Malta is one of the smaller (in population numbers) members of the European Union. Its statistics can be found on the site of the National Statistics Office of Malta (http://nso.gov.mt ). When last reviewing the site, many issues were noted. One of the issues was the use of PDF files for data which renders them difficult to use for the average user: this issue still exists.
On this visit, the initial view of the screen was pleasing to the eye though only half of the Home page was visible since the graphics used were too large. Apart from the primary cycling graphics, the others had very small text underneath them which was fixed in size and thus not accessible to visually impaired users. Another issue is the way most readers take in information: we read from left to right and the placing of data in latest then earlier order in the main graphic is counter-intuitive and can lead to the wrong message being taken – even though the data were correctly labelled.
Searching for my two basic data items, CPI and population, the first was one of the cycling graphics on the Home page. For the population, I first looked in the ‘Selected indicators’ and did find the information easily though to extract a series from Table 6 of the PDF for graphing would mean retyping the data. So I looked in the Malta in Figures (from the right-hand section of the Home page), and the table would be easier to use for creating a chart – if it was not given in PDF format!
From the ‘Selected indicators’ link the user is asked to download a PDF file actually containing reference tables of various data sets and not indicators. Thus data would be an absolute pain to extract if, for example, one wanted to use the imports data (all the numbers are 10 digits long!).
Whilst in the Malta in Figures PDF, I did notice a better presentation of indicators for the latest year (on page vii) but within these data thought appeared not to have been given to the rounding of data. For example, GDP, shown as €7,510.1million, does not need the decimal place as the previous figure is €7,179 million (rounded). Other tables in the publication need attention: table 37 has the percentage symbol against all but the last (total) row instead of just having a table descriptor. The charts are inconsistent (Chart 18 has gridlines, Charts 19 and 20 do not); the scales on charts could be improved (Chart 18 should not have a decimal on the y-axis scale but should have a descriptor – € millions); Charts 21 and 22 should be more comparable with a 12 o’clock start for European Union; Chart 23 needs scale adjustment but also shows different scales on each side of the graph (7 divisions on left, 6 on right).
On this visit, access to the StatDB, the statistical database, was not dependent on registration. So I did have a look at some of the data available. It was easy to use but the resultant tables were not consistently presented with those in the Malta in Figures since data were centred in columns and without thousands separators. However, the user does have four possible formats for downloading the resultant table! Trying to download into Excel format proved interesting – and the one choice that loads the individual cell data into separate cells is the HTML format and even then I was given a warning message about the format not being a true Excel one. Another small irritant here is that once in StatDB, one has to go back to the main site to create another table: could not the page header be linked back to the start page of StatDB as the header on the pages of the main site?
The metadata sub-site, a link just below the StatDB link, seemed promising. It is clear what the office has tried to do with the concepts and definitions and it inevitably is in development. Some pages have more information than others and it is clear that not only definitions are given but also information on the surveys that collect data on the variables. Once at the collection vehicle point, a clear explanation of the survey is given by answering commonly asked questions about surveys. Further, the contact name, telephone number and email address of the relevant contact is given.
The main site is much improved since the version examined two years ago but some improvements in consistency, formatting and presentation still need to be made.
Happy surfing …
Note: Ed’s book ‘Presenting Data: How to Communicate your Message Effectively’, ISBN 9781118489598 was published by Wiley on 12 September 2014.
This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 9.0 on 19 January at 16.30 hrs. GMT using a 100 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