Surfing to .. Cyprus

The summer sun takes the mind to places where one can enjoy it without the thought of rain coming very soon (expected here tomorrow!). So I am taking my first visit in this series to Cyprus. Searching through Google for the ‘official statistics Cyprus’ did not produce a link to the Home page in the first 10 results. The fourth entry was to the publications of Cystat and I linked through that to the Home page (http://www.cystat.gov.cy – the Greek version and then used the language toggle to get to the English page – unusually at the top of the left-hand navigation).

The detail of the left-hand navigation was repeated at the bottom of the Home page – but was below the visible page and so the user has to scroll down to find it. Apart from this issue, the Home page was simple and effective, showing the latest releases – though without a headline – and the key data. A marginal inconsistency in the key data was whether a figure should have a space after it and before the ‘mn’. Also, the two GDP figures do not need a decimal place to be shown. Another inconsistency noticed in the output is that the publications all use a full stop as a thousands separator and a comma as a decimal separator whereas the data provided in spreadsheets use these symbols the other way round!

The first page I opened was the publications page – also accessible from the left-hand navigation of the Home page. The publications themselves are in PDF files and not too helpful for the user. However, CyStat has also provided Excel workbooks of data organised by subject area that provide long runs of series mainly in tabular format. These tables are very neat, are indexed within each workbook on the second sheet with hyperlinks to the actual table (which means the user does not have to understand what is in sheet with the tab description ‘A.1.2.a.’!). All tables opened with cell A1 in the top left-hand corner of the visible sheet. At the bottom of the Publications page the user is able to go into the archive going back to 2004. Also the user can search the publications by theme and topic – and the results are apposite.

For the two standard statistics for a site, population and CPI, I expected to find them both in the key indicators. The CPI is indeed the first of the indicators shown on the Home page but the population is not in this list. At the bottom of the list is a link to more indicators – and population is at the top of this list – above the CPI. The ‘more’ list includes all of those in the Home page list so the description of ‘more’ is not appropriate: other?

This site deserves a thorough investigation by all who want to improve their own site. Take a simple step from the Home page to the statistical theme on the left-hand navigation titled Labour. Then choose the sub-theme Employment. You are then given a page with four tabs: announcements, key figures, methodology and publications. The opening one not only shows links to the latest announcements (press releases) but also shows archive years on the right-hand side – in this case back to 2001! As a numbers freak, I could argue that the Key figures tab should be the first one – but there are no key figures on the page – only links to a vast usable set. The first workbook I then examined produced some time series with the dates shown right to left (i.e. latest first to earliest) whereas the one examined from the publications theme had the proper left to right presentation of time.

Happy summer and enjoy the surfing …

This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 9.0 on 23 July at 10.00 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.

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Surfing to .. Lithuania

Lithuania, like Latvia last month, is one of the smaller and newer countries in the EU. It is adjacent to Latvia on the Baltic sea. The Home page of the Statistics Lithuania web site (http://osp.stat.gov.lt/en/web/guest/home ) was the top of the Google results when searching for ‘Official Statistics Lithuania’ and was quickly loaded – despite being just over three screens long. The first impression is that of emptiness – masses of space. However, it is clear then that much of the content is not visible in the presented page. The top navigation is a list of the data themes and the main menu is on the right-hand side. The cycling charts of key indicators all effectively have a table within the chart which detracts from the chart itself. The GDP per capita chart had three decimal places of Euros in both data and scale – none necessary! The population chart needs rethinking as it showed the last month’s population as almost nothing: perhaps a population change chart would be better. The other two main sections of the home page are a calendar of releases and graphic links to parts of the publication Lithuania in Figures. Sadly, the links to the latter take the user to the Lithuanian version of the publication without warning that the information is not available in English.

Looking at the indicators available (through a June 29 release link or the second link on the right-hand navigation), I selected a few indicators. The table produced on waste had only annual figures – though rows were shown for the months within the years – and the data shown used a full stop for the decimal separator whereas in the Lithuania in Figures this separator had been a comma. Worse, the data in the table were all left justified! The table on population did only show the annual rows but used a comma for the thousands separator (as opposed to the space in Lithuania in Figures): again the data in the table produced was left justified.

For my last investigation, I turned to the Statistical indicators on maps from the right-hand navigation and looked at the interactive maps within this. The selection of the statistics to be mapped was simple and the maps produced much quicker than the indicator selection tool. For each map produced (in grey scale only – no colour), a data table appeared on the right of the map which the user could sort through use of a drop-down menu. The data shown were left-justified in the table, used commas for the thousands separator and a full stop for the decimal separator. Hovering over the map of the total population map produces a figure for the area shown – but the data for population shown here did not have any thousands separator.

