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 turn to Asia to review the Mongolian Statistics web site

( http://statis.pmis.gov.mn/ ) which is offered in both Mongolian and English. The front page loaded quickly but a problem with the links prevented the few images used from loading. The left-hand navigation bar maximises space by the use of a slide out menu and is supported by a site map and a local search engine. Unfortunately the top and bottom links which are common throughout the site are not active. The rotating GIF announcing the availability of the Census results and the peel-away banner do not add to the appeal of the site and cost significant download time: simple - but effective - graphics are more appropriate.

A major improvement to the front page would be the removal of the chargeable elements of the site to a separate page allowing both the useful links to recent releases and the search engine facility to be moved from the bottom to the centre of the page. Although the information available by subscription to the on-line services is summarised the cost of the service is not given. Unfortunately the site offers only a limited amount of free information to non-subscribers though it is the latest through links at the foot of the front page. Attention needs to be given to the presentation of data in tables: some tables use different typefaces for adjacent figures: consistent use of a sans-serif font would improve readability.

The information offered throughout the site is structured by theme and updated monthly resulting in current information being easy located by visitors. The tables used to display the data are generally clear and easy to read but some need slight attention to standardise the formatting. Maps and graphs are used sparingly to support presentation. The news page provides summary information on all the main topics.

The data and publications available for purchase are offered in a variety of formats and media to maximise the possible audience and ease of delivery.

The comprehensive 'About' section provides visitors with a wealth of information about the history, structure and present and future dissemination policies of Mongolian National Statistics Office.

The software and questionnaires available from the Download section are a useful addition to the site and would be enhanced by making English versions of the forms available - so the meta-data are clear to the users. The training material offered by the Knowledge Base pages covers a wide range of IT skills and is a welcome, though surprising, find.

Publication of full contact details together with a feedback form provides a simple and very user friendly means of submitting questions or comments about the site and its contents.

This is a well-maintained site providing a and regularly maintained data. Removing the need to subscribe to the on-line services in order to obtain basic statistical information would be a real improvement to a well-organised site. Attention to the navigation links and reorganisation of the home page would allow the site to reflect the hard work that has been used in the design and organisation of this site.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.0 on 30 August at 14.00 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 ………….