Even though the site for Statistics Singapore (http://www.singstat.gov.sg/ ) is an official site, its colours make it look more inviting to the ordinary person. The Home page is of fixed width with about one and a half screens’ depth. Navigation is a little confusing with three different colours for hyperlinks on the page. Further, even the black text (in the centre news highlights and in the key indicators section) is hyperlinked. Any move away from the Home page will yield black text that is not hyperlinked: so black text is not consistently linked. The data in the headlines on the day I visited had too much precision: as an example, I noted that the receipts in the service sector fell from $1,650.6 billion in 2008 to $1,409.8 billion in 2009. Using effective rounding principles would have the statement ‘… fell from $1,650 billion in 2008 to $1,410 billion in 2009’. Such rounding gets the message across to the lay reader and, indeed, to any government minister. The precision is not necessary to portray the message. More precision can be obtained from the detailed data in the release.
The news items in the centre of the page are hyperlinked to bookmarks in either very long lists of either press releases or publications. Why the user is sent to load far more detail than they require is a mystery. Surely it is sufficient to link to the information the user requires – though that may mean storing more pages.
The first of the key indicators is the GDP: this showed a 12 per cent increase in the last quarter of 2010, and the key information links to a PDF press release noting a 14 per cent GDP growth in the year! As the table is in a PDF document, use of the data other than picking out a figure or two must rely on finding it in an electronic form. However, on the left of the Home page are a few quick links: the first is National Accounts and, following this, the first entry on the list of contents is GDP; the user is offered data in either PDF or Excel format.
In the same section of quick links, is one for prices and one for demography (not many of the lay users would know that is where population data lives!!). Following the prices link, the user is provided with a brief introduction, several news items and many tables of data. Even more impressive is the set of hyperlinked words at the bottom of the page: Glossary, Publications and Papers/Articles. Each of the links provides the user with sufficient information: the glossary is light on technical detail but that can be obtained from the papers and articles. The downside is that all three links go to specific parts of very long pages – meaning the user has to load far more information than they require.
Again on the left-hand side, I followed the link ‘Finding A-Z’: this list has more than basic technical terms and population was easily found and followed. One of the links suggested was just called ‘population’: this linked to an HTML table of population including the total population from the 2010 Census!
The site has employed data visualisation techniques for a small subset of the available data. This is accessed via a link from the same left-hand list which takes the user to a list of available presentations. Unlike the Hans Rosling charts, only one of the elements can be tracked over time – a great disadvantage when one is actually trying to see how two different elements have moved over time. The population pyramid does not change smoothly from year to year and does not have the facility to show the data of any of the years as time progresses as in the UK’s offering.
In this review I have only scratched the surface of what is available on this site. The top navigation has drop-down menus with even more good information, from the vision and key principles, through legislation to the many ways into the available data.
The site is well worth exploring to provide ideas of information aggregation for the benefit of the user. The site is generally user-oriented and a few minor changes would make it even better.
Happy surfing …
This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 7.0 on 31 March 2011 at 14.00 hrs GMT using a 20 Mb link to the Internet on a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz machine.
This and reviews since January 2009 are published in the blog; earlier reviews are published to my website, http://www.surfingwithed.org.uk