While the site looks fantastic the real problems start to show when you actually try and do anything. For example, try and set up a council tax direct debit from this page:
The site seems to be filled with similar breaks in UX like the above. I can understand if this was an unfinished site but all the press releases are touting this as a "complete overhaul" when really it feels like a hollow, unfinished re-skin.
Great work Scott. Bring on the quims.
Adoration where it's due, and criticism likewise. The site is pretty when you first hit it (ooh symbol fonts, how innovative!), but scratch below the surface and the veneer quickly peels away.
The reason this redesign has received so much attention is because its a government backed project. It's a council website, and we all know public institutions don't do good design, don't we? Hell, it's only bloody responsive as well, wow!
Good design isn't about cool factor, especially with regards to a public service portal. The links may fade between colours on hover, the site may use a nice a colour scheme (which doesn't represent Manchester in any way), or have pretty big rounded buttons. Why, it even expresses how friendly Manchester City Council are by the tremendously appropriate use of the 'Fedra' typeface.
But if I can't set up a council tax direct debit, or have to trawl the 4 pages of menus to get to the information I'm looking for—the website is ultimately not serving its purpose.
I'm aware I'm probably preaching to the masses here, so please don't think I'm trying to provoke for no reason. My response is influenced more by the acclaim on Twitter and the like than any comments on this site; some commenters above have pointed out several of the UX flaws. What bugs me is the habit of judging a site by the pages you encounter in the first 20 seconds.
I love that the IA has been reorganised to be more human-friendly, likely based on research by Keep It Usable. That can't have been an easy task. But that hard work is to some extent undone by what is frankly poor design.
It's a shame, because this is definitely a step in the right direction. But the focus on the 'whizz-bang' detracts from fundamental usability errors. For example, what the hell is going on with that slideshow on the homepage? Once you pass the array of pretty icons, you're dealt a slab of a photo, the relevance of which is obscured until you scroll another 400 pixels!
But I won't get carried away pulling it apart, everyone here can do it themselves if they wish.
Anyone who's worked with public sector organisations, or hell, even private companies, has dealt with bureaucracy. That's part and parcel of our job, and it's a nightmare. I can't imagine how horrid the nightmare must be within the jungle of local government. But anyone who's come out the other end also knows that doesn't have to be an excuse for a poor product, especially one they're touting as a 'complete overhaul' (http://www.prolificnorth.co.uk/2013/05/manchester-council-releases-new-web-site/).
I'd be happy to hear what others think. But I'll leave you with one last thought. Whether you think the redesign is an exceptional step forward (they proclaim they have set a ‘new benchmark for council sites’), or a turd in a shiny coat—I'd be interested to know the overall cost. A 2010 study found the average cost of council websites was £100k (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/aug/16/council-spending-website). If that's the case with this redesign—as a commercial designer, or as a tax-paying citizen of Manchester—does that in any way alter your judgement of it?
A great move from an org-structure hierarchy to an audience/task based hierarchy. There are bound to be some issues in execution, but the broad level strategy is a great step forward. Usually it's very tough to convince stakeholders to make this move, if the agency sees the importance in the first place.
Although a giant leap forward for government design, this just feels like a cheap nasty rip from a themeforest theme.
There's some interesting comments here.
I worked as in house web designer in local government for very nearly a decade and I can tell you that the fact that a council of Manchester's size can launch something like this is a very good thing.
The move to task orientated is great, and carries on the work that Liverpool did 18 months or so ago, and that the GDS team do for gov.uk - it's what users want from a council site.
It is not always what the different internal departments want. That is just one of the many battles.
I've seen a few people mention the lack of consistency between sections. That is because there will be umpteen different systems for different tasks. All will have different data architectures, back ends and systems powering them. None of them will be able to talk to each other. All of them will be unwieldy, massive, and hugely expensive. They will also be tied into long term contracts.
Departments will have bought these systems without discussing things properly with other teams. This happens all the time, often despite the best efforts of the IT departments to have as much control as possible.
It makes providing a consistent user experience impossible. You just have to try and ease the transition as much as possible.
To totally overhaul all the systems would take real, long term planning. Seeing as in 3 years time you could have a new ruling party making the top level decisions who have a completely different agenda, it rarely happens.
There is a massive amount of content on a council site. Thousands of pages worth, with wildly varying styles of information.
The target audience is massive. The user base covers all the age ranges and abilities. The range of tech being used to connect is massive. Especially when consider even your own organisation you might find that user are still stuck using IE6 for compatibility reasons.
It's a very tough gig. It's a massively challenging project to work on. (I loved the design problems it posed.)
I'm disappointed to hear that it was agency designed in some ways. That means it will have been expensive. There will be a Freedom of Information request, and the figure will be very high. Jadu as a platform isn't cheap to begin with (if memory serves me correctly).
Do I agree with their design.
I like some of it. Some of it is overly flashy. I'm not sure the responsive design works great on desktops, but it does enough. The whitespace is a bit odd in places. But that could the fault of content editors. It's not consistent, but that's to be expected for the reasons I discussed.
They have done a very good job, and I'm jealous I was never allowed to do anything any where near as modern as that.
Overall it shows that modern web thinking can work in local government. I love the fact they have won the content war and focussed on what's important to users. I love that it will mean other councils will follow. It will win awards. Councils like winning awards. That will mean others will copy it.
It's good that exists.
Its pretty good for a government website, but the more I dig around the more I find a lack of attention to detail. For example, switch the theme to creme and many elements break: http://www.adamwintledesign.com/screenshots/Manchester_City_Council_Homepage-20130503-011017.jpg
Which is the design agency? Is a very great work :)
Looks like it was a new agency called Spacecraft: http://www.jadu.net/blog/TheJaduBlog/post/64/Spacecraft---A-New-Frontier
looks a lot better on my phone than on my desktop.