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.

I wanted a new country in Africa for this month’s visit and tried Algeria first: this site (http://www.ons.dz ) is only in French but took so long to open all the graphics and flash items on the home page that I gave up. Even the capitals ‘ONS’ in the title are animated graphics – which all add to the download time.

My next visit was to the Central Bureau of Statistics in Kenya (http://www.cbs.go.ke/ ). After a slight pause the home page began to appear: then followed the slow delivery of more than 20 GIF files. Once delivered the home page is well structured with clear navigation at the top of the page. This is a very interesting use of the drop-down roll-over navigation: for both the Press Releases and Publications only the last few issues are given with a link for ‘more’. The ‘more’ on Press Releases was not active at the time of the review but that on Publications was – and brought a single HTML page, 18 screens in length, listing the details of publications together with a list of forthcoming publications. This could be improved in timely delivery of the information if some additional hierarchical screens are introduced. The colour of the navigation links is confusing: some of the orange text is not linked and the ‘Other publications by the CBS’ just goes to the same place as the ‘Publications’ in the top menu.

The centre of the home page records the latest information releases – appropriately summarised for the user. The archive of the consumer price index is new but will soon fill a page, again requiring some more hierarchical pages. Keep 12 months releases here and links to other years would be a suggestion. It is always tempting to display or link to as much as possible: think how much the user has to read or scroll to find the information required. File naming needs attention for operating the site (CPI200407 is better than CPI072004 because it will sort better).

Kenya in Figures, a graphic link on the right of the home page gives access to the PDF file of the booklet. The opening design is good and some rounding of the first table is useful. However data presentation is inconsistent (some data centred in columns) and the charts are shown in three dimensions instead of two making them more difficult to interpret. Some of the other links on the right are to PDF files and two to PowerPoint files: the Economic Survey file is over 1 Mb – and no size is given by the link to warn the unwary user; further, this is only 28 slides of text including one map – and should be reduced in size, if not zipped; removing the map reduces the size of the file to 138 Kb!

The link to the summary census results goes to an HTML page with hyperlinks at the top to the relevant tables. This use of bookmarks could easily be extended to other areas on the web site – to great advantage to the user.

The top navigation gives quick links through to the themes of statistics – and to the relevant tables within themes. Overall this site is obviously developing along user-friendly lines and, with some further work on data presentation, download file size and structure, will become a model.

Please send and comments and suggestions for sites to review to

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