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.

Back across the globe from New Zealand last month to Slovenia. The English version of the home page of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia can be found at http://www.stat.si/eng/index.asp. This home page is in fixed width presentation, in an 8 point typeface and is over two pages deep – thus requiring much scrolling and reading! On the positive side, I can instantly see on the right hand side panel some key links to popular information and key indicators: the colour balance of these two headings is not as clear as it could be. 23 news items takes a lot of vertical space – a limit of the five most recent would help with much shorter descriptions. The left-hand navigation could be shortened considerably by just having the headings with tool-tips providing explanations of the headings.

The central hook for the visitor’s eye is the display of the two book covers at the top of the central column. The first links to a PDF version (1.7 Mb without a size warning!) only in Slovenian despite the English over-title. The second, on the other hand, links very effectively to the real meat for most casual users – the Statistical Yearbook with data in Excel tables (or by chapter in PDF format). Additional links are given to the methodology, charts and even a guide on browsing through the yearbook. The only minor suggestion I could make for improvement her is to additionally link the PDF symbols for Cover etc as well as the descriptions.

My two standard data items, population and inflation, are both in the key information section on the right hand side of the Home page which saves much searching.

Delving a little deeper into the site shows a ‘let’s get everything listed’ mentality. From the left-hand navigation, I followed Economy and the Prices: the ‘page’ delivered was 27 screens deep! Information, mainly in the form of Press Releases were ordered with the latest on the top, ran back to November 2003. Looking at other headings in Economy and Demography also produced very long pages though not as long as the Prices one.

Looking within the Data Portal from the Home page, more thought appears to have been given to organisation. The Data Portal main page has links to the various types of data (with very helpful tool-tips!) and an explanation of the link types within the portal. A great deal of the Statistical Office’s own information is in Pc-Axis format – which is easy for a statistician to handle: the novice is again provided with a ‘help file’ to explain what they should do.

The standard tables in the Databank can be accesses additionally in German but use different navigation colours: nevertheless, another easy-to-use section.

The first impression – from the home page – is that this site is not particularly user-friendly. However, on delving a little, it is clear that the site’s designers have done a great deal to assist the novice user and guide the infrequent user to the data.

Happy surfing …

 

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 6.0 on 27 February 2009 at 09.00 hrs GMT using a 20 Mb link to the Internet on a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz machine.

 

Please send and comments and suggestions for sites to review to

esh@dataunitwales.gov.uk