The sun is very bright here in Wales today and I was reminded of the flag of Japan – so the review this month is of the website of the Statistics Bureau of Japan which can be accessed at http://www.stat.go.jp/english/.
The Home page is longer than one screen – and has a mass of unused space in the non-visible part (this is not the case in the Japanese version – so some parts of the site are not available to English speaking users). Navigation appears to be clear with the traditional blue underlined text for hyperlinks in the main part of the site and a top row of navigation which changes colour on access so the user is helped to know which part of the site they are in.
In the centre of the Home page, the user is shown the latest press releases: on the day of the visit, 7 items were listed and only one of these had an indication of what the statistics in the press release showed. I delved into the population estimates press release (dated 20 July) and immediately noticed that the table provided was inconsistent in two respects: first that the left-hand part, provisional estimates, was presented to the nearest ten thousand whereas the data in the right-hand part was given to thousands; secondly, that the data in the left-hand part of the table did not have thousands separators whereas the data in the right-hand part did. Indeed, for the non-statistician user, it would be netter to have the data in the same unit, preferably ‘thousands’, showing an extra zero in the provisional estimates data. Once distinct plus point, however, is that the data in the press release is immediately available in Excel format through a link given to e-Stat, the Statistics Portal site. The press release does not contain any commentary.
The CPI data is one of the three key indicators shown in the box to the right of the Home page. Following this link gave two lines of commentary, two tables and links to 13 other tables. The two tables shown have the data in them centred in the columns, with the minus signs obfuscating the comparisons amongst groups. I took a sample of the linked tables – and the data in these were all properly presented, that is right justified.
Access to data is primarily through the statistics tab in the top navigation. This gives a list of themes and sub-themes and allows the user to quickly get to the data area they are exploring. The Statistics Yearbook is very well organised with a hyperlinked list of chapters, followed by a list of hyperlinked tables, mostly with the file size noted.
The Statistical System tab leads to some of the classifications used and information on the statistical law, system and office structure together with a link to the Guide to Official Statistics – again with hierarchical easy-to-use hyperlinks.
A most interesting piece on this website is to be found under the Information tab and the second item: Examples of Uses of Statistical Survey Results. This provides instances in both national and local contexts of what the data are used for – giving a summary rationale to the collection of the data. I know this has been tried by others but has generally not been successful.
A small amount of fine tuning, making tables consistent and improving layout would make this a great site. Adding commentary to the press notices will also improve the user perspective of the office as a whole.
Happy summer surfing …
This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 7.0 on 27 July 2011 at 14.30 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