Riga in Latvia is on my bucket list: a city full of history and charm. The Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia (http://www.csb.gov.lv/en ) has a very clean Home page – though it is really too long. This could be shortened by reducing space in the themes column to the left and reducing the text on the news items to the briefest summary. It was pleasing to note that all of the individual news releases on the day of the visit had key information in the summary, though data were not adequately rounded (360.5 thsd visitors, 5189.6 Gwh of heat). Some minor adjustment of the colour balance in the main search box and the language change would make them clearer.
Unusually, the Home page was split into four columns – which works well in this instance. The hot topics in the third column cycle but the three topics shown are hyperlinked at the top of the column. Within these three topics are the ones I look for on a site (population and CPI) and these are clear and put into context. Not all of the text is scalable and using alt: view: text size: largest did not allow the text in this section to flow in the column. The themes titles appeared not to be scalable.
On the left-hand column the key indicators link takes the user to a well-structured list of indicators with the titles sorted alphabetically. Switching language at this point produces an alphabetically sorted list in Latvian! Trying a few other language switches on pages, the equivalent page in the other language was presented: this is unusual but extremely helpful for language learners. Within the indicators section, the choice of any one brings up the latest data but also presents the user with four links at the top of the page: Key indicators, Database, Metadata and News. Looking at the passenger traffic indicators, the Metadata at the top of the page does not yield anything, but two of the indicator lines have hyperlinked ‘metadata’. Following these gives the user much more than expected from basic metadata including links to releases, database tables, means of collection and the contact person in the bureau. The amount of metadata provided does vary by topic but the structure is commendable.
Turning now to the databases I found that the availability of different data cubes easy to follow and the only user issue was the absence of a different colour for the links to options – Select part, Download and View table. Each table description included the last updated date, content description and a ‘size’ figure (just a number – could be cells or Kb). I chose to select part of a table and found the selection from, or similar to, Px-web where the user is presented with the dimensions of the cube and can select one or more of the elements of each variable. The table was produced very quickly and used a space as a thousands separator (unlike tables produced via the key indicators where no separator was used). Indeed the table production was through Px-web as one of the save formats was a PC-Axis file! The user, given the table output, can save the table, do calculations or present the information in a variety of charts (some of which would not help the user to understand the data!!).
The thousands separator is not used in the Monthly bulletin either which is fine while the numbers presented are less than 10,000 but the GDP figures in Tables 2.1 and 2.2 are in the tens of millions and the user really would be helped by the inclusion of separators. Emboldening numbers, as in the first line of table 2.2, gives the impression that the total is 10 times the magnitude of the number immediately below which is not true.
This site is worth a visit to generate ideas for your website. Obviously it is not perfect – but which site is? Many features are user-oriented and thus really positive. As with all sites, continuous improvement and change is necessary: throughout this process, however, the fundamentals of data presentation should not be lost.
Happy surfing …
This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 9.0 on 26 May at 10.30 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
Ed is author of the book Presenting Data: How to Communicate your Message Effectively,
ISBN 9781118489598. Published by Wiley in September 2014.