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.

 

China has been much in the news of late for its economic growth and so I decided to take another look at the web site of the National Bureau of Statistics of China at (http://www.stats.gov.cn/english/index.htm ).  The site has a fixed screen width and appeared to cover less than half of my 19” monitor. At several points during the visit, I tried to follow what appeared to be a link (e.g. foot of page Statistical Indicators/Population/) but the links were not active. A simple link from the logo and / or bureau name would be helpful – even though ‘Home’ is the first link in the left-hand navigation. On the Chinese version of the site, the option to change back to English is usually at the top right of the page – but it always takes one to the home page in English and not to the English equivalent of the page one is viewing: I suppose this is necessary as the site is not fully bilingual.

 

Design

 

The presentation of the home page is neat with few graphics – though the one on the right of the English version of the site did take up 35kb. Three coloured lines beg for explanation and I assumed that the chart would be expandable through something like SVG: instead it links to a press notice with a larger version of the graphic – including a scale. The clear use of a sans serif typeface for the text produces a very readable output though the links at the foot of the page are in a smaller type size and in Times New Roman – much harder to read. These links are of a defined type size and so do not enlarge using view/text size/largest. Further, the text line height is fixed – so enlarging the text overlaps the rows!

 

Within some monthly tables, the text used a sans serif typeface but the numbers were in a serif typeface.

 

I have noted in previous reviews my dislike as a user of rotating text: the Chinese version of this site goes one better – rotating diagrams at the top right: on the review day, one had overlapping bars in shaded colours and another had such a dominant picture in the background that the chart was difficult to read.

 

The data is presented primarily by periodicity and then by theme.

 

Navigation

 

Many of the links from the home page open in a new window automatically. One that didn’t was the ‘Yearly statistics’ one – but choosing a subject and year produced a publication in a new window.

 

The left-hand navigation list is in an unusual order with the three ‘Statistical’ items interspersed with other topics.

 

Data formatting

 

The Yearbook data and text appear in serif typefaces though the tables can be accessed in either Excel or HTML format. I looked at the table of basic population for 2005 and then the number of foreign tourists, theoretically for 2005 – but the table only presented 2003 and 2004 data. Some other tables (e.g. monthly RPI and Industrial sales), however, did use a sans serif typeface in the body.

 

Other

 

Within the area linked via ‘Agency Information’, some of the page is active with lists appearing as roll-overs though, as yet, the information is not linked further.

 

The links page is interesting – the Office for National Statistics does not appear in the list of European links!

 

Following the ‘Statistical Indicators’ link on the left-hand navigation, a slightly different left-hand menu appears. From this one I chose ‘Statistical data’ and used the search at the bottom of the page, to find data for 2004, Quarter 3 and month 6 (note the years’ list is counter-intuitive compared with the other two): the page returned did have monthly data in English as links, but the outline of the page and the left-hand navigation was in Chinese!

 

Overall

 

Much data is available in English, especially through the yearbook. The primary classification of data by periodicity before subject is different. Obviously much more information is present in the Chinese version of the site.

 

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 6.0 on 29 September 2006 at 14.30 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