For me one of the biggest mistakes that a website can make is to present out-of-date information. The credibility of a website can be affected by presenting old information. For a council website old information can mean misinformation about services which is unforgivable. In this article we’ll review the importance of currency and consider some tips keeping your website up-to-date.
Lets explore some examples of out-of-date information. Here are some simple errors which may suggest that a site is out-of-date:
News stories should help to demonstrate that a website is current by presenting up-to-date news items. Unfortunately this is not always the case, such as the council promoting a awareness day on 24th March which actually took place on 18th March. I also found a number of errors on news stories, such as one claiming to be about the start of British Summer Time but in fact linking to a story on Fire kills. Errors like this are very visible on a homepage and suggest that content updates are not being checked.
One of the most telling signs that a site isn’t regularly updated is an out of date copyright year. I found a number of examples where councils were displaying copyright notices dated 2012 and 2013.
GOV.UK went live in 2012, but several council websites still publicise Directgov via a logo or text. I found one website which presented the Directgov with a link to their own homepage. One website presented GOV.UK correctly with a correct link, but had failed to update the alt text from ‘Directgov’. I also found council sites presenting GOV.UK with http rather than https. This is not a major issue as the site re-directs, but it suggests a lack of attention.
Documents can be a major source of out-of-date information. Keeping web page content current but forgetting to review document based information is quite common. Part of the reason for this is that council websites can contain many thousands of documents which can pose significant review issues. Documents often can’t be easily updated as they present information in a fixed format. It just isn’t feasible to constantly update long documents and errors must often be expected. Broken links can frequently be found in documents and worse still they can present inaccurate information. We will look at documents in more detail in a future article as they present a wide range of challenges.