent discussion between web managers from each of the Berkshire Local Authorities (Bracknell Forest, Reading, Slough, West Berkshire, Wokingham and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead). The discussion was initiated by Nick Butcher, Web Manager at Reading Council. Figures from the other Berkshire authorities suggest much the same is happening elsewhere.

Is this a sign of the times? 48% of our visitors use a mobile or tablet device and the way we access web content on these devices is very different. As mobile devices become more and more prominent, is this change in behaviour to be expected?

When was the last time you used an internal search on a website? Are they useful, or are they simply there due to expectation? Big websites like the BBC, GOV.UK and Barclays still use them.

Most modern day browsers include Google search in the toolbar by default. Is it just more natural to access content this way? Should we rely on Google to direct people to content, or are internal search engines still valuable? We would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Email us at digital.services@bracknell-forest.gov.uk or tweet us at @BFCyourservices

We created web publishing standards back in 2012 when we redeveloped the website, and as you would expect these guidelines have changed and evolved over time.

We have published the revised guidelines online and they can be found at:


Publishing the guidelines online makes the information easily accessible to those creating and managing web content, but also allows us to be transparent and to find out what you think about our approach to web content.

Do you find our web pages useful? Do you have any suggestions for improvements? We would love to hear from you.

You can get in touch at digital.services@bracknell-forest.gov.uk or via Twitter @BFCyourservices

Redeveloping digital services for young people has gone several steps further since our last post on the subject back in February. In the last few months we have had more meetings with young people from the youth council and have been getting to grips with what they need out of a website, as well as developing our understanding of Drupal as a web content management system.

In this project we have begun to trial an ‘agile’ working approach which allows for a more user-centered project that can be built relatively quickly. (You can find out more about the agile working process by looking at the Government Service Design Manual.)

Agile working flows through four key stages of development:

  • Discovery
  • Alpha
  • Beta
  • Live

In our meetings with young people we have gone through the discovery phase to work out a prioritised list of user needs/stories based around either a generic ‘young person’ or one of four named characters (Pauline, Sam, Amy and Alfie). These are outlined below:

ID As a I want to So that
1 Young person Find the site through Google It is easy to find
2 Young person Find out about life information I can be healthy and happy without asking adults
2 Pauline Make sure the site is easy to use It is easy for me to add things and keep them up to date
3 Young person Find out about career options I can make decisions about my future
4 Sam Find out about university I can be prepared and reassured
4 Amy Find out about further education options I can decide whether to do A-Levels or college
4 Alfie Find out what it’s like at a new school I can be reassured about the change
5 Young person See things that are near to me I can focus on things I can go to
6 Young person Vote in polls My voice can be heard
6 Young person Find out about local affordable events I can get out of the house and meet friends
7 Young person Know that information is up to date I can rely on it
8 Young person See news feeds I can stay up to date
8 Young person Write for the site My opinions are heard
9 Young person Promote a youth group I am involved in Other young people know what we are doing
10 Young person Enter competitions I can win stuff
11 Young person Publicise my YouTube videos I can be famous
12 Young person Share photos of me and my friends I look popular

These user stories have then been used to mock up an alpha site on Drupal Gardens, which has been shown to the young people involved to get feedback on what they like or don’t about the concepts involved.

This ‘wireframe’ is a skeleton guide that represents a websites initial structure. It is a prototype for what is to come. It enables us to see what it is possible to do, based on what has been requested through the user stories. We can also use it to see where we might be going wrong in terms of what young people need from the site.

The next steps of this project involve getting our alpha version out to more young people and using the feedback from it to create a beta version in Drupal.

Take a look at our alpha site, at www.xpresionz.drupalgardens.com

It does not look very shiny, as this is just a work in progress to test out ideas and functionality (for example online polls and an events listing). We will start looking at the design of the new site over the next few months and implement it on the beta version of the website.

If you have any feedback or suggestions for the new site then please leave a comment on this post or email us at digital.services@bracknell-forest.gov.uk

The council will be running sessions over the summer to support customers to do more online.

This can be help with accessing council services online such as finding out when your bins are collected, or how to comment on a planning application, as well as more general web topics such as how to browse the Internet and send emails.

There will be free tea and biscuits available and staff on hand to provide support and to answer questions. You are welcome to use the computers in the reception area or bring your own smartphones, tablets and laptops and we will show you how to use them.

The sessions will be held at the following times in Easthampstead House reception:

Wednesday 31st July – 10am to 12pm

Monday 19th August – 12pm to 2pm

Please pass on the details to any friends or family members who might be interested in these sessions.

