Badly designed or poorly built websites could be costing councils £11m a month, according to the Society of IT Managers (Socitm).
Socitm warns that if users are not able to find the information they need quickly and easily on the web, they will either call or visit council contact centres, which is a much more expensive way for local authorities to provide services.
On average, a fifth of visitors to council sites do not find what they are looking for, according to research by Socitim. Of 7.3 million unique visitors to 120 local authority websites in September 2009, 21% did not find what they wanted, and 21% only found part of what they wanted.
This means nearly 4.4 million people who visited UK council websites in September did not what they were looking for. If they called the council instead, with each call costing a council £2.50 to serve, the monthly cost of bad site design would be £11m.
The poor web service at councils continues despite evidence of the cost savings good websites can bring. Despite its popularity - 70% of customer interaction comes through the web - it is also the least satisfactory, with 42% of visitors rating the service as poor. But predicted public sector spending cuts mean investment in user-friendly websites is becoming more crucial.
Martin Greenwood, programme director at Socitm Insight, said, "With the coming cuts in public spending, councils must invest in their web channel so that they save money through self-service, rather than adding unnecessary cost because customers cannot do what they want to online."