New look for National Statistics website
Are you a ‘frequent flyer’, an occasional
dipper or a first time caller at
www.statistics.gov.uk ? Whatever. You should
be aware that in September, the appearance
and structure of this gateway to a wide
range of official statistics changed in
response to user-based views of what would
be desirable improvements. The new
website has a new look and offers new ways
of navigating through its content. The
culmination of over six months planning,
research and work, it is only the first stage of
web development plans: the long-term
objective is to present a picture of ‘the state
of the nation at the click of a button’.
Hitherto, finding information on the website
has been a problem for many users.
Extensive customer research has shown
consistently that what users want is a clear
and uncluttered website, with logical links,
and a focus on topical information and new
releases. In March 2002 IBM was
commissioned to look at the website and the
user research, and create a new navigational model for the site so users could easily get to
the information they were looking for.
Following a review, it was concluded that
the amount of information online was so
comprehensive, and that users were so
diverse, that a single ‘one size fits all’
structure for the website could not be built.
A better solution would be to create multiple
navigational routes through the available
information. The solution was to offer three
different navigation routes.
- Navigation by text search. Likely to be the
favourite route of those who know exactly
what they are looking for. A single search
box will query all the databases which
support the website; presently, different
search boxes in different areas query
different permutations of the databases.
The search results are categorised, with
separate listings for datasets, articles,
products, and so on. Brief summaries of
each result are also shown, guiding users
towards the material they really want. It is
planned to extend this search facility to
also cover Neighbourhood Statistics (NeSS).
- Navigation by directory. Aimed at those
who know the kind of information they
want, but not perhaps the name of a
particular product or release. The National
Statistics Category List (NSCL) works as a
‘site map’, allowing users to drill down
from general themes to very detailed
topics, until they find the particular
information they require. This type of
hierarchical navigation will be familiar to
anyone who has used portal websites
such as Yahoo.
The NSCL is a major improvement on the
current StatBase directory. At the moment, a
specific topic can only live beneath a single
top-level heading. In the NSCL, topics can sit
under many different headings
simultaneously. For example: if one wanted
information on recruits to teacher training,
would one look under Labour Market or
Education & Training? If StatBase users
guessed wrong, they would soon be lost. In
the NSCL, the same topic lives under both
- Navigation by topic-based summary. One
feature of the new website is the wider
use of short articles written for the nonexpert,
often based around the latest
releases. Obviously these topic-based
summaries only give access to a limited
amount of information. However, they
can give an overview of the most popular
and relevant outputs of the Government
Statistical Service, and provide for nonexpert
users an idea of the state of Britain.
Links are to be provided to any relevant
data or metadata, allowing the interested
reader to dig deeper.
The new look website supports the new
ways of navigating through the online
information. Following consultation, a
design was created that was simple to use,
reflected user research, and made the best
use of the new navigational models.
Screenshots from the new site are illustrated
The collection of topic-based summaries will
double in size in the coming months, from
around 50 to a notional target figure of 150.
It is also planned to extend the reach of the
search engine, to cover other organisations’
statistical web pages, and to extend the use
of the National Statistics Category List.
Work will also begin on a network of ‘sibling
sites’, spun off from the current National
Statistics website. These will have a slightly
different visual appearance, but will use the
same navigational concepts and the
same infrastructure behind the scenes.
First to appear will be a site for civil