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.

 

On this cold and frosty morning, I could but muse about the sun and remembered that a reader had suggested a visit to Bermuda. The link to the statistics site in Bermuda is tortuous and so I suggest entry via the main Government of Bermuda site (http://www.gov.bm) and follow the link on the left-hand navigation to Cabinet Office – home and then, again on the left-hand navigation (at the bottom of the list) to Statistics – home. The moral here is that one either organises a simple link such as http://www.gov.bm/statistics or one uses drop down lists from major headings. The left-hand navigation from the home page runs across three pages but could all fit neatly within one if sub lists expanded on clicking or produced an expanded list to the right on roll-over. [Post-publication note: apparently a shortcut to the statistics part of the site does already exist at www.statistics.gov.bm ] but does not feature on the search engine results for 'Official statistics Bermuda'.

 

Navigation

 

Having reached the Statistics Home page, which also suffers from too long a list of options in the left-hand navigation, we are greeted by the mission statement, objectives, a welcome and the contact details of the statisticians. The top navigation of the page is from the main portal site of the whole government and below the banner appears the thread-line. Navigation within the statistics site is thus only from the left-hand navigation. The long list of press releases – in reverse chronological order - is superfluous: and all of the files are in PDF format so the user cannot extract data into tables.

 

Data formatting

 

The typeface used in the PDF press notice files is Times New Roman – fine for paper but less so for Internet delivery. Italics are also used which again does not work as well for the Internet. Within the tables of the latest Retail Sales press notice, it appears that default formats have been used which, for example, converts 11.0 into 11. destroying the column comparison.

 

Below these press notice lists is a list of additional documents. The first, Facts and Figures 2005, is a summary document of available data. Where data have footnotes attached (this is always a difficult area – and my preference has always to show the footnotes against the appropriate column or row heading), two different treatments are evident: one where the footnote marker encroaches the data column – destroying the column comparability – and one where the footnote marker is outside the data column (in the 2004 edition expenditure data). The chart of employment by industry is presented in classification order: this is a statistics producer view; a change to employment size order would provide a user view – and assist in the understanding of the data. Adding unobtrusive gridlines to the chart would also assist the user.

 

I also looked at the GDP by Industry Highlights and found that all of the charts did not start at zero on the vertical axis – exaggerating the increases in the series; also the values on the axis needed severe rounding to remove the daunting array of digits: the first chart is labelled as $thousands and so the data is in billions – it is sufficient to round to one decimal place of billions on the scale. A clear booklet on presentation is available from the Data Unit – electronically (www.dataunitwales.gov.uk/presentingdata) or by sending me an e-mail with your snail mail address.

 

Other data

 

To the top left of the left-hand navigation are links to the Census (giving highlights and opportunity to buy the publication) and to information about other surveys undertaken by the office. No data is readily accessible in HTML or Excel tables.

 

Overall

 

Although part of the Government of Bermuda site, the statistics part is not well developed and provides little assistance to those who want to use data. Even the press notices in PDF format could have links to Excel data tables for extraction and use.

 

But I did feel the warmth! Happy Christmas to all my readers.

 

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 6.0 on 7 December at 10.00 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

Ed.Swires-Hennessy@dataunitwales.gov.uk