The pre-defined tables link on the right-hand navigation does contain many and varied tables: the few I examined all had data left justified. One was the average temperature from the geographical data section: above the table is an option to chart the data – I did and was horrified by the resultant chart which was unreadable!

The site does have some interesting presentations of data but these have not been refined sufficiently for release to the general user. The insistence of adding data values to all charts does not improve understanding or the message. Consistency of presentation of numbers needs to be addressed.
Happy surfing …

This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 9.0 on 29 June at 10.00 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.

Posted in 2015, Continent, Europe, Year | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surfing to .. Latvia

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.

Posted in 2015, Continent, Europe, Year | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surfing to .. Hungary

For those who have not been to the great city of Budapest – you have missed a treat! Coffee in the castle grounds overlooking the river and parliament is a must. But so is a visit to the website of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (https://www.ksh.hu/?lang=en ) which opens in appealing colours and almost invites users to explore. The centre of the Home page has three distinct sections: First releases, Key Figures and In the Spotlight. The brevity of the first release messages is well done and certainly invites the reader to explore further. The top one on the day of this review was ‘More births and more deaths’.

The Key Figures section has just 5 tabs for what is considered the five most important key figures: please can the title of the last one change from ‘Vital events’ to ‘Births and Deaths’ – so the ordinary user can understand what is there. The real plus point here is that the data are not just presented as numbers but within charts: and hovering over the actual chart gives the data for the relevant period. The link to more figures produces a table of data.

The third section ‘In the Spotlight’ is a cycling section with eight elements. As the numbers are displayed at the bottom of the section, a user is able easily to return to one they may have just caught sight of. Each element has a description of the statistics – or publication – and links to the product. I chose to follow the link to the Hungary in Figures publication: this opened a new page with the description at the top, a file size and a link to the actual download (hyperlinking the PDF logo and publication graphic as well as the word ‘Download’ would be a marginal improvement). The booklet itself is well presented, downloaded very quickly and is sufficiently colourful for the lay reader to get really interested in the data. The right-hand column of the Hungary in Figures publication page has links to other related areas including ‘Statistical reflections’. These appear to be the historic elements from the Spotlight section.

For the more advanced user, the Home page has a list of statistical themes to choose from. Following my usual choice of population and CPI, I went first to population. What a wealth of available information – from long time series, through the meta-information and interactive presentations to press releases and publications! The long time series for population was quickly loaded and had provisional figures in blue – a different figure from the main table. The user is also presented with six or seven options at the top of the table (the order here could be changed to put the main options first – print or export to Excel). I noted that this table used spaces as a thousands separator whereas in the Hungary in Figures a comma is used.

Looking now to the CPI, the first table – a long time series – gives a table based on 1960. But many other tables are available for the user to choose in the topic. And again, meta-information is available to explain the concepts and definitions. Take a look at the meta-information for the CPI: I wish this was available for all organisations in this format with links to detailed methodology where appropriate.
And finally, look to the interactive charts and maps, linked from the bottom of the left-hand column. Choose maps of Hungary and be thrilled by the availability of data for this option. Having chosen a topic, the base map is displayed at the region level. But on the right of the map is the option to choose a different geography and the map is instantly replaced. The user can also (theoretically) change colours (the option did not work on the bed places map), change the colour shading to show the highest in the lightest shade (useful if looking at indicators where a lower figure is better).

This site was indeed a joy to surf to and showed the great strides of development with the user in mind.

Happy surfing …

This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 9.0 on 24 March at 18.30 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

Posted in 2015, Continent, Europe, Year | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surfing to .. Malta

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

Posted in 2015, Continent, Europe, Year | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Surfing to .. Luxembourg

The Statistics Portal of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has a Home page (http://www.statistiques.public.lu/en/index.html ) that is too long for a standard screen and requires scrolling to get to important items such as the links to surveys in progress and the alternative means of accessing the statistics. A quick solution would be to have the menus shown at the top of the page as drop down menus and to reduce the number of news items to four or five. The news items shown on the day of my visit were varied in quality from the user’s perspective: only two of nine had the key message in the title and two had no statistics in the title or the brief description shown. A panel on the right-hand side gives five key statistics and those I always look for, population and inflation, are there. Further, each title is hyperlinked to more detailed data: the inflation table is in Excel and has a file size shown: the other tables were active, allowing the user to sort columns (though not apparently the date column in the unemployment table which was presented with time running up the page!). Other tables had the time running down or across the page, left to right (as the user would expect).

The provision of active tables allowing the user to sort columns is not always sensible and is not something I would generally recommend if the table can be extracted to Excel or similar programs for onward work. However, a plus point is the addition of information links in cells of a table to get the user to the definition and fuller descriptions – that is, the associated metadata. I followed the GDP through and came up with a clear description in English: however the associated table of letters on the page was headed in French (Choisissez une lettre de l’alphabet)! I looked at the data for road transport and the first table, Road freight by national vehicles, again showed the user option to sort the data by column. However, in addition, the user has a chart tab above the table and this produced charts by industry for each year – which were not sensible.

