Surfing with Ed on the Internet…

by Ed Swires-Hennessy, UK Statistics Authority

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

A Happy New Surfing Year to all readers!

2010 promises to be another year of great advancement in the Internet technology field with more phones being capable of direct access at reasonable speeds. Few statistical offices rushed into the provision of data for the first WAP phones and, for this implementation of new technology, I believe only the main requirement on statistical web sites will be to keep the main pages and navigation as simple as possible.

This month I am visiting the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department of the Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Their opening page (http://www.censtatd.gov.hk/ ) opens the language choice page. Choosing English, the user is given a quick moving tag cloud across the very sunny picture of Hong Kong before the main page opens. The main information on the Home page appears to fit within the screen view – though some hyperlinked graphics in the central section and on the left-hand navigation drop below the open screen. The left-hand navigation is clear and provides links to various specific ‘corners’ which have been designed for specific user groups. The right-hand navigation links to the many statistical topic areas which – in English – are not alphabetically sorted.

The first graphic in the central section is for statistical maps and the presentation is interactive. Examining the employment by industry reveals that, when the user clicks on an area, the relevant employment data appears on the bar chart. The data loading was quite slow – but the user is shown a progress indicator on the screen to keep them informed. One very useful feature is the user guide (top right of the page) which explains how to use the dashboard appropriately. The page opened into a new window but I could not find a ‘Home’ link (even the logo of the Department was not hyperlinked).

Most of the links on the left-hand navigation expand when the user hovers over the topic. A great deal of meta-information can be found here including, on the Statistical literacy and Student’s corner, an explanation of the balance of payments! Following the ‘Key Economic and Social Indicators’ from the ‘Hong Kong Statistics’ link, the user is given a very impressive presentation of the data for the major indicators: they are even given a choice of how to access them (through bookmarks at the top of the page or by scrolling). This section gives the information I usually try to find (population and CPI) very quickly. Further, for each indicator, the user can see the latest data, link to the full release, detailed data or even the concepts and methods for the data!

Within the same left-hand link, the user is taken to a vast array of pre-prepared tables and charts that can be selected by subject and then by individual title. Some of the chart presentation makes for difficult interpretation. From a table, I noticed that the office’s logo was hyperlinked but this took me back to the language selection page not the Home page.

From the Media Workers’ corner, I found briefing on various topics that had been given to help in understanding the data. I have not found such briefings on any other web site (though am sure some of you will tell me where some exist!). For those preparing briefings, this will then become a resource for other enquirers.

Looking through the available information from the topic links on the right-hand menu of the Home page, the conceptual presentation is good. Not only is the user provided with the latest data, but they are also given the links to earlier releases, tables and charts of prices and, again, the concepts and methods. So the site re-presents information through different channels as appropriate.

The site is easy to use and has to be commended for the breadth of information available. Its organisation is clear for users – both new and regular ones – providing different depths of information.

Happy surfing …

 

This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 7.0 on 5 January 2010 at 14.30 hrs GMT using a 20 Mb link to the Internet on a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz machine.

The views expressed in the review are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer. This and earlier reviews are published to my website, http://www.surfingwithed.org.uk 

 

Please send and comments and suggestions for sites to review to statscon@ntlworld.com