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.

Holidays in Spain, before the rain, led me to consider the web site of the Spanish National Statistics Institute, which can be found at http://www.ine.es/

The opening page downloads in just a few seconds due to the small number of graphics on this page - but there are still enough to make it look interesting. Although this page is slightly cluttered the link to the English site it obvious. The links at the top of this page are useful and would be useful throughout but, once you leave the Spanish homepage, the contacts link is lost.

Once within the English part of the site, finding information is generally easy. It is claimed that the statistical information is updated daily and the 'millions of pieces of data' they have on the site are grouped by subjects with a good search utility. The search utility provided is generally very good, that is if you use it when it’s working: if caught on a bad day, whatever is entered, you will get the response ‘No document was fount that matches your query.’

Some errors are fundamental to the design of the site: for example, on many graphs there are no axis labels; also errors of presentation where the year headings have been formatted as numbers with decimal points. (http://www.ine.es/daco/daco42/demogra/evolnac1.htm. And the most frustrating to the user is that you can be travelling around the English part of the site quite happily and suddenly everything appears in Spanish again. Frequently this is just due to the titles being placed in Spanish (so do link to an English page), sometimes you need to go to the bottom and click on English again. But the most frequent reason for the switch appears to be that no English translation is available and so should not be offered.

Other minor errors abound on the site, for example, the roll-over buttons did not work on http://www.ine.es/inebase/cgi/um.

While surfing this site I also found many broken links the most frustrating of which were placed at the bottom of http://www.ine.es/espcif/espcifin/espcifin.htm: here only three of the eight English links worked.

Many data are stored in Inebase a data warehouse type product. For some selections within demography and population, the language reverted to Spanish, but simple understanding allowed an insight into the table creation from the database. The ease of selection reminds me of both PC-Axis (from the Nordic countries) and Statline (Netherlands). From another product, TeMPUS, the time series database, it is both easy to select series and to produce a very basic graphs but these suffer from the auto-generation with absence of axis labels, full axis values - and English language titles!

When a link is to a document in a different format warnings are given (a link to download Acrobat is even given) but one is not always notified of the size of the documents.

Navigation around this site is often very difficult partially due to the language changes but also due to the lack of links to enable you to go up a level, back to the sections home page, or even to the site's home page.

A vast treasure of information is freely available on this site. And I am sure our Spanish colleagues are working towards a fully bilingual site (I know how difficult that is!) for the future. It is essential to ensure complete links and efficient navigation. And for the user, estimates of file sizes for downloads are a minimum courtesy.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 4.72 on 27 July at 15.00 hrs GMT using a high speed access line (via Super JANet) on a 266 Mhz Pentium II machine.

Comments and suggestions for sites to review to me, please,

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

... Happy surfing