For further information please contact Customer Services on 01344 352000 or email digital.services@bracknell-forest.gov.uk

GO ON UK logo

We have added a feedback panel to the bottom of every page on the website.

You are asked whether the page was useful – and then have the option to give us a more detailed response by completing a very simple feedback form.

We hope that this will encourage people to send us feedback and help us to improve the quality of the information on the website.

Let us know what you think of this solution. If you have some feedback on one of our pages, why not tell us through the feedback panel?

Website feedback panel

Watch a demonstration of our ReadSpeaker tool which reads web pages out loud to you.

We have implemented a new version of the ReadSpeaker tool on our website, which allows you to have the text read out loud to you.

To listen to a page you simply click on the listen button which appears on every content page. You can also choose a section of the text to be read if you don’t want to listen to the whole page.

ReadSpeaker player

In the settings menu you can change options such as speed, volume, colour for highlighting the text etc. For more information about the features please see the listen help page on our website.

We would like to know what you think of the changes. Have you used this feature on our website before?

Please let us know by emailing web.team@bracknell-forest.gov.uk or you can contact us on Twitter @BFCyourservices

This video provides a demo of our new bin collection day finder tool.

We have created a new tool which tells you your bin collection day and the collection due for that week if you are a Bracknell Forest resident (as the council operates an alternate bin collection system).

QR code

Take a look at the waste and recycling collection day finder or use the QR code to get there.

We’ve even made it easy to use on a mobile device – so you can check your collection day anytime and anywhere.

If you have an iPhone or an iPad you can save any of our forms to your home screen by selecting the arrow at the bottom of your browser and choosing the “Add to home screen option”.

Give the form a title of your choice and it will be just one touch away!

Why not give the collection day finder a try and let us know what you think. If information for your address is not available, you believe the details to be incorrect or you have some other feedback please contact us at web.team@bracknell-forest.gov.uk

Collection day finderiPhone home screen

Four star website

March 2, 2013 — Leave a comment

Our website has been handed the highest possible four-star ranking in a prestigious annual survey of the UK’s 433 local authority websites.

Bracknell Forest was one of only 37 councils to receive the top rating from the Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM). It has also been ranked in the top 20 best developed sites.

The SOCITM reviewer of our site commented:

Almost every task carried out on this site was easy, quick and reliable. The content was consistently excellent, answering most of the questions I had and providing relevant, contextual links to further information or actions that I could take to complete the task. There is a very social feel to the homepage which, although it takes up a lot of valuable space, helps to convey the uncluttered, informative and current nature of the site. Overall, though, an exceptional website that presents information clearly, allows tasks to be completed quickly, and serves its citizens well.

The reviewer’s comments are welcomed as they reflect the main objectives that the Web Team set for the new website, launched in April 2012.

The survey also revealed that the council’s website has the highest level of take up by local residents in the country (over 45%). This is the fourth year in a row that Bracknell Forest has had the highest proportion of local residents who visit their council website.

Xpresionz was launched over five years ago as a website for young people by young people. Its key objective was to deliver straight forward information and services provided by the council through Youth Services. Five years on the website and the digital needs of young people in the area are being reviewed.Technology has moved on during this period and the current website no longer reflects the needs and expectations of young people.

Young people have embraced the use of social media over the last few years and this has led to the development of a Facebook page for Youth Services, which has allowed the team to interact and inform young people in a space that they enjoy and feel comfortable to use.

The way that young people choose to access information online has also changed with a growing preference to access information on the move via mobile and tablet devices. The current website is not designed to be accessed on alternative devices and provides a poor experience for those who choose to access it in this way.

The young people’s website redevelopment needs to take these changes in young people’s online preferences and technology into account. It also needs to consider how to make the website engaging to young people by empowering them to help shape the design selected and the range of information and services provided.

An initial meeting was held this week with an enthusiastic and digitally savvy group of young people to help to understand their use of the internet, their likes and dislikes and what a new website might offer. This information will help to shape the direction that the website redevelopment takes and further sessions are planned. But that will just be the start as these young people will in turn share their ideas and get feedback from other young people in the borough. Social media and programmed events will help to achieve this interaction and engagement.

The young people’s website redevelopment will also help the council to pilot the use of open source content management software. We are currently investigating using Drupal, an open source web content management system. This project will also help us to build our knowledge of Drupal before considering its use on our public website.

We were recently asked to build a website to hold information about the regeneration of Bracknell Town Centre.

The site was created in WordPress using one of the freely available themes.

One of the benefits of using WordPress is that you can enable a mobile theme making your website mobile friendly. This is great as many people now choose to browse the web on a mobile device.

