Surfing with Ed on the Internet…

by Ed Swires-Hennessy, Local Government Data Unit - 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 travel to Mexico, to the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Information (INEGI), http://www.inegi.gob.mx/difusion/ingles/portadai.html.

 

Upon entry to the site it appears to be well organised, and travelling around the site confirms this. A standard top navigation bar divides the site into six obvious sections, with consistent use of left hand navigation for each of these. The navigation is kept in frames, meaning that it stays on the screen as you scroll through the main body of each web page, thought the option to show or hide frames is present throughout the site at the bottom of each page and can be used to improve the presentation of some data. Above the top navigation, as part of the uniform title graphic, there are links to the home page (which could perhaps be made more noticeable) and to a site map (referred to in its graphic as “search”). The site map is good, however, the column widths could be changed, as the column containing the largest amount of information is given the smallest width – resulting in an unnecessarily long page. A mix of typefaces (serif and sans serif) is present in navigation – conversion to sans serif for all would aid the reading of the headings.

 

“About Mexico” is another simple and easy to read section giving basic information about Mexico. This includes population, geography and economic information. It is in written form providing the most basic of data: rounding of data needs some attention and, again, a sans serif typeface would aid reading.

 

The “Territory” section is one of the highlights of the site. It is where all the geographical data is held, and includes a lot of professional and detailed maps, on subjects such as political regions, soil types, weather and vegetation types. There are also several pages of basic information supplementing the maps. Unfortunately there is no obvious way of telling whether a link goes to a map or just a page of text. Labelling the links “Map about…” and adding a size of the page size in bytes would improve things. Viewing this page in a standard 800 x 600 screen introduces slight horizontal scrolling to the left hand navigation frame. Making a slight adjustment to the frame width to accommodate the longest link would eradicate this flaw.

 

The next two sections contain a wealth of statistical tables, divided into “Social and Demographic Statistics” and “Economic Statistics” These tables contain data on all aspects of Mexico and include a lot of information. The data are well presented and are easy to read . As HTML tables are used the data are readily available for use in spreadsheets if required. The downfall of what has so far been a very good site is the size of the tables, some of which require significant amounts of horizontal scrolling. This makes them difficult to read as the row titles are lost when looking at the right hand side of the table. The question is how to solve this problem – and the answers to such questions are not always simple. First, the tables use a very large font size and reducing this would, in some cases, solve the problem. However, in others, more difficult measures such as reducing lengthy column titles or splitting up the table would need to be considered.

 

“About INEGI” is a simple and easy to read section giving information about the organisation. This includes a useful summary of developments – such as the facility to obtain data on CD rather than on paper.

 

“Our Products and Services” links to ordering information, including a product catalogue (only available in Spanish) and facilities to order priced publications online – together with details of payment – although there isn’t a facility to pay online. There is also a clickable map of contact details for all of the regional offices of the INEGI but there is nothing on the map to identify each region. Also included in this section are contact details and a feedback form requesting comments on the site.

 

Overall, this is a good site. Improving the tables and attending to other minor problems would turn this site from a good site into an excellent one.

 

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.0 on 25 March 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@lgdu-wales.gov.uk