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.

From the Middle East south to Africa, and a review of the Central Statistics Office of Botswana site                      ( http://www.cso.gov.bw/cso ). The front page, which uses frames, loads very quickly but retains the original title used in development. This will result in search engines retrieving the site when searching for completely unconnected information.

The large graphic in the main frame gives the impression of being an active image-map providing navigation throughout the site but it does not provide any links at all. The left-hand frame includes all the necessary links for the viewer to find their way round the site without containing too many headings. The white text is clear against the blue background but the button background merges slightly with the frames’ patterned background.

‘About CSO’ takes you to a very long page which could be improved by using bookmarks or even better by being divided into several smaller pages. Under the subheading ‘the structure’, the style of hyperlinks is not consistent as only some are underlined.

‘National Statistics’ links to a topic list. Unfortunately there is no apparent order of the headings so it is necessary to scroll through the whole list (4 ‘pages’ long) to find the subject required. Entering one of the subject provides a summary of the statistics on the subject with links to the data in HTML tables which are easily downloaded for use in reports. Both the ‘Statistics act’ and ‘Census act’ links take you to similar pages: these pages would be vastly improved if the section index at the head of each page provided bookmarks to the relevant sections.

The ‘Stats Update’ page contains links to the most recently available versions of this quarterly reference leaflet. The data are aligned erratically and the page contains a lot of data that could be rearranged and offered in a more presentable way.

The ‘Statistical bulletin’ page is basically an advertisement, merely telling the viewer what the bulletin is and what it contains.

The three 'Price Stats', buttons are designed to use bookmarks to link to different sections of the same page. However all three links display the head of the page indicating an absence of the intended bookmarks. Worse, some of the apparent hyperlinks within the page are not actually linked!

'National Accounts' contains charts, graphs and links to several tables. The tables were slow to load and there is scope to improve the alignment and presentation of data and text.

After submitting the usual name and address information for the ‘Guest Book’, I anticipated having the opportunity to provide some comments about the site and its contents. Instead a 'download document' page was displayed advising me that the requested document was not available. The ‘submit’ button does not function correctly.

Within this site the pages are of a consistent design, which makes viewing easier. The site doesn’t contain many graphics, apart from the home page and the subject index. Although this site is fairly small, data is stored on many subjects and a good search facility is available. Contact details are available for when information is not found. Some improvement on data presentation and linking is required.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.0 on 8 January at 16.00 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