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.

As I write this, ten new countries are joining the European Union. I visited the site of one of them, the Polish Statistical Office (http://www.stat.gov.pl/english/index.htm), which has a large amount of material available in English. On the home page, having first visited the Polish version, I notice that the amount of information available in English is a little less particularly in the electronic publications list. When I scanned the page I noticed three basic problems: too much information was given, necessitating some vertical scrolling; the rotating indicators box was distracting and, despite the text being in the same colour and style as the hyperlinks in the rest of the page, were not hyperlinked to further detail; the long lists of items under the headings ‘Social – Economic Data’ and ‘Electronic Publications’ were not sorted into any order. For this last point, the user would normally be looking for a list sorted alphabetically.

The page has a copyright date 1996-2002 implying that nothing has changed for two years – but that is not the case (many NSIs are guilty here: but the UK and CBS Netherlands have generally abandoned a copyright date and just make general statements [one does appear [2002] at the bottom of the links page on the CBS site which took over two minutes to deliver fully the home page! – www.cbs.nl ]

The ‘Hot data’ section covers the most recent data releases. In the majority of this section, the data were centred in the columns – most unusual on this site where the data presentation generally was right justified. And the average wage per month is given to the nearest one hundredth of a Zloty. The office uses the comma as a decimal separator throughout but the presentation and understanding of data are worse for the absence of a thousands separator.

The census forms are available on the site but only in Polish – a fact that the English page does not mention. A couple of instances of the links going to Polish language pages were found: it would be better not to mention the information on the English links (as for the electronic publications) rather than raise expectations.

Four editions of the Yearbook are available providing all users with a vast array of bilingual tables, neatly organised within sections. Each table has icons to print, save or send. However, the tables are actually GIF images which means that the data tables cannot be extracted for further processing or use.

At the top right of the home page is the simple word ‘Publications’, standing separate from the main navigation line. This links to the publications catalogues - which are extensive – and to some information on the sale of the publications. The telephone numbers here do not have the national or international codes and no mention is made as to whether payment could be by credit card. The prices in the catalogue do not mention postage – or additional charges for overseas addresses.

Many data are readily available though not always in the most easy-to-use format. A small amount of improvement on the site navigation and layout would be well rewarded.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.50 on 30 April at 14.00 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@lgdu-wales.gov.uk