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 return to the Statistics Bureau and Statistics Centre of Japan (http://www.stat.go.jp/english/1.htm ), a bilingual site (Japanese and English) last reviewed in January 1999.

Without the fonts necessary to load the Japanese pages it was not possible to determine how closely the English site mirrored the Japanese version.

The home page uses an image map to provide links to the three main sections of the site and loaded quickly. Included alongside the link to each section is a list of the relevant contents but they are displayed in different formats and the Information list includes a link to 'International Conference' which is not available at the next level.

The Navigation bar at the top of the page gives users a quick and easy method of moving between sections. Unfortunately it is not available on every page. The home page also provides access to an excellent search engine which is supplemented with helpful user instructions. Unfortunately no link back to the home page is available from within the search facility. A standard linking format is not used throughout the site. Some links are underlined and some headings are underlined but aren’t links. This makes navigation of the site frustrating, as it is necessary to place the mouse pointer over text to determine whether or not a link is available.

The bottom of the home page contains contact details (except for the e-mail enquiry address), together with instructions for anyone wishing to link to the site. The note about linking to the home page rather than other pages which may change without notice is particularly useful.

The ‘Statistics' section is split into three categories, Economic and Financial Data for Japan, Statistical Compendia, and Summary of Survey Results. An inconsistency on this page is that the content of the ‘survey results’ is listed under the heading but this information for the other two categories is not displayed.

The pages within these categories vary by colour, font and style. Some pages have the content links at the top and horizontal scrolling appears on many pages. Many of the files in this section are in spreadsheet format, which makes data extraction and analysis easy. Unfortunately no indication of the file size is given which would be useful for anyone wishing to download the file. Opening the files in the yearbook section displays a warning saying ‘File error: data may have been lost’, which will reduce visitors' willingness to trust the data for analysis.

Navigation with the ‘Handbook of Japan’ section needs attention: the pictures provided by the 'Contents' page just say 'Chapter 1' etc and need descriptors added. This also applies to the left-hand page navigation within the book so finding the chapter you are interested in easier. The data and charts within the handbook are displayed in GIF format, which means it is not available for analysis.

One of the interesting links is the ‘Population Census’. It is translated it into English, Portuguese, Chinese and Korean. This makes the information available and usable to a wider range of customer.

The ‘What’s New’ link leads to a very simple page showing the most recently released statistics. Again there is inconsistency in the format of these pages. Only a selection has the Statistics Bureau header.

Ease of use of the statistics by the user appears paramount in the design of this site. The front page is simple but very effective. A few small consistency enhancements and file-size indicators would improve the site even more. Available statistics cover all the major uses and make a visit to the English version of the site worthwhile.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.0 on 6 February at 11.00 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