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.

This month I review the pages of the Barbados Statistical services web site (http://www.bgis.gov.bb/stats/). The homepage for this English language site is divided into two frames. The smaller left hand frame contains links allowing navigation to the rest of the web site. The larger right hand frame contains the mission statement and contact details for the department.

An animated image, purporting to link to Census information at the top of links frame, is distracting and unnecessary. However, this image does not link to the Census information but to the "Government of Barbados Information Network" web site as does the "GOBINET" link to be found further down the frame.

Unfortunately the image link displays the target page, which itself uses frames, completely within the small left hand frame. This indicates some serious errors in the use of frames. The intended result can be seen by using the ‘GOBINET’ link, further down the page, which displays the target page in its proper format.

The ‘Publications’ link opens a page displaying publication titles and prices. Additional information offered by links is available for only two of the publications and one of these links returns the ‘404 file not found’ error. The one working link displays the publication contents and a sample table. Similar information for all publications would be useful in allowing viewers to decide if the publication met their requirements. It is certainly one of the fundamental rules of the net that one does not offer information that is not there: that is, putting members of lists in pages which do not have any live links.

Most of the data provided by this site is held in the ‘Bulletins’ page. Navigation is easy as all pages contain a link back to the ‘Bulletins’ page. The first link on this page is to ‘notes’ which contains an explanation for all the terms used for tourism, written in plain English. The majority of tables accessed from this page are provided with minimum scrolling and are clear to read. On the ‘Bulletins’ page the four links found below the ‘Index of Industrial Production (Monthly) Bulletin’ title are all broken. Only the ‘visitor’ pages provide an email contact. The ordering of the bulletins within the lists is strange and is neither by date or alphabetic.

The ‘feedback’ link in the left frame of the home page does not take you to a web page, as you would expect, but is in fact an email link to the information email address shown on the home page.

The Barbados Statistical services site is a small site, which is easy to navigate. In a lot of the sections an opening paragraph would make viewing a lot easier, especially in the case of the ‘services’ page where the purpose of the information is not at all clear. However, the site is very out of date with the last update of Retail price index only up to January 1999 (on the page that suggests that all of 1999 is available by month).

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.0 on 5 February at 10.00 hrs GMT using a high speed link through Super JANet on a Pentium III 333MHz machine.

Please send and comments and suggestions for sites to review to

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

Happy surfing