The website of Statistics Finland (http://www.stat.fi/index_en.html ) has always been one of my favourites. Revisiting the site for this review instantly confirms that this site is one to be in the lead of statistical offices’ sites. Why? Read on!
The Home page in English is top of the results list for a Google search for Statistics Finland (not true for all countries, e.g. Kenya, Barbados!). But once displaying the Home page, it is clear that a great deal of thought has gone into its development. From here you have the instant choice of linking to statistics for a theme, the latest key data, latest press releases or going to an important link. Navigation is clear and uses just two styles: the standard blue (which always becomes underlined when hovering over the link) and the top tab navigation.
For the expert user, the four links to the top left of the Home page is a real joy allowing access to the real data and databases in the way one chooses: by alphabetic list of subjects, by producer or by topic. And five separate databases are accessible; three being free to use and two being chargeable (though one can get free access in the Statistics Finland library).
The inflation figure is noted amongst the key figures. Following the link on this figure, the user is presented with the full text of the press release. What is even more useful for the user is the additional information to the left of the press release providing links to the release calendar for these data, historic press releases, quality information and much more metadata. The only, minor, improvement I could suggest is to cut the long lists of releases, tables and figures accessed from this list to one whole year’s information with links to earlier years. This is minor as the list pages do load very quickly.
For population, I chose to use the Statistics by topic link. Population was easy to find, though from the list then presented (part of a very long list of data) the most obvious was preliminary population statistics. Note here that the use of ‘preliminary’ in an alphabetic list is not as serious as it would have been if ‘estimates’ had been used. Nevertheless, data were not available here – not even those produced last year! Looking again at the list: I didn’t want projections and the census would be out of date; so where are the estimates? I resorted to looking in Finland in Figures where the end 2009 data is easily obtained.
For the alphabetic list of statistics available, the user is given the list for the letter ‘A’ with the other letters of the alphabet to choose. However, for Metadata (from the top navigation), one is just presented with a very long list, theoretically sorted. I’m not sure why Child benefit is the top of the list or why CVTS comes before ‘Canal’. The positioning of CVTS may not be too difficult for the user as the ‘C’ list is short. However, IVF comes before all of the ‘im’ and ‘in’ lists and could easily be missed. Sorting these in a table in MS Word gives the correct placings.
The main database available to the public is StatFin. This delivers tables in the web version of PC-Axis which allows the user to choose either to download the whole table or to select parts of the table to view and then download. I extracted part of the population data table – and was pleasantly surprised in two ways. First, how easy it was to use the extraction selection (and there is a guide for those who want to start from scratch): second that the extracted table had links to Concepts and definitions, description and quality description in the footnote. Further, below the table was a basic description of the data together with the appropriate contact point for further information.
Despite the minor irritations noted in this review, this site remains one of the best for the user of official statistics in a country. Minor improvements will make the site a must for those considering a re-design of their site.
Happy surfing …
This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 7.0 on 31 January 2011 at 14.00 hrs GMT using a 20 Mb link to the Internet on a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz machine.