It is many years since I was offered the chance of downloading an 18 Mb file of the Yearbook of the Romanian Institute of Statistics just to get a population figure. And that was on a dial-up line! How different the presentation from that office today. The site can be found at (http://www.insse.ro/cms/rw/pages/index.en.do ). The first thing I noticed as the page was loading was the page title: why it starts with the name of the content management system beats me. Indeed, as I write this the task bar tells me nothing of the office just the CMS name.
The Home page is very busy and contains several features that I have commented on from other sites: a flashing graphic, cycling titles of publications (worse here as they are not linked to anything – nor are the publication covers below) and, in the right-hand column, a cycling set of charts (again not hyperlinked to the actual data or press release). The Home page is actually two screens deep and some of the press releases on this English version of the site were in Romanian. None of the monthly links to press releases has any indication of the content of the release but those at the foot of the page mainly have a key statistic shown.
The top of the left-hand navigation has links to publications and the top one is the yearbook. Following this link, a new window is opened (not really necessary) but the product is good: a list of hyperlinked chapters. The second chapter is population – which is in a file of 1.7 Mb – no warning is given that the file is that big: again it opens in a new window. Contents, a glossary and charts are the first things shown but the left hand side of the page has a link to Excel tables, data sources and metadata. This gives a list of hyperlinked tables – and going backwards I note that the list of tables which first appeared is also hyperlinked but, as the type is black and no notes are given, the user will just assume that it is a printed list and not hyperlinked. When you follow the table link, you lose the place in the yearbook and have to go back through the sequence again. The table I looked at, Table 2.1, did give a population figure but not the latest available. The table’s presentation was poor: no thousands separators were included in the data and the last row had full stops as the decimal separator for both percentages, the penultimate row had one full stop and one comma and the rest of the table used a comma. The three-dimensional pie charts at the start of this chapter’s charts were difficult to interpret quickly as the same colours had been used for two different concepts in proximate pies.
I did check another table, Table 2.16, and this was worse with the first row in each section utilising a full stop, the middle section a comma and the last nine rows a full stop.
The publications list on the left and the list of monthly bulletins in the next column contain some of the same titles but not the same edition! It is not that one contains the latest and the other list the previous one – it is quite mixed. One of those in the second column was not even hyperlinked.
Below publications on the left is a link to five different archive years: surely, a link to the archives is sufficient here, saving space.
The top right has links to databases and other collections of information. The first I tried, Metadata, could not be found. I next tried the CPI link, and was presented with an ‘Internal Server Error’. Moving to the sustainable development indicators, I followed the link to the first (only in Romanian) and was given a simple table of 10 figures, the first eight using a full stop as a decimal separator and the last two, a comma. Other tables examined were consistent with the full stop as the decimal separator.
Much other contextual information is available from the top navigation. I looked here at some tables following Products and Services and then Statistical Data. Presentation and language issues are here as well.
I finished this review with eight IE pages open and 6 independent copies of Excel open. Most of the IE pages would have been better not opening but following the user trail. The fact that when linking to a table the user loses the IE page is a disaster and costly in time.
The site needs to go back to first principles and set out the rules for presentation of data, format for hyperlinks and presentation of file links. Presenting Romanian text without warning when following an English text link is not acceptable netiquette.
Happy surfing …
This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 7.0 on 30 June 2011 at 18.30 hrs GMT using a 20 Mb link to the Internet on a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz machine.