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.

 

This month I revisit the site of Statistics Canada ( http://ceps.statcan.ca/ ) which I last reviewed in April 1998. The English and French sites mirror each other by offering almost identical information that is not always the case with bilingual sites.

 

The English home page loaded quickly due to the minimal use of images and contains a substantial number of links for navigation throughout the site. The page has an unstructured feel to it which is probably due to each group of links being displayed in a different format.

 

Locating information throughout the site is made easy by provision of good search and browse facilities and a comprehensive index. The site also includes a large number of help and advisory pages to assist visitors in understanding and using the facilities on offer. The Daily link provides visitors with quick and easy access to the latest information available.

 

Placing all census information behind one link would improve the appearance of the homepage and remove the possible confusion that the existing two links may cause.

 

Canadian Statistics offers data, by theme, in clear, well-presented tables. Some of these tables provide indicators and are models of how to get the latest information out with relevant changes over the latest period and year being shown clearly. However, some of the tables do not provide data later than 1997 and even then can only be accessed after navigating through several screens. Many of the tables are summaries of data held in Cansim (see below) – with an advertisement to buy more at the foot of the table!

 

‘Community profiles’ is an innovative way of providing regional data from the 1996 population census through online queries. The data is presented in well-formatted tables supplemented by comprehensive notes and maps.

 

Products and Services allows online searching and ordering of publications with the electronic publications being available as PDF downloads. Unfortunately file sizes are not always given for downloadable PDFs. This section also introduces visitors to the sites chargeable online database, Cansim, which allows the building of queries to retrieve data. Once a query is complete the cost is calculated, and payment requested, before the data are made available.

 

Latest Indicators is a fast track method of viewing sample data from the Cansim database. Access to any data other than the small sample displayed is through the normal chargeable channels.

 

Since my last review of this site it has evolved into a large comprehensive web site using the latest web building technology to good effect.  The poor design of the home page does not reflect the innovative work carried out in the construction and maintenance of this site. Complete removal of charges would be a major improvement and ensure full data access to a much wider audience.

 

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.0 on 30 May at 09.00 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 ………….