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.

During 2008 many of my colleagues in the statistical community – both in the UK and overseas – expressed disappointment that the series of reviews under the above title had ceased. So great was the clamour that I have decided to restart and to make progress with the second century of reviews.

Reflecting over the first 100 reviews, I was drawn back to New Zealand (http://stats.govt.nz). The home page is clean and reasonably clear though with three different colours for the links. I was delighted to see that the ’20 most popular statistics’ is still the top of the Quick links and, following this link takes one straight to the data. The information is relevant to most enquiries – and each statistic’s cell includes a brief description of the data together with a link to the tables of the series’ data. Footnotes are placed after all 20 cells rather than within the cell which may be an issue for novice users: also TWI is explained but CPI and PPI are not; perhaps the NZ users are more educated than those in the UK and understand the abbreviations!

The layout of the home page is a little long – and could be constrained to a one screen depth with a little lessening of the horizontal spacing and marginal pruning. Each of the press release headlines helpfully has a tool tip associated giving a fuller explanation of the brief and bold statement: this simple and useful addition is not, however, extended to the indicator headlines.

The press releases are well organised and all carry the name of the Government Statistician implying the release has both his authority and professional approval. The calendar follows the idea highlighted in the Bank of England review many years ago – so that, in the current month, those issued are hyperlinked to the actual release.

The Statistics New Zealand office is now making many more of the statistics and associated information available free of charge. Much thought has gone into arranging lists of data sets, press notices etc – to help the user. Following the ‘More information free’ link on the right hand navigation takes the user to a page that is quite hard to read: the choice of colours here is not ideal.

I followed the link on the left hand navigation to Statistics by area and then Area units – and the site suddenly changed back to the previous design with the old header, different coloured links and no thread. Nevertheless, the quality of the information remains.

For businesses, a series of interactive tutorials are available (via Quick links) to help them get an understanding of the most useful data. Left-hand navigation opens up when following links within pages to show where you are. For these tutorials, the left-hand navigation shows ‘We are Statistics New Zealand’ not ‘Tutorials for businesses’! I could not find the tutorial link directly from the left-hand navigation nor, just by going through the left-hand navigation, ‘We are Statistics New Zealand’. Clicking on ‘About us’ brings up some right-hand navigation with a link to ‘Business tutorials’.

The new design with threads and better overall navigation (when consistent) will certainly help the user.

Happy surfing …

 

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 6.0 on 4 February 2009 at 10.00 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