I have only surfed once to one of the Baltic States: Estonia in 2002. I remember the publications produced by Statistics Estonia as some of the better ones in years gone by so I thought we should start there (http://www.stat.ee/en). The Home page is clear, clean and inviting! The last five releases of data were shown and all had the key messages displayed – so the reader could find out at a glance what was happening – and then choose whether to investigate further by opening the link. On the day of the visit, the key messages had statistics that were appropriately rounded effecting better communication of the data. Most key messages contained the latest data and a comparison over time.
Below the press releases, three publications were listed. One was bilingual Estonian / English, one in French and the third was titled in Estonian but actually was in Russian! (This was the same content as the French publication). I looked through the French one which summarised many of the statistics on life in Estonia: the presentation of this was excellent and available either as an electronic publication to view directly or on paper via an order. Descriptions of the French and Russian publications were in English!
The last section provides ‘databases’ which are actually data cubes in PC-Axis format for the user to select the required data. Very easy to use and, as I noted last month, a boon for the user who can select just the data required in a table and export it. For advanced users, the tables produced can also have user-defined sub-totals thus allowing aggregations pertinent to the user rather than the producer.
The left-hand navigation has some surprises: the subject areas are broken into four main sub-groups and each area is hyperlinked; the products has, as the first entry, database – which links to the whole set of data cubes available in PC-Axis format. For those who do not want to define their own table, Statistics Estonia has also provided a set of pre-defined tables for the most commonly required data. So, for anyone wanting data on an aspect of Estonian life, this site provides easy access to different types of users. I wonder if that was in the plan for the design of the site.
Generally data presentation of tables was good. Two queries I would raise: the first is with the rounding (or not) of the indicator data given in millions of Euros: I do not think it necessary to give these data to one decimal place. The data here use the full stop as the decimal separator. However, my second query relates to consistency: the publications I looked at all used the comma as a decimal separator.
Some diagrams had data shown against the bars in bar charts: if the chart does not adequately represent the data clearly, perhaps the aim of the chart is not clear or being met. Some of the publications used doughnut charts – when a simple pie or even a table would have been better. Few users will fully understand the use of a doughnut chart.
Congratulations, Statistics Estonia, for giving great and simple access to data and providing metadata in a style of language that the non-technical person can understand.
Happy surfing …
This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 7.0 on 20 July 2012 at 18.00 hrs GMT using a 60 Mb link to the Internet on an Intel Core i3-2100 3.1 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