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 stay in Europe and review the site for the National Statistics Office of Malta. ( http://www.nso.gov.mt/ ) This is an English language site apart from the Agricultural Census section that, rather strangely, is the only page available in both English and Maltese (though when the review was first in draft, it was available only in Maltese!).

The home page loaded reasonably quickly despite using a sizeable (46kB) image for its logo. The well-laid out page contains full contact details but unfortunately it also provides the only means of accessing all areas of the site. No other means of navigating from one page to another exists and the site lacks both a search engine and a site index. Introducing a single standard format for linking would make identification of links easier for visitors.

The site has a considerable amount of background information advising visitors about the methods and policies used in collecting statistics. This is accessed from the top navigation bar on the home page. The visited link colours on the NSO Legislation and Sources and Methods pages need to be changed to be clearer against the page background: basically, the link colours are readable until you have visited them.

Many of the tables used in the Quarterly Statistics section need reformatting to remove the horizontal scrolling while others, such as the Balance of Payments tables, would benefit from the introduction of 'thousand' separators and a change to a sans serif typeface (as in the main indicators). Visitors would be assisted by an indication of the download size of the pdf files (currently only occasionally used throughout the site. A link to a site offering Adobe Acrobat Reader as a download would also be beneficial.

The News Releases and Publications sections provide a considerable amount of information and again the use of separators would improve the appearance of the tables which are supported with clear graphs and charts. Locating the required information would be made easier if the lists of items available were ordered, either by date or alphabetically.

This site benefits from having good Request and Feedback forms. Use of these forms allows visitors to request unpublished information and provides the site developers with the opportunity to collect valuable information about their target audience. The three links to external site listings provide access to some interesting and useful web sites.

Some fairly basic and simple changes such as attention to formatting of the tables, introduction of a navigation system and publishing download file formats and sizes would improve this site considerably.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.0 on 2 October at 10.00 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 ………….