Surfing with Ed on the Internet ...

by Ed Swires-Hennessy, Welsh Office

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

Instead of wandering the world this month, I have chosen a site at the heart of the city. The large and diverse Bank of England site ( http://www.bankofengland.co.uk ) is not principally statistics: however, the Monetary and Financial Statistics Division (MFSD) does make a major contribution to the overall site. Access to the statistics is not trivial: the home page was reasonably slow to load because of the many graphics included but most are retained neatly for the general user on each page of the site for navigation; subsequent use was speedy. These graphics included a picture of a pink frock-coated museum doorman(!) but not one for statistics; for these one has to read carefully the text to identify the right hypertext to get into the statistics. Direct access to the MFSD part of the site can be gained by the addition to the main address of /mfsd/index.htm.

I was impressed by the comprehensive nature of the statistical area and the ease with which data could be viewed. In press notices, the schedule for the current year is converted to hypertext links directly to the press notice when it has been issued. The data in the press notices does not easily cut and paste into Excel or Word. But the annual abstract, containing many long series, is available for downloading in Excel files.

A great deal of meta-data is provided - again in a downloadable file. Information on the statistics division is provided though the aims shown related to the year beginning 1 March 1996! Those pages which have been developed since 1996 now have a ‘last updated’ date which helps the user and an organogram is given for September 1998 (though only with telephone extension numbers and no overall number shown!)

The navigation through this part of the site was not fully developed and I found two links which did not work. The designation of a button as ‘home’ which only took one to the top of the page was a little confusing: ‘top’ would be much better. The navigation design needs tightening and applying consistently.

A great deal of information is provided including items like the inflation report which is more than pure statistics. It is laudable to include the relevant diagrams in the reports but the current presentation does not really add information, detracting from the generally excellent presentation. I came across a couple of .jpg diagrams which were practically unreadable even with a 17" XGA screen.

Overall this site was easy to use and quick to find statistics. The page loading and data downloading was very quick due, no doubt, to the clever reuse of the navigation pictures.

This review was undertaken using Netscape v4.05 on 25 November at 21.30 using a V34.4 modem on a 200MHz machine.

Following this review, a change has been effected to make ‘statistics’ more prominent on the home page of the site and the dead links have been made alive. Other problems identified will be taken on board during the next revamp of the site which will be done over the next few months.

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

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

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

..........Happy surfing....