Tables are either given in Excel or in their dissemination product format: the thousands separator is a space in the Excel tables and a comma in the others. Nevertheless, the dissemination product works well to provide the basic data through a hierarchical structure of available tables.

In the right-hand column, below the first screen’s depth, is a very unusual panel – for the surveys in progress. Following links here not only takes the user to the metadata for the survey but also to forms and contacts for the survey. Following many of the links opened new tabs in the browser which can be irritating to the user. The user can also find a list of all surveys run by Statec with similar information.

Looking through the ‘Actors’ from the top right of the Home page, I found the organisation chart – which was useful only to know the picture and name of the individuals as the pictures were not linked to email addresses or telephone numbers (unlike Iceland Statistics where one can get a full directory of the employees including their responsibilities).

Overall, this is a good site which has developed well. Some attention to consistency and user options needs to be given.

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 23 December 2014 at 11.30 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

Posted in 2014, Continent, Europe, Year | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surfing to .. Greece

Greece has been in the news again this past week and it reminded me that I had not yet visited their statistical website (http://www.statistics.gr/portal/page/portal/ESYE ). The site is the first referenced in a Google search for ‘Greece Official statistics’ but the link takes the user to the Greek version. A simple conversion to the English language version of the site is through the British flag at the top right. Most of the Home page in both languages is hard to read and the text size is fixed so that those wishing to enlarge it cannot. In the centre of the Home pages are the key data for the country – all left justified. In the Greek version, the separators used in the data are comma for the decimal separator and a full stop for the thousands separator; in the English version, a full stop is used both for the decimal and thousands separators!

I found the link to the latest data on Consumer prices in the press releases immediately below the key data: the link was to a PDF file – which makes extracting the data almost impossible unless one has a full version of Acrobat. So I went in search of the data in accessible tables. So from the top link on the left-hand navigation, I was given a list of the themes: ‘Prices’ was not amongst them. But I knew I wanted an index and so chose ‘Indices’. And in the list of indices there was an entry for the Consumer Price Index. Following this gave two options and I chose the CPI: this then produced a table of entries of months by years with three of the years (not consecutive) with a ‘cum.’ as the first entry. Following one of the months’ links goes only to the PDF file! So still no data. Back a page and there was a time series title above the table of months. Following that link did get me to the data in an Excel sheet – with all columns centred. As population was also on the list of items for indices, I chose this next. Six sub-themes were shown – but none of them had any indices!

Surfing through a few other offerings of data tables in Excel sheets, some did have the office’s heading at the top of the table (vital statistics) but others did not (e.g. Evolution of turnover for transport). In this section it is very unclear to the user where one is. On some of the first pages presented for a theme tabs appear at the top of the resultant page with time series, methodology, contact and ‘research data’: the latter only turns out to be the press releases!

One of the best tables I found was for the evolution of turnover for the motor trades: the data were right justified, the table had the office logo at the top and contact details for the responsible person were at the bottom of the table.

For some of the themes, the user is given a link to the Statistical Database instead of Excel tables (though the link at the top right is barely visible). I tried to access the database for several themes and only had a message that ‘An application error has occurred. Your session has been reset.’ I followed through via the site map presented in the top navigation but was given the same left hand navigation as from the top left-hand link on the Home page.

I then went to the digital library from the third entry in the left-hand navigation. I noted there was a Concise Yearbook: it had 332 pages bilingually in PDF format: the full yearbook shown had over 600 pages! Sadly the concise version was for 2009. Even the monthly statistical publication was only for December 2012 – nearly two years old. Was this because these series of publications have stopped in print? If so, please tell the user and label the publications as ‘historic’. Delving further into the publications available, I came across the Shipping Statistics which gave a list of years available up to 1997. I followed this link to find the computer downloading over 37 Mb of a PDF file without any warning of the file’s size.

This site’s developers need to think more of the user. The press releases just state where the information comes from without giving a summary of the key message. Also such links could give direct access to the data as well as a press release. This concept is discussed in Chapter 5 of my book. On the day of the visit two parts were cycling: a top banner and the press releases; both did stop when the mouse was hovered above but the different directions of cycling was very irritating. Consistency of symbols, decimal and thousands separators, presentation of spreadsheets needs to be improved. I found few examples of diagrams but most of those I did were presented in 3 dimensional block charts, including one on casualties from road traffic accidents for 2006 and 2007 presented as a map where each region had a separate block chart without any scale! I linked to this from the English part of the site but was presented with a Greek version without a warning that it was only available in Greek. Standards and consistency need to be improved throughout the site.

