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.

To the other side of the world - Malaysia - and to the web site of the Department of Statistics . The opening page of the site is very full of graphics necessitating the animation of some to make them stand out. The use of such animation is off-putting and slows the user down.

Moving to the English part of the site produces more graphics and animation. This page though is the beginning of many consistent look and feel pages. Well organised frames are used to assist in navigation.

The Welcome message from the Director has a link towards the end of the text to a page showing the 'organisation structure for information technology': this brings up an organisation chart at the bottom of which is a link titled 'back to second web page' to a different page!

From the entry one can access email addresses of the web production and data teams. But openness of contacts is much deeper: following the 'Profile' link at the top of the page provides an overall structure and contact details for the main subject and state statisticians - something I commended in the Iceland site many months ago. The use of a selection option reduces the need for scrolling.

The 'organisation' button provides much more than the chart of the departmental structure - even a copy of the 1965 Statistics Act. The chart does take some time to download and promises links to the various parts of the organisation - but all links are broken and only lead to an error message.

From the list to the left of the screen, the 'national summary data' page reflects the changes in the country as measured by key statistics: the presentation is awry with one each of the data columns being right justified and centred - the latter not assisting with comparison of numbers. 'Key statistics' offers something quite similar for a mix of economic and social data. The animated 'updated' flash is quite irritating: having the information on updates would be sufficient.

An 'order form' allows requests for data and / or publications to be submitted but, as yet, without electronic trading.

The 'products' button at the top of the page leads to a page that is 31 screens long! Using the 'list of publications' and 'synopsis of publications' buttons on the left just leads to lower parts of the same page. The synopsis part contains 20 JPG files of the publications' covers - about 300 Kb to download just for these!

One useful and helpful button - the first on the left-hand list - is 'current surveys': putting this on sites could help authenticate claims of field workers. The link to the Census information leads to just one fairly simple page offering the most basic information - and, for once, does not offer a link to the responsible person or division (this could, however, be identified from the 'profile' link).

Three buttons in the left-hand list link directly to external sites - without warning. This is not good practice.

Data presentation again is not as carefully scrutinised as it would be on paper and the page presentation can cause some delays by having large page 'files' which need to be downloaded even when only part of the information is requested.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 4.0 on 4 October at 18.00 hrs GMT using a high speed link through Super JANet on a Pentium II 266 MHz machine.

Comments and suggestions for sites to review to me, please,  

... Happy surfing