Surfing with Ed on the Internet…

by Ed Swires-Hennessy, National Assembly for Wales

Ed continues his appraisals of different national Web Sites to stimulate use of the Internet, share best practice and encourage debate.

This month I review the site of FEDSTATS ( http://www.fedstats.gov/ ) which is a Portal to statistical information from over 100 US Federal Agencies and uses a variety of methods to make data more accessible to the viewer. The site is generally consistent throughout, with each page having a set of standard links. One inconsistency is the presentation of the page title which is always displayed in the banner and on some pages as an additional header.

The first link from the home page is to a ‘Topic links – A to Z’ page, which lists the topics in alphabetical order. Links at the top of the page to each letter of the alphabet make it more user-friendly and a separate page for each letter make the pages less cluttered and easy to view, often without the need to scroll.

To obtain data on a particular state the ‘MapStats’ link is the most appropriate to follow as it presents the information by state in an easy to read table. State selection can be made from a drop down box or a clickable map. Selecting ‘Statistics by geography from U.S. agencies’ displays a page of links arranged by topic connecting to different agency websites. The links supplied provide information by geography on a wide range of topics.

The ‘Statistical reference shelf’ contains links to many main publications, each has a description of the publication and the option to view the whole document. The good agency search facility within this site includes clear instructions on how to use it, and the option to limit the search to an individual agency. ‘Agencies listed alphabetically’ displays links to each of the Agencies together with an overview of its work and a link to contact information and in some cases, Key Statistics. Using the ‘Agencies by subject’ facility displays a list of Agencies which deal with the subject used as the search criteria.

The press releases page allows you to scroll through releases by Agency, or to search by keyword for all recent releases published by the listed agencies. To try and provide the facilities for all ages a Kids' page is included. This contains links to the kids' sections of all the agency sites that provide this resource. ‘Data Access Tools’ allows viewers to take advantage of the interactive facilities provided by some agencies. This is a excellent and innovative facility which allows visitors maximum use of the published data, often by creating and running online queries.

The links at the bottom of the home page provide a lot of information about FEDSTATS, its role and policies, and also contain a useful guide on how to get the best from the website. The feedback facility and the care taken to provide access for all visitors reflect the modern development approach taken by the producers of this site. This site is easy to navigate and achieves the objective of making it easy to find the statistics required, either by geography or topic.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.0 on 01 April at 11.00 hrs GMT using a high speed link through Super JANet on a Pentium III 333MHz machine.

Please send and comments and suggestions for sites to review to

Ed.Swires-Hennessy@wales.gsi.gov.uk

 

Happy surfing