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 10 November 2014 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

Posted in 2014, Continent, Europe, Year | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surfing to .. Estonia

As last month, Estonia is also one of the more recent members of the European Union. Their Statistics Office (http://www.stat.ee/en) has an extremely long Home page (almost 5 screen depths) but all of the news stories have a key message and the Key indicators have an arrow marker to indicate whether the situation in that indicator is improving or not. These markers are a little confusing to the general public as they do not understand immediately that indicators can show an improvement by going up or down, depending on the indicator. On the day of the visit, the population indicator’s marker was red and going down but the change in the consumer price index’s marker was green and going down. The white on red in the banner works well but the orange less so. The colour of the Find statistics leads the user to think that this colour is used for hyperlinked text but the same colour is used for the release headlines and they are not hyperlinked! But the same colour in the Main indicators section does link to more detail.

Below the key indicators on the right-hand side is a jumble of hyperlinked items without a main or sub-heading. Strangely, following the Main indicators’ heading, the user is presented with more indicators but also a sub-heading on the right ‘Find statistics’. Why this latter heading is not in the right-hand column on the main page, I do not know. But the hyperlinked heading ‘Find statistics’ is in the banner of the Home page and following that link brings up a list which is identical to that under the indicators!

Within the release sections, some charts appear – practically unreadable and not expandable. Perhaps in the release itself? So I opened the release and the chart was now readable but also appeared to be hyperlinked: so I followed the link and the result was an Excel table of the data used in the chart shown (with different font sizes for the two columns). The months were only shown in Estonian and the sheet did not have an origin (see Chapter 5 of my book for a simple way to ‘own’ spreadsheets).
Next I went to the pre-defined tables from the right-hand column. The user is given a list of subject areas with the subjects sorted alphabetically with a group heading. Choosing Transport and then the first table on vehicle registrations, the table is given in a neat format with the link to the Excel version of the table at the bottom (I have seen this at the top of tables on other sites – which means the user does not have to scroll through a long table to find out if it is available in Excel or not). I also looked at the shipping traffic table which summarises the year’s data at the start of each year block: this row is also in the same place in the Excel table – which is a little frustrating to the users of the data – they have to delete or move these rows before using the other data to chart.

One interesting area of note is the data visualisation section which is shown as the Statistics eXplorer in the right-hand column. I looked at the population section and found that the charts here show the data values on the chart which is distracting and superfluous since the data are shown when the mouse is rolled over the particular bar. Also, when looking at the data for an individual county, the scale of the chart changes so one does not get a measure of the size differences between counties. The maps option is available in English and Estonian but the Estonian option was provided from the English page.
Throughout the site and the publications inconsistencies are clear both in terms of the decimal separator (both a comma and full-stop are used) and the thousands separator (both a space and a comma are used). Consistency would help the novice user. Some organisation of the Home page and the collapsing of the right-hand navigation would assist the users. Having the key messages with dates and hyperlinked to the releases would greatly reduce the length of the page.

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 13 September 2014 at 14.00 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

Posted in 2014, Continent, Europe, Year | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surfing to .. Latvia

Latvia is one of the more recent members of the European Union and the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, Latvijas Statistika, has an inviting website Home page at http://www.csb.gov.lv/en. The use of different background colours in the top navigation is pleasing to the eye and they appear to have been chosen well to give the required contrast. Within the Home page, split into 4 columns, the usual elements appear. However, in addition, Hot topics is at the top of the third column with cycling charts. On the day of the visit, the inflation graph had different colours for each part of the line – very unnecessary and almost indicating differences in definition that are not there.

Most navigation is either through the white text in the top navigation or through blue text. Sadly, black text on the Home page is used both for links and text (of the News releases). And bold black type on the left-hand navigation is just for headings whereas in the news releases, the bold type is hyperlinked.

I first surfed into the database link at the top of the left-hand navigation. This produced a large list of available data cubes grouped by theme. A most unusual find was the list of historic data cubes at the bottom of the list. Even though this is shown as 1920s and 1930s, the population data is available back to 1800! And population was not the only subject in the list to have data outside the advertised range. The system used for examining these cubes is simple to use and produces the required diced and sliced table very quickly. Some of the data requires a little refining, for example the length of railway line does not need the decimal place. Because of the length of the list, it may be easier for the user if just the group headings were shown with each being hyperlinked to the group’s contents. This also applies to the list of Key indicators.

Looking for the CPI in the database was easy and I soon found the table required. Choosing to look at the annual data only and for all goods for the last four years, the table presented was clear and simple.

Continuing down the left-hand navigation, the site offers some infographics. Many are large and need some attention to the data presented (some of the prices are given to two decimal places of the local currency whereas no decimal places are required. But at least an attempt is made to communicate the information of the office in a meaningful way to the general user.
Publications are available on line. Choosing a theme of statistics from the left-hand navigation the user is given a new top navigation which takes the user to one of four sections: Key indicators, Database, Metadata and News. Selecting News, the user is given a list of the latest news items, usually with a very brief key message. Similarly, the news releases in the second column of the Home page also give a key message.

