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.

In holiday mood, I thought of the sun and the golden sands of Portugal. The Portuguese ‘Instituto Nacional de Estatística’ co-ordinates the internet site which purports to be in English. The English home page has too many graphics – even for simple words – and significantly slows access with my fast line.

The design of the first page is difficult to follow particularly as a new feature – an irritating rotating message at the foot of the page – keeps changing and doesn’t have hyperlinks!

I went first to the ‘Last updates’ within General Statistical Data section to find out what has been published recently. Though the items are categorised by theme, the user is given just one long list – not designed for web users! The introduction of a simple hierarchical structure, with themes on the first page, would be far simpler to access. The tables have been very recently updated with the latest one revised yesterday: all are in English though some presentation issues are very apparent (e.g. on the producer price index tables the heading indicates an index with base 1995=100 but the data presented are percentage changes: further some Portuguese headings – for example, ‘Transport and communications’ - have not been translated).

The ‘Just Published’ section details many of the available statistical publications but what an inefficient way to present it! All of the textual summary is in Portuguese and every publication has a graphic (around 12kb each): information on 18 products covers 10 screens! At the end of the list is a link to the publications catalogue – which is hierarchically structured: themes, product list, product.

The link to the ‘Infoline’ product takes one to the Portuguese version of the page – despite their being an English language version available (a link to the English page is on the Portuguese page). The majority of the first level of information on ‘Infoline’ is in English apart from the demonstration! It purports to be similar to the Statline product from Statistics Netherlands. But yet again too many graphics are used. The Dutch are working on the translation of the meta data for their main data product: I hope the same would soon be true in Portugal. The service is subscription based though visitors can access the service after obtaining a password – for a minimum charge of 5,000 escudos.

The site is split into promotion and provision of statistical information: some overall thought needs to be given to the main uses of the site and then some restructuring applied. For someone poor in Portuguese the site did offer a significant amount of basic information in English: only detailed information would be a problem to me – not being able to understand the main product.

Navigation through the site is quite poor – following English links to be given Portuguese pages is not helpful (e.g. on Infoline and on Census 2001): it’s probably better to offer clearly only what is available in English.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 4.72 on 23 July at 13.30 using a high speed access line (via Super JANet) on a 266 Mhz Pentium II machine.

Suggestions of interesting sites or interesting features found at statistical sites should be sent to me at

or by snail mail to National Assembly for Wales, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3NQ.

P.S. Have you seen the new front page for the ONS site ( ? The removal of the introductory graphics page and of the graphics on the home page have really improved access speeds. The removal of graphics has reduced the download size of the home page from 71kb to 17kb – with a consequent speeding up of the load time. This is the beginning of a redesign in anticipation of the creation of National Statistics: if anyone has ideas for the National Statistics site, please send me an e-mail.


... Happy (holidays &) surfing ..