Bedford Borough Council has a new website design Image: Fair use

Google searches lead to missing pages

Bedford Borough Council recently launched a new website for its services at www.bedford.gov.uk. The website has a totally new look and replaces the previous design which was starting to show its age.

The redesign is part of the Council’s move towards offering its residents more online services. A Borough Council spokesperson said:

“This is an integral part of our digital transformation programme which is expected to save the Council £10million a year and will make it easier for residents to access the services they need, at a time that is convenient for them.”

The website was developed in-house with the support of the Council’s technical partners for the digital programme.

Mark Snell, from the web design and marketing agency IdealVantage, found the new site is easy to use. He said:

“The site is clearly divided into Top Tasks and Services and if they don’t show you what you’re looking for, you can use the search bar at the top and enter your search term there.

“The key for such a site is quick and easy access to specific information and the design of the site certainly provide this.”

There are snags with the new site

The new website uses new addresses for its pages. This means that a search using Google, or other directories services, can lead to a page that no longer exists. This can be very frustrating for the user.

This problem could have been prevented if the design team had set up permanent redirections from the old addresses to the new alternatives.

Mark said:

“It is easy to set up permanent redirects from old pages to a similar page on a new site in the administrative back end of your website, but it is important that these are mapped out correctly.

“Obviously the more pages you have, the more complex this task, but in essence, it is a straightforward process.”

The Council spokesperson said:

“Diverts have been set up for the most popular searches and re-indexing is being carried out where required.

“Part of the website development has also delivered an improved website search function to ensure that users can access what they need as quickly and easily as possible.”

Mark added that for pages that are not found, it’s also important to set up what is known as a ‘404 page‘ with a title tag of “Page Not found”.

“I clicked to a page telling me that the page has not been found and that I should use the search bar to find the content I am looking for.

“Not ideal, but at least they are giving me as the visitor some user-friendly guidance.”

Bedford Borough's new web design means that, in some cases, Google suggests a page that  no longer exists. For example this suggestion for meetings and papers Image: Fair Use
The Google suggestion ends up at this error page Image: Fair Use

Users are being asked for feedback

The Council has been asking users for feedback of their experiences of the new site. The spokesperson said:

“The response has been largely positive with some constructive and useful suggestions and we continue to welcome any feedback.”

You can visit the site at www.bedford.gov.uk