The site is easy to use and navigate around. Some inconsistency of data presentation is apparent (with a space as a thousands separator in publications but without a separator in some database tables). The historical data should be defined more clearly to encourage more people to look at them. As the number of data cubes increases, some attention will need to be given to arranging the tables in a clearer order, perhaps just showing the titles in groups and then showing the remaining detail when the table is chosen.

Note: Ed’s book ‘Presenting Data: How to Communicate your Message Effectively’,
ISBN 9781118489598 is due for publication by Wiley on 12 September 2014.

This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 9.0 on 11 September 2014 at 14.00 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

Posted in 2014, Continent, Europe, Year | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surfing to .. Myanmar

The Home page of the Central Statistics Organisation of Myanmar (https://www.csostat.gov.mm/) was very sparsely populated on the day of my visit. Several other links to the site appeared at the top of the references from a search for ‘Official statistics Myanmar’ – but each had a security certificate error.

On the left-hand navigation the link to ‘Quick access’ gave a different list of possibilities from the visible list below it. I chose ‘Selected indicators’ to see if I could find the CPI information. This link tried to get me to log onto windows security twice and then produced the table of CPI data along with two charts. The first chart of the index had a baseline of 0 and the second had two identical measures side by side with different wording! For population, I looked in the selected indicators but to no avail. The first element of the quick access is Myanmar in brief and the second page of that has two tables of population data. The data in these tables were centred in the columns and one datum in the second table had one decimal place less than all the other figures. One page further into the pages has a table with left-justified data. Within this indicators part of the website other presentations of information were noted, including three-dimensional block charts, but some tables were presented correctly with right justification and thousands separators. The foreign investment table needs urgent attention: some data needs rounding, some require the thousands separators and one column had blocks of data right, left and centre justified

Beneath the quick access part of the left-hand navigation other links commence with a plus sign – which is not hyper linked to further detail! The third element, Survey Highlights, reports on a 2006 survey: the table of data presented does not contain any thousands separators and some of the data would benefit from additional rounding (to the nearest million at least). The Market Price link gives daily price data for selected commodities!

The CSO News only had one news item from 2014 but 26 from 2013: and the fifth news item down, News 23, appeared on screen as a series of boxes with odd words scattered throughout.

This site lacked quick access to the main statistics that people search for and needs to have a consistent look and feel throughout. Standards of data presentation need to be set and adhered to. These elements are essential to a good site and need to be set before any further development.

Happy surfing over the summer. The reviews will return in September.

This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 9.0 on 31 July 2014 at 14.30 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

Posted in 2014, Asia, Continent, Year | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surfing to .. United Kingdom

The Home page of the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics (www.ons.gov.uk ) almost fits onto one screen. The missing graphic link on the right below the visible screen here is for the Census – reasonably important! A little reduction in height of the other graphics would allow the Census one to be visible – or it could be moved onto the other side below the theme navigation. The taxonomy of the themes on the left-hand navigation is much improved and the various pages that open for each heading or sub-heading give the latest information on the subject – all with links to the relevant documents.

Both of my two standard test data searches were unnecessary on this site as both of the figures – for population and the CPI – were in the key figures panel on the top right of the Home page. Nevertheless, using the theme list to find these data items was simple. Population is one of the themes: following that link brings up a sub-list and a page of important information about population with the overall figure first on the page. Just below the headline figures is a cycling graphic with links to videos about related topics. Below this is a set of interesting stories – again with links. Observing that above the headline figures is a set of tabs, it is thus easy to move to related publications and available data tables. On the day of the visit, the data table relating to the headline figure was not available. So I took the link to the 2012 population estimates. These data tables are in a zipped file which some may not be able to open. The unzipper I use gave a list of the contents in the file. Here all of the country names do not start with a capital letter but the third file – Population Density
– had two capital letters. The first file purported to give ‘detailed coc’: so I went to investigate. The file opens to a notes worksheet in the Excel workbook with a logo of the office followed by the heading ‘2012 Components of Population change for England and Wales’. The originator may understand what ‘coc’ means but the average user would not. The second tab at the bottom of the page just has ‘2012’: it would be wishful thinking of me to assume they could build up a set of tables (though I would not really want them in Excel sheets but in a data cube that could easily be diced and sliced).