You can visit the site at http://bracknellregeneration.org/

Let us know what you think of the site. If you have any queries relating to the regeneration plans themselves, please contact bracknell.regeneration@bracknell-forest.gov.uk

Bracknell regeneration site

Bracknell Forest HousingOur address finder will save you time when completing our online forms, as you just need to enter your postcode and the database will find your address and fill in the rest of the details for you (as long as it is a Bracknell Forest address).

Before we implement this, we need to test thoroughly to ensure that it is working properly. We would therefore be most grateful if you could test for us using any Bracknell Forest postcodes to see whether the addresses are found.

Address finder testing form.

If you spot any issues or would like to leave feedback, please get in touch.

Mobile friendly forms

December 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

mobile-formsWe know that approximately 26% of users access our website from a mobile device and this number is sure to grow as people use mobile devices more and more to access the web.

Although we have an optimised version of our website, mobile users up until now have only been able to access the desktop version of our online forms.

We are pleased to announce that our forms are now ‘mobile friendly’, so that they are easy to use whilst you are out and about. So, for example, if you spot a faulty street light you can tell us about it there and then using your mobile device.

Please let us know what you think of this development. You can leave us a comment on this blog or send us an email at web.team@bracknell-forest.gov.uk or tweet us @BFCyourservices

Zero broken links and misspellings

Finding broken links on a website can be very frustrating. On a large website like ours broken links can be a major headache as there are thousands of links (6,102 links at the time of writing this blog post) and they can break at any time of the day if an external website goes down or links are changed in some way.

How do we try to avoid broken links?

External link monitoring
We use an external monitoring service to alert us when there are any problems with external links and put things right – either by updating the link or removing it and finding an alternative if appropriate. We do this on a regular basis and have a ‘zero tolerance’ on broken links as we know just how annoying it can be to be taken to a ‘Page Not Found’ message.

Content review
We check web links on our website before we publish them online to make sure that they work. We also periodically review web content to make sure that links are working but also continue to be relevant and provide current and useful information.

We try to find and fix broken links before anyone finds them but we do welcome feedback from visitors. If you find a broken link then please tell us – it’ll help us to put things right for you the next time you or others visit a page on our website.




Looking local App

Do you have a smart phone? Why not download a free app that lets you access council information and make reports to the council on a variety of issues?

The Looking Local mobile app allows you to report abandoned vehicles, anti-social behaviour, dumped rubbish, graffiti, potholes and road issues, street lighting faults and damage to street furniture.


You can report all of these on your phone, at the moment you notice them, or if you want to, you can make a report once you are home.

If your phone has GPS you can pinpoint the problems whilst you are out, or you can locate the place on the map later on. With a camera phone you can take a picture and show us the problem.Report It

This is a great way to let us know about any issues you discover as you are out and about in Bracknell. Why not download it and give it a go? Simply search for ‘Looking Local’ on your smartphone. 

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment on this blog or emailing us at web.team@bracknell-forest.gov.uk.

(All these images are from the iPhone version. If you have an Android phone, it may look a little different.)

News on the homepage

November 2, 2012 — Leave a comment

Homepage widgetsNews section of website

You may have noticed that we have made some changes to the homepage on the desktop version of the website. In an attempt to make news more visible we now display the 5 most recent news stories. There is also a feed on the main news page to make the stories easier to find.

We have also included a consultations box which shows the current consultations and changed the way that we present the “I am…” section on the homepage using expandable boxes.

These change are currently on the desktop version of the site only.

The site is constantly evolving as a result of feedback and user testing. If you have any feedback or comments about these changes or the site in general please get in touch. You can comment on this blog, email us at web.team@bracknell-forest.gov.uk or tweet us @BracknellForest using #yourbfc

Expandable boxes

October 29, 2012 — Leave a comment

Our website features expandable boxes to present content. These are currently being used to present popular services, contact information, downloads and related websites.

With the exception of the popular services boxes, the rest are closed by default on our web pages and you need to click on the plus icon to expand them to see the content.

We are interested to find out what you think of this design feature. Do you find this confusing, or is it obvious to you how to use these boxes? If you are looking for a document on a web page, would you think it logical to look in the downloads box, or would you expect to see it on the page?

Please let us know what you think by commenting on this blog, sending us an email to web.team@bracknell-forest.gov.uk or tweet us @BracknellForest using #yourbfc

Accessibility options

October 17, 2012 — Leave a comment

We are committed to providing a website that is accessible to the widest audience.

