The Netherlands

Entry to the Statistics Netherlands site in English is a complicated URL and so I suggest using the Dutch entry (Http://www.cbs.nl) and using the language choice at the very top of the Home page. This reminds me that a company, TinyURL, (access through www.Tinyurl.com) can take what is a very long and complex URL link to a commonly used page and translate it into one that is easy to type and does not use a lot of space in documents.

The home page is surprisingly simple but has a very large and obtrusive graphic just under the Statistical Office’s logo. Embedded within the graphic is a cycling set of facts about the average Dutch person which does distract the user whilst trying to read the rest of the page and find direction. The subjects for the statistics are within a clever tag cloud which automatically emphasises the most commonly sought subjects. The release calendar and nine releases are shown – with exceptionally brief but effective headlines for each. The four key data items are displayed in charts which appear very neatly and which have the values available when hovering over points or bars.

The navigation on the site is simple and easy to use. From one of just two graphic links on the right-hand side, I chose to look at the interactive charts. Here are the commonly displayed data in very easy to use graphics.

Access to data is simple through two of the options in the top navigation – themes or figures. Following ‘Themes’, the left-hand part of the page displays a list of the themes and an explanation of the five parts each theme page will provide: going into any of the themes provides just a limited list of the latest releases, publications etc. but always with the option of ‘more’. This is a very neat solution to the vast array of data and information held by major NSIs on each theme.

The ‘Figures’ link also allows the user to find data by theme but also provides a simple, user-friendly, brief set of options including ‘Key figures’ and ‘StatLine’, the latter being the great and useful repository of all of the CBS outputs. StatLine is easy to use just by entering a search term: the repository returns a list of tables, articles and notes that have been tagged with the keyword. When a table of data is selected, the left-hand side shows three options: table, which is active with a selection of data. If data are displayed and can be graphed (e.g. a time series), that option is also displayed with data; if the data are for different areas of the country, a mapping option is also displayed.

This redesign of the site provides a much more user-friendly site and has many features to commend it to others. Brevity in all of the writing appears to have been a key direction which has been applied across the site, from the information in a press release to the overall description of the office. Key data are easy to find and options are given to the user where appropriate.

Hope you all have a great summer with lots of ..

..   sunny surfing …

This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 7.0 on 1 August 2009 at 14.00 hrs GMT using a 20 Mb link to the Internet on a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz machine.

The views expressed in the review are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

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