Off to the CPI. Prices do not feature on the main list of themes. I guessed ‘Economy’ and found prices at the bottom of the sub-list. Unlike the major themes, the sub-themes do not open to a summary page but go straight to the summaries and publications with, again, another tab at the top for data tables. Looking in the data tables, the CPI was not listed but a link at the bottom of the page went to many more data tables – and I found the CPI table within that list. Found being the correct word: the list was sorted by date but, within any date, the order of entries appears to be random (though the two CPI entries were at least together!). Following the reference tables’ link produced the first page of an Excel workbook with a list of tables: this page did not have the office logo at the top. I looked at Table 1 and found the CPI figure both for the overall basket of goods but also for various divisions. Lines 13 and 19 within the table contain strange groups of letters without a row heading: they are series identifiers in the time series databank but the general visitor would not have a clue.

I randomly chose another table from the list of price indices – the MM22 – Producer Price Indices dataset. The table was poorly laid out with some data shown with one decimal place, some with none and some empty cells. Even cell A1 had a repeated ‘MM22’ at the start of the text.

I chose to test the search as this function had not been too good on my last visit. I entered ‘Pink book’ in the box and had a massive list of content returned with few mentioning the Pink Book – and they were not at the top of the page. On the right of the returned page, the user is presented with a means of restricting the search and I chose to look only for books in the last 5 years. Now I had 4 books returned as the top entries but the ordering was nonsensical: top was that for 2011, then 2009, 2010 and then 2012. Surely the latest should be first?

Back to the Home page (either by clicking on the Home tab on the top navigation or by clicking on the hyperlinked office logo). The central part relates to the latest releases. On the day of the visit, six releases were shown but only one of the headings had the key message in the prime link. For all of the others the user has to click on the rectangle link to the type of statistic when a summary will be shown on to its right with a picture.

Just four key figures are shown on the Home page but a link above these takes the user to a page with a summary list at the top and a much longer list following. More importantly for the user, each of the key figures’ information is linked to the relevant web page and meta-information about the key figure is given – including when it was published and what time period it relates to.

I took a look at the data associated with a key statistics on the day of the visit: Prodcom. The link from the Home page went to the release and I then linked through to the associated data tables. I chose to look at Division 18 – recorded media (as today is the second day of the Glastonbury music festival). Some of the data had appropriate descriptors (Value £000’s) but a significant number of rows of data did not have such a description. I thought the data may relate to actual numbers of CDs: but no, reading the row heading it was clear that the data were values; whether they were in £ or £000 I am none the wiser. I had met this issue on a previous visit to the website.

On the right-hand side of the Home page are links to interactive content (well worth a visit), Census information and a couple of other links.

Overall this site has greatly improved since my last review. Attention to detail needs to be improved and maintained. Also, it is necessary for all titles of tables to be meaningful to ordinary users: do not expect all people accessing the tables to be experts in a subject. The guidance and methodology tab on the top navigation does link to some metadata and methodology but it is not too easy for users to find.

Happy surfing ..

This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 11.0 on 28 June 2014 at 17.00 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

Posted in 2014, Continent, Europe, Year | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surfing to .. Ukraine

The country of Ukraine has been in the news much recently – but not from the statistical perspective. Some 10 years ago I went to assist the State Statistics Service of Ukraine (http://www.ukrstat.gov.ua/ ) with dissemination. The federal system of statistical collection did not make for easy compilation of data on a consistent basis. The Home page of their website offers users a choice of three languages (top right of the page): Ukrainian, Russian or English. The English version of the site does not have the same amount of information as the other two languages but sufficient to see the structure of the country and the website.

The Home page is divided into 3 columns: the left-hand column is short and fixed on the page. The centre and right-hand columns are around 5 screens deep. Worse, on my standard screen, the right-hand column was only just visible (it is fully visible on the Ukrainian version). The centre column was filled with press release links – just from May – though, in the latest day shown, the 10 releases only related to three topic areas and none had any key messages shown. The right-hand column had notes on the latest of each of the latest macro-economic indicators. The data in these were not rounded sufficiently in all cases: the exports of made up goods 14190,2 mln. $ dollars while imports totalled 14240,7 mln. $ dollars; the decimal place could have been lost and the user would have been helped if a thousands separator had been used. None of these key messages was linked to the relevant press release or a data table.

In the left-hand column three graphics are hyperlinked but the text on each is only in Ukrainian – so the user would not know what they were getting to.

From the top navigation I chose ‘Statistical information’: the link changed appearance on roll-over but did not give the correct identifier for a link (in my case a hand). Following through, I found the population data for April 2014: the whole table was without thousands separators and each cell of the table had a double line surround. This imposition of many lines in a table does not assist the user to read the information. Pasting the table into Excel, the resultant cell borders were just a single line. The latest CPI information was also readily available through this main heading.

I looked at Macroeconomic indicators from the same top navigation link: the second link produced a list of three items; the first of these, Social and economic development of Ukraine, January to March 2014, linked to a PDF document in English. Many of the data items had numbers with one decimal place (not necessary for the data being shown) and none had used thousands separators. The GDP page also had the data centred in the column and a three-dimensional pie chart which was hard to interpret as the legend was too small. Several other charts in the document were difficult to interpret and the clutter of all of the data being included within the chart did not assist. The list of statistical information does have one very neat feature – the inclusion of dates when last updated: this is obviously a new presentation as not all of the links have a date.

