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 had a dream during the recent very hot weather of the cool waters of the Norwegian Fjords and realised that I had never reviewed their web site. Statistics Norway can be found in English at http://www.ssb.no/english/ where the opening page is obviously too long. The site is available in English and Norwegian.

 

Design

 

The home page is clean and crisp despite the length – as is the rest of the site. Use of pictures adds a little to the overall appeal but I note that not every story has one (which is good!). The text is clear throughout.

 

The only criticism here is that it would be far easier for the user if the design constrained each main page to one screen without scrolling (on a 1024 x 768 screen): putting any articles below the visual of the page is more difficult for the user – and forces scrolling just to see if the piece wanted is below the displayed part of the page.

 

Navigation

 

The top navigation is clear with tool tips on the words but the dot before also has a separate tool tip – saying it is just a dot! A visually-impaired reader will not be amused by this. The left-hand navigation on the home page provides an alphabetic set of links to a thesaurus listing of the statistics: hence ‘inflation’ can be found as well as ‘Consumer price index’. The navigation under this almost implies that the whole site is available in 8 languages: some of the links, however, only link to a booklet, ‘Minifacts about Norway’, though no heading tells the user this. In some place on the site, the home page is linked as ‘main page’.

 

The actual links are clearly all in the same colour and almost all in the same format – just a few are in a bold typeface.

 

Following articles from links on the home page provides more detail and links to tables and other related documents/tables (in the left-hand navigation space). A thread line appears below the top navigation, some of which appears at first to be just numbers: however, the tool tip associated with the numbers clearly identifies the subject area.

 

Data formatting

 

On some tables a full-stop is used as a decimal separator whereas in other places a comma is used. The thousands separator is a space. Tables are clear though the use of emboldening for sub-totals and totals interrupts the flow. From the left-hand navigation on a population topic there is a bookmark to the tables at the bottom of the article as well as a link to the statistics data bank: following the latter takes the user to a web version of PC-Axis which allows the easy self-construction of tables. The resultant table is quickly produced, though it would be better if the ‘Show Table’ button was below the dimension choices for the table. Having obtained the table, it can be copied or saved to Excel or, if appropriate, graphed.

 

Other

 

For each subject of data investigated, the left-hand navigation also provided links to a meta-data bank containing all the useful background information about the statistics.

 

‘About Statistics Norway’ is presented in a similar style to the home page and allows one to find the e-mail addresses for people or the telephone numbers (for dialling within Norway) within the organisational structure. For research staff, there is metadata covering contact information, research interests, publications and qualifications. This area has navigation only in Norwegian and moving on from here the site switched to Norwegian delivery – but was easy to switch back to English.

 

The release calendar is interesting in that it not only gives the date and subject of release but at least one contact and telephone number.

 

Charts are well produced and, where provided as part of an article, can be enlarged by one click on them: interestingly, the copyright notice appears on the bottom of the enlarged charts ready for copying and use.

 

Overall

 

This site was a joy to visit and provides much food for thought to all of us in the business of displaying our information. Response was instant unlike the site of my home department.

 

Very minor improvements to the layout would make this site one of the very best.

 

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 6.0 on 6 July 2006 at 15.00 hrs GMT using a 2 Mbit link to the Internet on a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz machine.

 

Please send and comments and suggestions for sites to review to

Ed.Swires-Hennessy@dataunitwales.gov.uk