Commentary

Website development

The Commissioner's website is one of the main channels through which he provides information to the public and public authorities, and its role is likely to become even more significant in the future, as the Scottish public becomes increasingly 'e-literate', and spending cuts make cost effective online communications more attractive.

The Commissioner is continually reviewing his website, to ensure that it meets the different needs of all those who visit it – over 72,500 different visitors in 2010.

2010 Development

User research reveals that the most-visited part of the site is the database of Commissioner's decisions, which is used by public authorities and requesters alike to examine how similar FOI requests have been handled in the past. In response to this demand, the database was developed and enhanced during 2010 to allow users to search the full content of all decisions, rather than just their titles. The option to search by the exceptions in the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations was also introduced.

Our research has also shown that the public mainly visit the site if they want to find out what the law says, or what they should do if they want to ask for information. The site already offers some useful practical tools for requesters, such as a 'response-time calculator' to enable them to see when they can expect a response to their request, and a 'three step guide' to making requests. In addition, in 2010, a more user-friendly guide to who is covered by FOI was added.

Alongside this, our homepage was redesigned, and we also started to offer information in new formats, such as video and audio clips and commentary, news feeds, improved resources for the media, and information on FOI rights in ten community languages.

Future plans

During 2011, we plan to further develop our web resources for members of the public looking for practical support and advice on using FOI. Alongside this, we are also launching a 'Facebook' page, and looking into other 'social networking' opportunities, to help make FOI as accessible and relevant to as many people as possible.

The Commissioner is committed to ensuring that support and information is available to all – including those without internet access. All the information and support available on the website is also accessible by phoning the Commissioner's staff on the enquiry line, or by paying a visit to the office.