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 I wanted to return to Europe – and France in particular – to see what had changed since the last look at the Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques (INSÉÉ) site in July 1999. However, after attempts to access the site over a period of five days all failed with the error message ‘Server too busy‘, I gave up. The moral here must be to have a means of checking that your site is up and running and get a message posted when problems occur.


Just to the north, I focussed on Luxembourg, (, last reviewed in November 1999. The home page in English is simple and provides the user with the pointers to where to get the right kind of information. One flaw in the site is the changing ‘New’ links at the top left: a simple list of the three items would be better and keeping the list this short and regularly updated aids the frequent user to spot new information. Each link, though in English, takes the user to the list of statistical bulletins in French which are presented in PDF format.


The size and character of the typeface used for the ‘new’ section is much easier to read than that used on the rest of the page – which is in three different sizes!


I wondered about the ordering of the list of available items on the top right of the page – was this a reflection of the French text for these buttons? But, looking at the French version – and the German one – I discovered that the order is the same and that all used English in this menu! Switching between languages also produces a brief message that one of the Applets used is ‘only for private use’. Following the ‘Links’ navigation yields a page in French. Searching for ‘Inflation’ or ‘Population’ produces links to French language articles – apart from one link of the twenty examined that directed me to a population table in English.


Moving to the ‘Statistical information’, I found a page in sans serif typeface that raised my hopes of a change in the site’s presentation. ‘Luxembourg in Figures’ is very neatly presented in English and provides a static view of many subject areas. The ‘Economic Portrait’ is well out-of-date and needs refreshing. The ‘Advance release calendar’ promises much in English – but then links to the French version.


Finally, a visit to the ‘Statistics by domain’ reveals a very thin set – only on National Accounts. The French version of the site does have some more data in HTML tables.  


A very appealing layout of the home page for this site was not continued through the site. Indeed it would be better to curtail expectations at the start and only offer on the English version of the site those products available in English, basically the Luxembourg in figures and the Economic Reports. The message to English users on the home page does indicate that other information can be provided in English by the information service – and that is helpful.


This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.50 on 9 June at 14.00 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