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.

For this month, a little further East to Israel (http://www.cbs.gov.il/engindex.htm) that was last reviewed in March 1999. For simplicity I used the same URL as for the last review (http://www.cbs.gov.il/nashim/enashim1.htm) but this took me to a page especially created for a Women’s Day event in 1998! The majority of the home page is well laid out and easy to understand and access: the creators have, however, succumbed to the recent trend to add ‘exciting’ graphics and there was a flashing ‘New’ and a rotation of information under the ‘Major indicators’ heading. Sticking with the simple layout would be better for the user and that could include the latest three ‘Major indicators’ in a hyperlinked list. Navigation from this front page is either by blue or black hyperlinked text not all of which has roll-over characteristics. The roll-overs from the main list produce blue text descriptors which suggest hyperlinks – but not so.

Choosing ‘Selected data’ I was expecting to find a set of static tables. Much work has gone into this site since the last review and the selected data is now user-defined extracts from time series in databases. The extracts can be easily – and quickly downloaded via CSV format into Excel.  Data delivered may need a little formatting before final presentation, depending on the pre-set options in Excel. ‘Labour Force Data’ from the home page follows a similar route to time series, though the user could be helped a little by a little more thought on the table titles: going for Average Wages (first on the list), one is presented by a double list by industry, interspersed averages and indices with much repeated text. The same indices appear 7th in the list – duplication. One must be able to design out the duplicated words ‘Index of wages per employee post’ especially as the heading is more precise, adding ‘monthly’.

The ‘new’ Energy balance produces some data in HTML tables – but the data are centred in the columns. A small problem is also apparent with the navigation at the foot of the tables in this section – it takes one back to the first of the energy screens  (selecting language) and not to the selection of parts. The bottom navigation on the first screen is only in Hebrew: following the ‘Home’ symbol takes one to the Hebrew home page.

Statisti-light, on the left hand menu of the front page, are PDF short reports on various topics presented for the average user and not the specialist. Nevertheless, the interspersing of charts amongst the text – and the absence of tables of data – makes for interesting reading. For those who just want data or more charts, the Statistical Abstract is accessed from the graphic on the home page. Some of the charts are quite difficult to interpret but the tables are well-presented. In the Tables section, one can access a couple of maps – and the main map page had links and graphics missing.

This site has much to commend it: good basic data and presentation of important issues, parameter driven time series display and full access to the Abstract. Most users would easily find what they require.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.50 on 1 July at 18.00 hrs GMT using a 2 Mbit link to the Internet on a Pentium III 866 MHz machine.

Please send and comments and suggestions for sites to review to

Ed.Swires-Hennessy@lgdu-wales.gov.uk