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.

My thanks to a GSS colleague for this month’s choice of review site – the Statistical Service of the Republic of Cyprus. The link to the Greek version of the site is simple (http://www.mof.gov.cy/cystat) but requires most to download a Greek font set: the direct English link, (http://www.mof.gov.cy/mof/cystat/statistics.nsf/index_en/index_en?OpenDocument) would be better if an abbreviated redirection link could be established. For those who are not familiar with this process, try www.wales.gov.uk/statistics and you will see a much longer page URL appear in the URL bar.

This site is fully bilingual with language switching available for most pages using the symbols ‘EL’ and ‘EN’ on the right hand side of the pages as the direct link: from the home page the language switch is at the top of the left-hand navigation. Having reached the English version of the home page of the site, I was struck by its simplicity and yet its depth. The welcome statement is welcoming and the clear message is that the site is there to provide a service to users. The offering of an ‘alert’ service on particular themes of data will clearly be a boon to users. The ordering of publications online is fine – but payment for the goods has to be made by cheque: this is clearly not too friendly for possible users outside Cyprus. Nevertheless, the procedure for purchasing the statistical volumes is the clearest explanation I have seen on the net. The ‘Latest News’ (showing only the latest three press notices) and the ‘Latest Economic Indicators’ sections are designed to promote the latest and most important data and are effective.

The main problem with the site is the navigation. Inconsistent use of colours for hyperlinks does detract a little and take a little while to understand. On the home page there is the standard ‘hyperlink blue’ for hyperlinks in the introduction but the same blue is used in the Economic Indicators section without hyperlinking. I had assumed that explanations were linked through the series name and a fuller series through the data. The colour used for ‘Latest News’ is the same as that used for the links below the heading – yet it does not link to an overall Press Releases page.

On the day of review, a link in the ‘Latest News’ section linked to the press release on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – which appeared to have been written just for the web with clear links to different presentations of the data. Unfortunately, the formatting of data in the press release followed the standards of the office but the format in the monthly table accessed via a hyperlink was different (using a full stop for a decimal separator instead of a comma). Worse, the data in the table was in a typeface that did not have equal spacing for numbers and, hence, the table was much more difficult to read and interpret (Arial, Helvetica or Verdana are preferred). The use of italics in the footer of the tables to show the last updated date is very hard to read. I looked at the historical series for the CPI and, while the typeface was more standard, the data were centred in the columns. Looking at three different tables, I finished up with three more windows open – one for each table – which is slightly more annoying than having to use the back button on each.

Following ‘Statistical themes’ from the left-hand navigation it is easy to go to any of the subject areas and, within each, there is firstly a list of the latest three press releases on the subject followed by a list of links to Excel tables. The dates for each table are in the same colour as the hyperlinks on the rest of the page – but they are not hyperlinked!

I followed a link to earlier press notices and found one on the Criminal Statistics for 2000: no date of the press notice was given and, even though the price was stated, no link was on the page to the ‘Online ordering’ page. The main publications list can also be accessed through a left-hand navigation link: this returns an unclassified list of 7 pages in length with a link to the PDF version of the full catalogue at the bottom.

The look and feel of this site has much to commend it but some work on consistency of navigation, colour use and data presentation would make it even better. A link at the top of the left-hand navigation to the home page would have been very useful.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.50 on 5 September at 14.00 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@lgdu-wales.gov.uk