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.

 

The Japanese economy is much in the news – along with China – and I called in to see how their Internet site (http://stat.go.jp/English/index.htm ) was doing. Last reviewed in early 2002, a great deal has changed - with much more now being available in English.

 

Design

 

The home page is appropriately colourful though is in a fixed page width and slightly longer than a visible page. The typeface used is an international standard serif one which, particularly with the small size proffered, is not the easiest to read. A change to a sans serif typeface would make a huge difference to the readability. Within the site, the serif typeface is also used for textual reports and data. The lists are not sorted into alphabetic order and the rationale for the different types of bullet styles is not immediately obvious (though I did work out that a double circle linked to an electronic publication). 

 

The first graphic link is to the Portal site of statistical data in Japan: this part of Japan statistics site employs irritating graphics and is not as well designed as the home page. Further, following a link (in capital letters) for a set of statistics on the right of the page opens a new page – from which one only go back by deleting the page.

 

Navigation

 

Navigation is clear and consistent throughout the main site. The only minor improvements I can suggest is that the top header could be linked to the home page within the site and that, since underlining is the link style, the words ‘Statistics’ etc. on the Statistics Bureau pages should not be underlined.

 

The bullets are not hyperlinked- but could be - whereas within Figures part of the Guide to Official Statistics, the figure number, figure title and an icon at the end of the line are all hyperlinked.

 

When looking at the Guide, some top navigation appeared under the header – in very small type size. Following the Statistics link provided another (not alphabetically) sorted list of topics and links already followed had been changed from blue to purple.

 

Data formatting

 

My first data sortie was into population where I easily found the data from the Japan Monthly Statistics: these were very well arranged and in Excel tables. The data in the tables were all right justified and, where appropriate, had a provisional indicator within the cell. This latter practice neatly indicates the extent of provisional data using the formatting within cells and thus is not detrimental to using the data directly in calculations. I was a little confused by the use of different rounding within the table and the use of 10,000 as a unit for the population: not many of the general population would easily cope with this. As someone interested in the historical statistics of countries, I found the volume on Historical Statistics of Japan most interesting – and the population data here are rounded .. to thousands! – and easily accessible as the data, like that for the Digest of Welsh Historical Statistics, are in Excel tables.

 

Following the link to the Consumer Price Index in the ‘Latest indicators’ list provides a very simple table in HTML as part of a summary press notice but also then gives links to much more detailed data in Excel files for both part of Tokyo and Japan as a whole.

 

Other

 

In several places the cover of a publication is shown: the visual size is a little too large and the download size is larger than the page header! I looked within the Guide to Official Statistics in Japan and found two charts for population – one with gridlines and one without: the preference for interpretation is always to include the gridlines. Most of the graphs did not have gridlines.

 

Within the Information section, the Statistical Research and Training Institute are developing a set of frequently asked questions – arranged under their 25 themes.

 

A great deal of information on the statistical system is available though neither its named staffing chart nor a physical address or telephone number for enquiries.

 

Overall

 

This site continues with the philosophy noted in my last review – ease of use of the statistics by users appears paramount. Only in the Yearbook did I find extensive use of PDF files – but the Excel version of data tables were also provided. Since my last review some effort has been expended on adding file sizes to some of the downloadable files.

 

As the main site uses few graphics and great use of HTML, it is very fast to download and, hence, use.

 

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 6.0 on 3 May at 10.00 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 

This and earlier reviews are published to my website, http://www.surfingwithed.org.uk