The link on the top navigation to Meta-descriptions does give a simple explanation of the data: a simple improvement here would be a link to the latest publication or to data. Publications can also be viewed from the link in the top navigation. Several editions are offered – in English – though the four earliest Ukraine in Figures’ links returned an HTTP 404 error. Sadly, though, the data are not too accessible since the publications are in PDF format.

Happy surfing ..

This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 11.0 on 24 May 2014 at 14.00 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

Posted in 2014, Continent, Europe, Year | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surfing to .. Indonesia

Southern Asia has been in the news recently so I decided to visit Statistics Indonesia (http://www.bps.go.id/eng/ ) whose website is in both English and Bahasa Indonesian. The English version of the site offers less than the Bahasa version both in content and detail: for example, the news releases in Bahasa give the key message of the release but in the English version it is generally just the subject that is given. Navigation is clear with white text for the top navigation and blue for the rest. A minor improvement would be to hyperlink the any graphics (for example on the right-hand navigation) as well as the text. When within the site, each page has a link to the Home page on the top navigation that works quickly: however, the logo of Statistics Indonesia is also hyperlinked – but did not go anywhere.

The left-hand navigation sets out the themes of available statistics: the open list at the top is for Social and population: the Economic/Trade and Agriculture/Mining themes are accessed only through the separate links. Within the Economic and Trade list, I sought out the GDP information as this was one of the highlights cycling at the top of the Home page on the day of the visit (but the link did not go to the PDF). Looking through to the dynamic table of GDP, the data are shown to two decimal places of billions but all of the second decimal digits are zero! The table does not need any decimal places. More interesting, however, is what the user is offered at the top of the page presented for a theme: new navigation to an explanation of the theme concept, the methodology employed, a list of available tables and the full glossary (helpfully with an alphabet selection at the top). If a letter has more than one screen’s depth of terms, they are paged.

The two data items usually searched for in my reviews are population and CPI. Population is one of the items shown in the left hand themes on opening the Home page: the second of the listed tables gives the data by province for 2010 as well as for the country as a whole (at the bottom of the table). The Consumer Price Indices theme is listed in the Economic and Trade tab. Choosing the first table, the user is given even more choice: a table is presented but also, above the table, is an option to graph the data. The table has a few Bahasa words in it without the English equivalent: some are understandable, ‘Tahun’ is not. I looked then at the graph of the data: the x-axis labels for the vertical grids were Nov 08, May 09, Dec 09, Jul 10, Feb 11 .. – an uneven sequence but equally spaced on the graph.

I looked into a few of the publications on offer from the publications link on the top navigation. The tables with decimal places in these publications used a comma for a separator and not the full stop as in tables looked at for GDP. The large file sizes were not noted – which could lead to some delay in opening – and the site used an unusual program for viewing the publications which did not allow the viewer to move easily across chapters.

Several broken links were found on the site. For many tables with percentage distributions, the default number of decimal places appears to be 2 which are not always necessary. Some translation still needs to be followed through and the provision of file sizes for the publications (more than 350 Kb) would help the user. The additional level of navigation when looking at themes is excellent for the user allowing access to both methodology and a glossary. Obviously the glossary is for the whole site and not topic specific – but that is certainly easier to maintain and is presented well.

This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 11.0 on 24 April 2014 at 10.00 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

Posted in 2014, Asia, Continent, Year | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surfing to .. Israel

Information from Israel is always interesting from a presentation perspective since the two languages – Hebrew and English – are used on the website Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics
(www.cbs.gov.il/engindex.htm ). In Hebrew the text reads from right to left whereas in English the opposite is true: have a brief look at the Home page in Hebrew (right tab of the top navigation and switch back to English (left tab of the top navigation). The site’s Home page in both languages is of fixed width centrally placed in the screen. It is slightly too long to fit onto the one page but, with little adjustment of the sections, could be. Some of the headings are in capital letters so, with users are some 30 per cent slower reading words in capitals, these should be changed into lower case words. Some marginal inconsistency in the use of colour for links and emboldening can be seen: the ‘Select subject’ heading in the centre column looks odd and perhaps should be on either the top or left-hand navigation lists (which retains its visibility throughout a site visit: I went to prices and then wanted to go directly to population but ‘Select subject was not visible without going back). Unusually the Home page has a counter: apparently over two million accesses occurred in the month so far. I am not clear what the difference is between the ‘Last media releases’ and ‘What’s new’: apart from the fact that the latter does not have specific release dates. The ‘Last Media Release part could be greatly enhanced by giving the key statistical message from the release. The prices section in the centre column can also be accessed through the ‘Israel’s economy’ link in the left-hand navigation as well as through ‘Select subject’.

