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.

I thought of Christmas Island for a review this month, but the closest I got was Fiji where the Islands Statistical Bureau’s site ( ) home page took some time to load. This was inevitably because of the graphics included even for the top navigation. On my XGA screen, the home page was just too big and required a little vertical scrolling – which could have been avoided by a little better design as the page is not packed with information.

The site is simple, graceful and fairly effectively organised. The data are presented via clear hyperlinks in HTML tables. Within the tables, however, the justification of numbers was mixed with many instances of numbers being centred within columns which loses the power of comparison within the columns, e.g. of the population by ethnic group. Within the section ‘Fiji in Profile’, each of the main statistics sections has many elements – which are listed in black at the head of the table: these could easily be converted into linked bookmarks to take the user to the relevant section.

Some tables are of a different style for no obvious reason (even within the same section of the site). The double line cell boundaries in the visitor arrivals by country of residence is distracting from the data. It would be preferable not to have any lines around cells but to use space more effectively to break up some of the long tables. Some of the tables presented are large and complex and would aid the user by being split into separate tables.

The ‘Recent releases’ is well out of date and detracts from the purpose of issuing such information. I was expecting, following this link to get to copies of the actual releases – but I did not find any. Further, looking for the publications issued, there is a long list of items available – but none on the Internet. They are available for purchase – in Fijian Dollars – with information on purchasing from outside the Islands.

The ‘News’ page was undated and seemed as though it had been there some time. It is essential for the user to have dated information – which is either updated regularly – or removed. The office addresses of the bureau are given in this page – apart from the main office address in Suva (postal address of this office appears in the bottom frame of every page). It is preferable to have a page with appropriate contact information on it, to include postal and actual addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail contact addresses: maps showing office locations would also be a bonus for visitors.

Assistance is being given to the Islands Statistical Bureau by AusAID but little of the assistance seems to have found its way into the web site development. The basic site needs some consistency improvement, some table design and presentation improvement and continual maintenance of dated information (like the release calendar).

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.50 on 3 December at 08.30 hrs GMT using a 2 Mbit link to the Internet on a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz machine.

Please send and comments and suggestions for sites to review to