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.

A very slow opening to the English version of the home page of the South Korean National Statistics Office site (http://www.nso.go.kr/eng/ ) was caused by the many included graphics some of which are animated. The basic structure of the page with clear top navigation and clearly identified sections of key information in the left two columns of the page really help the user get access to the relevant items. The animated graphics to the right column, however, are very distracting when trying to read the left-hand text. Use of a sans serif typeface in the body of the page, as in the header, would improve readability. The navigation in the Latest Figures section is different from that of the other sections: the blue text is hyperlinked, the rest is not.

The first information request was for population: starting with the searchable database, KOSIS, the path to population was smooth, if slow. Four options were available – three caused ‘Server Errors’ but the fourth, a basic Census population did work. For the more informed user, restricting the requirement to total population for the counties – an easy operation – reduces the download time. Using a slightly different approach, I went to a different section in the site – the Statistical Handbook of Korea: the contents page took too long to download probably because of the graphics included; access to the individual chapters was then quick despite the presence of 3-dimensional diagrams and inserted tables as pictures. 

‘Indicators In Graph‘ provides ready-made graphs of 40 prime indicators under various headings: the three-dimensional pipes or barrels are not helpful and the absence of gridlines on most charts, together with the dual scale charts, make interpretation more difficult than necessary. These charts are usable in reports by copying and pasting – though colour printing would be needed.

The Surveys section gives a reasonably comprehensive meta-data guide to all of the data collection activities of the office under 9 principal headings which, for most purposes, would be sufficient. This includes the initial date of the collection as well as the publication timetable.

On first entry to the publications area, I thought that the whole of the output of the office was electronically available via the net but soon found the heading only to be a catalogue of those available. Even the publication that is directly available form the home page appears in the catalogue as a simple entry – without a link to the electronic copy! I wondered whether this was because they were mainly available only in Korean, but the Korea in Figures publication is available in English. My Korean was not sufficient to identify whether the publications were available on the Korean version of the site.

The standard classifications used in the office are neatly presented in a two-column format which aids the user to find the relevant part quickly. These cover industry, occupations and disease. Finally the section on the About NSO gives a welcome message, organisation of the office, a copy of the relevant legislation – but no contact or location (specific maps of principal offices) information. The contact information is under ‘Site help’ but should also be included in ‘About NSO’.

Many parts of this site were slow to download – even those parts without many graphics. The statistics availability is high for general items and could be improved for the specifics. Presentation standards need to be monitored.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.0 on 3 March at 08.30 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