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.

Statistics South Africa ( ) is a fixed size home page – that easily fits well within my screen. I thought some may find the text a little small and tried to increase the size – to no avail. The layout is very pleasing to the eye and easy to follow. Under an annoying ticker line – which contains some of the key statistics – are just two principal headings ‘Find statistics’ and ‘News’. The left –hand navigation provides links to more detail on the publications and releases.

The top navigation is clear and, where required, brings a second line of navigation. Unusually, the ‘Search’ on this line does not have a box to enter key words adjacent but links to another screen where the user is informed that the search is ‘Powered by Google’ and provided with the standard box for key words. A second ‘search’ – this time with the usual key word box – is provided in the left-hand navigation. The rest of the left-hand navigation is a set of pictures (including the words) which are hyperlinked: this saves the developer linking both the symbols and the words.

 ‘Find statistics’ has only seven headings! Each of the headings has a tool-tip with a little more explanation – thus saving space and allowing the user to home in on the relevant words. ‘Statistical publications’ leads to an enquiry screen to find what one is looking for – or to a full alphabetic listing. Following any gives a new page with more detail about the publication and the size of the file with an option to download it. My favourite two key statistics, population and the CPI, are both in the ticker line – and in the six listed on the ‘Key statistics’ page – along with links to the latest releases on these and to many other key statistics listed by theme.

‘Interactive data’ has five sub-sections: four can only be accessed following free registration. The exception is ‘Interactive graphs’ which is based on Hans Rosling’s Gapminder charts: this is the first time I have ever seen such charts on a NSI site. Over 20 different series are presented in this way. The user can select any of the series to graph against each other: so far only 12 years’ data is available.

The ‘Community survey’ link opens a sub-site where the first visible information is population and change data – but all the data are left justified! The other tables on this page are presented with right justification of the data.

Overall, this is an impressive site where navigation has been well thought through and the novice can easily get simple data. A useful addition would be to have ‘South Africa in Figures' and the Yearbook linked directly from the publication search page – as these must be very frequently looked for.

..   Happy surfing …


This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 7.0 on 29 April 2009 21.00 hrs GMT using a 20 Mb link to the Internet on a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz machine.


Please send and comments and suggestions for sites to review to