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.

Thinking of Christmas, I wanted to visit one of the Middle-East countries: we’ve been to Israel                                ( http://www.cbs.gov.il/engindex.htm ) already and so I decided on Jordan. The front page of the Department of Statistics site http://www.dos.gov.jo/  is far too long and combines an index as well as content material. One of the animation is particularly distracting from the visual point of view and could be converted to a fixed graphic (if necessary at all). The front page appears to have been static since February 2000 and the linked files investigated appeared to confirm this – yet the latest price index pages, showing September 2000 data also bear the same date. The text in a small size serif typeface would be easier to read if in a sans-serif typeface.

The site contains a vast amount of data in discrete areas. The ‘Jordan – facts and figures’ section always displays the index in a frame to the left of the page. This necessarily reduces the space available for data. Nevertheless, the data are easy to read and download. The opening part of the page includes a map of the various areas of Jordan – all of whose names are impossible to read. ‘Jordan Figures 1999’ appears to be similar data but in the booklet form: the index however is not obviously hyperlinked – and within the booklet the pages are JPEG files, some of which contain three-dimensional charts.

Under ‘About DOS’ the presentation is quite basic with the first two sub-headings being on the same web page. The third sub-heading, ‘activities’, is just a long document – which could have been presented significantly better through the use of an index page. Even within the document, the index frame is longer than a visual page – meaning double scrolling for the user.

Following ‘Focal point: agriculture’ takes one to a very difficult to read page: this is partly due to the bold background used but also to the poor choice of colours and the typeface. On this page there are two ‘Department of Statistics’ with hyperlinks!! The lower one takes the user to a series of hyperlinks that call up database enquiry screens: these are simple to use but the results are not well formatted.

Through the site several mentions of ‘Contact’ or ‘Write’ occur. For these the neatly designed standard page includes all possible communication modes.

The ‘publications’ page lists the available books with the prices for local and overseas purchase (only by surface mail) in a table – meant as an order form.

Data presentation, for both the tables and the page layout is very mixed. Tables have numbers that can be either left or right justified (or centred!) and the background varies between the bold grey design, through paler greys to pale yellows. Typefaces are often mixed and of different sizes. The site looks as if patched together without an overall theme or design. Nevertheless, this bilingual sites does not mix the languages giving the user Arabic pages by following English hyperlinks.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.0 on 1 December at 14.00 hrs GMT using a high speed link through Super JANet on a Pentium III 333MHz machine.

Do you have any views on what constitutes a 'good' web page? If so please let me have your views as well as Comments and suggestions for sites to review

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

All reviews can now be found in electronic form at http://www.surfingwithed.org.uk/ 

Happy surfing