However, when one does access the Prices information, the user is presented with much detail, links to charts of the individual indices, media releases, tables of data and specific tables from the Annual Abstract (in PDF or Excel format). Next to Population and demography: here the information returned is not as extensive. Indeed, the ordering of the media releases was most unusual with two formats for the dates and no clear population table. The first release shown, ‘Selected data on the Occasion of Jerusalem Day’, presents a Word file and some data. The data are in two Excel tables – neither of which gives population. The Word file does, however, start with a paragraph on population – but only of Jerusalem. Looking at immigrant data, one table (Table 5) gives numbers on where the immigrants have come from and where they settled in 2012: numbers less than 5 seem to have been suppressed – but can easily be deduced! The tables are available in PDF or Excel format: all data were presented properly.

My next foray was into the Time series data. Looking into Energy from the left-hand subject menu, the user is presented with a list of available series. Choosing Energy balance, a set of options for the table appears: choosing appropriate options and displaying the results on screen, the data are presented centre justified! Trying to open the resultant data in Excel yields a message that the file is not in Excel but will be opened – and again the data are centre justified. I then changed subject and tried Construction – but none of the folders or tables were active.

From the Database and tools link on the top navigation, I looked at the GIS offering. I went to the list of Annual Abstract maps expecting to be able to display various subject data. Sadly, only a map of the districts and sub-districts appears without allowing the user to either use the back button or display a link lack to the Home page. Presumably this area is under development.

Overall some good features on this site though let down by inconsistencies.

This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 11.0 on 28 March 2014 at 13.00 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

Posted in 2014, Asia, Continent, Year | Tagged | Leave a comment

Surfing to .. Croatia

Zagreb is an interesting city with a beautiful central square. Just off the square is the main office of the Croatian Bureau of Statistics but we can access their output through the Internet at (http://www.dzs.hr/default_e.htm ). The Home page is a little unbalanced with the very large graphic links just below the top navigation: indeed, three of the four graphic links are included in the top navigation as well! Apart from these graphics, the main part the user is attracted to is the large graph of GDP: above the graph three other links are shown to key data. Two of the graphs have conventional x-axes with time in a continuum from left to right and two have just months of a year with the lines representing the data for each year. Surely the user is interested more in the trend over the whole period rather than trying to spot seasonality. The first part of the left-hand navigation lists a series of topics under ‘Frist results’: these are not hyperlinked to the relevant information! A bookmark could easily be linked to the relevant part of the results.
The user gets a fixed view of the site, movement down the page being via a scroll bar on the right of the left-held page. A few small adjustments to the graphics on the page and the whole could fit in to one view – always desirable for users.

Going to the first release page, the left-hand navigation has changed significantly. The top two both begin with the word ‘first’: perhaps the top one would be better named key results. The second ink is to the first releases: this brings up a very neat selection screen for the user who can then select by year, topic and sub-topic. Choose a year other than the current one (as not much has been released yet) and you will appreciate the simple route in to the vast supply of releases. The next main block in the navigation is for the censuses: the first results of the 2011 Census are available and, sensibly, the CBS has chosen to release the information using PC-Axis tabulation on the Internet (Px-Web). I chose to look at the overall population table and was not only given choices with in each dimension of the table but also offered the option to download the whole table – together with options on the output format, delimiters and page specification. So getting the population figure was very simple. I found the inflation figure through the latest releases: the January 2014 release on CPI was actually found under 2013: surely these should be indexed on the month of issue. The resultant table was easy to copy and lift in to Excel for onward processing.

From the top navigation, the Press Corner take the user to the latest week’s releases and clearly shows what are the next releases to come. Those already released are hyperlinked to the release itself. The releases are well presented in bilingual format with an opening summary and then the data. Each release carries the methodology and coverage notes – which could perhaps be better placed centrally on the website and just a link given on the release.

The last item I looked at was the population by age and sex – via a link below the graphs. The user is presented with a basic population pyramid for 2011. But no scale is given so one is left only looking at the balance of the sexes by age group. Hovering over any bar does bring up the data for that age group and the percentage split: the raw data are formatted without thousands separators (a space is used in the rest of the site) and the percentages have differential rounding. Nevertheless, the user can choose to look through the different years of information available and even look to see what is forecast for 2061 ( a very different age distribution and a doubling of those aged 85 and over).
This site needs some development and updating particularly on the Home page. The use of PC-Axis makes data extraction so easy for the user – and the addition on this site is the availability of downloading the whole table with formatting options.

This review was undertaken by Ed Swires-Hennessy using Internet Explorer version 11.0 on 30 January 2014 at 10.00 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

Posted in 2014, Continent, Europe | Tagged | Leave a comment