We have implemented a range of tools on our website to help make the experience as user friendly and accessible as possible. This includes the ability to listen to the site using our ReadSpeaker tool, which is useful for people who experience difficulties reading text online.

We also put you in control, by allowing you to change the size of the text using our text size controls.

Do you find it difficult to read black text on a white background? Then why not change the page theme to one of our alternative options. Yellow, black, and blue backgrounds are also provided to aid your viewing experience.

The controls for these features can be found at the top of the page.

Blue page

Yellow page

Black page

Take a look at the accessibility pages on our website for more information.

Have you used any of our accessibility features before? If so, we would love to know whether you found them useful.

Please let us know if you have any other suggestions that might improve your experience of using the website.

You can provide your feedback by leaving a comment on this blog or by emailing us at web.team@bracknell-forest.gov.uk

Cookie consent

September 26, 2012 — Leave a comment

You might have noticed that the pop up about cookies on our website has disappeared recently. Well, we’ve replaced it with something that won’t get in the way of what you are doing.


With the pop up you had to give consent to accept cookies, which many of you weren’t doing. This meant that some of our features didn’t work. This consent was required, by law, for cookies to be placed on your computer.

However, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) decided at the end of May 2012 that consent could be implied when it came to cookies.

This means that you don’t need to do anything anymore. If you click on the triangle in the corner of our web pages, you will get some information and advice to allow you to make an informed decision as to whether or not you accept our cookies. If you decide you do want to opt out, you can change your browser settings.

You can visit our page about cookies for more information at http://www.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/cookies.

(For anyone wondering, a cookie is, as well as a tasty treat, a small file of letters and numbers that allow a website to recognise a visitor’s PC, mobile, or other device.

The information accessed by the cookie is used to improve the user experience on the website by, for example, ensuring that you don’t have to give the same information several times during one task.

Cookies aren’t used to identify individual visitors, but rather to make the site work better for you.)

In addition to the desktop version of our site, we also have a mobile version which allows you to access our website on the go.

On your mobile device you can do most of the things you can on the desktop version, from reporting problems with streetlights, to making online leisure bookings.

Currently 29% of users access the website using a mobile device and we want to make sure you are receiving the best possible experience. For this to happen it is important that we receive your feedback.

If you haven’t already visited the mobile site, why not take a look around at http://m.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/home.htm

If you are using a mobile device you should be automatically redirected to the mobile site, or you can scan this QR code to get there:

QR Code generator

We want to make sure you receive the best possible experience, so please send us your feedback and let us know of any problems you are experiencing, as well as the device you are using, so we can investigate any issues.

You can leave us a comment on this blog or email us at web.team@bracknell-forest.gov.uk

Have you applied or looked for a council job through our website? If so, we are keen to hear from you and fJobs pagesind out ways that we can improve the user experience.

We would be interested to hear your thoughts on the following:

  • Did a Google search lead you to our site, or did you come directly to us?
  • When you got to the site, how easy was it to find what you were looking for? Did you navigate the site, search or use the A to Z?
  • Did you find all of the information that you were looking for?
  • Did you apply online for a job? If so, how was this experience?

We are also interested to know whether you applied using a desktop or mobile device and the resulting experience.

You can leave us a comment on this blog or email us at web.team@bracknell-forest.gov.uk

We are keen to hear your thoughts on how easy it is to find planning information on our website. This includes planning applications and planning policies etc.

Maybe you are a resident or a developer – do you use the search engine? Or do you navigate through the site? Whichever method you use, we would like to hear from you about you experiences.

You can leave us a comment on this blog or email us at web.team@bracknell-forest.gov.uk

Roadworks finder

July 21, 2012 — Leave a comment

Roadworks finderWe have recently added a Roadworks finder to our site – http://www.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/roadworksfinder

The Roadworks finder provides real-time information about the location of roadworks and other notifiable highway events. It will help you to view precisely where and when roadworks are taking place, who is responsible for them, and assess the likely impact on journey times. The Roadworks finder is developed by Elgin – www.elgin.org.uk

ImageFind your nearest GP, dentist or pharmacy on our website at http://www.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/findmynearestgpdentistorpharmacy

This service is provided by NHS Choices. Take a look and let us know what you think.

We are keen to hear your thoughts on our online forms to find out how effective they are and to help us identify areas for improvement.

We have created a feedback form which looks at our real-life “order a blue recycling bin form”. It asks for feedback on each section of the form and you will also have the opportunity to provide comments on our online forms in general.

You can also provide your feedback by leaving a comment on this blog or by emailing us at web.team@bracknell-forest.gov.uk