Surfing with Sarah on the Internet - catching a tsunami into Japan.

Sarah-Jane Williams, Welsh Office

Ed's been blown off course this month, so it's been left up to me to get you all on board, take you for a surf and find out whose making the waves on the Internet. The underground seismic activity seems to have pushed me in the direction of Japan.

Despite the financial wobbles that have sent tremors through the Japanese economy over the last year, we still look enviously upon the Japanese culture as being one characterised by great efficiency, and success in the technological based industries. So how do the Japanese perform when it comes to the design of Web sites and in particular those sites with a statistical orientation?

This month I have surfed over the Web pages presented by the Statistics Bureau and Statistics Centre of Japan
( ) on the 30th December at 13:00 using a 486 2DX66 processor machine. (Don't tell anyone, but I think this machine fell off the back of a lorry that was coming out of the BBC Antiques Road Show).

Access to the home page was just tolerable (around 20 seconds) and an option provided instantaneous transition from English to Japanese.

Beyond the home page, the speed of access varied considerably depending on which Web browser was used. Internet Explorer was far more efficient than Netscape v4. With Netscape v4 one particular page took more than eight minutes to load, needless to say, a truckload of graphics was causing the hold up.

Tables of data are readily available in each topic area and are straightforward to download into MS Excel. Text can be easily copied into MS Word.

The navigation links that I used were fully operational and logical to follow. At the bottom of each page I was given the option go back either to the home page or the previous page. I didn't land up in any "dead ends" and in most cases I had to click on no more than three links to access the information that I had chosen from the home page.

The home page is relevant and informative; however, it does sprawl extravagantly over two pages when it could easily fit on one screen.

Throughout the Web site, I found myself having to do a lot of unnecessary scrolling across the screen. I found a consistent use of text and an effective choice of colours.

On the home page a table is displayed indicating the latest statistical releases and publications available.

A range of statistical information is provided and grouped logically into areas of business and social statistics. The site contains information about how to get hold of publications and provides links to other statistical agencies. It also provides intriguing information concerning some of the additional activities that the Japanese Statistics Bureau pursues. For example, they organise a National Statistics Day on the 18th October and operate a Museum of Statistics. Could this be a winning marketing strategy for our government statistical service?

Please send any comments or suggestions of interesting features found at statistical Web sites to or to Ed Swires-Hennessy at the National Assembly for Wales, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NQ. I have a funny feeling that Ed will find his way back for the next lunar cycle!