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Website Review of Statistics Canada Website

This is a quick usabilty review of the website for Statistics Canada. Here's a screen capture of the site as we reviewed it.



Congratulations! This is a free usability review from "Usability" refers to how easy and effective it is to use a Web site. Although it involves how a site looks (graphic artwork), it is primarily concerned with how a site works, what you click on, what happens, and whether the site does its job. Perhaps this review is all you need to improve your site. If that's the case, great. Please mention if you talk with others who need help with their site.

The following three sections provide a general analysis of your website from a relatively quick review. Although Web design is still perceived as a highly creative endeavor, there are many aspects of it that call for standardization and compliance with widely established conventions. Implementing even a few of the ideas below can really improve a site.


  Part 1: Content Basics
    This first section is intended for typical public web sites (for products and corporate information), but also applies for the most part to intranets and software applications that run in a browser. We've been advocating many of these ideas—in the context of general software—since our 1997 book, Computers Stink, but they've been beautifully enumerated for WWW purposes in Steve Krug's book, "Don't Make Me Think."
      Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation
  1. Logo in top left, linked to home I Can Help Not exactly. The Home link above the navigation but it actually looks more like a heading of the table than a navigation item. This is compounded slightly by the fact that not all of the other items in the left nav are links... others are simply groupings/headings. And, it bumps around vertically as I change pages.
  2. Tagline Great Work! Canada's nat stat agency
  3. Welcome blurb Not Applicable With this type of site, no additional explanation is needed. (After writing that sentence, I stumbled upon your Flash intro. You might actually try to put a short link to this in the position where a welcome blurb might be... but it would have to have a compelling, small graphic to imply animation/video.)
  4. Plain wording Does the Job Consider changing "Important Notices" on intro page, to "Legal Notices"
  5. No 'happy talk' Does the Job  
  6. Concise wording Does the Job  
  7. Visited pages are distinguished by link color-coding Does the Job Yes, I clicked around some in the tables and saw where I had been.
  8. "Utilities" are easy to find Undetermined/Not Exactly The positioning of the blue and black bar items at the top might be an area for improvement... grouping and segregating these items more closely to the patterns emerging as standards on other sites... perhaps putting most of them at upper right and some in main/secondary navigation; others only at bottom of page. (10 minutes later: aha, the print/save/highlight onoff buttons... these are page utilities(!) show up embedded in the left nav. Site utilities should perhaps always be upper-leftmost; page utilities somewhere below them. See Microsoft technical pages.)
  9. Search on all pages, with box and button Does the Job On a search-centric site such as this, I think there's room for improvement here. I'm conditioned to expect Search now in the upper right. The Search link in the black bar muddies the picture.
  10. "You Are Here" indicator I Can Help I can see this starts to get into the most difficult design challenge of the site. When I click Home>Summary Tables, the left nav changes and the only "you are here" indication is the fact that Summary Tables is orange. Only when you drll down again do the little indicator bars appear to the right of the navigation... but the user might have trouble realizing they're subsetted in summary tables.
  11. Breadcrumbs' as links I Can Help No. I think this would be an important benefit on such a site, realizing nonetheless that the hierarchy has multidimensionality to it. That doesn't prevent it from being published in a book, eh? So use the book order as the breadcrumb organization, irrespective of how they navigated to a page.


Do your hands ache after a day at the keyboard??? This review sponsored by ...



Part 2: Visual Design: Fonts, Colors, Layout, Basic Interaction Design, and Accessibility
As we read in a graphic artist's ad, "Technology makes it work but art makes it sell," and you should take heed. We're not graphic artists here at Uinst, but we know good art when we see it and the common denominators that separate good pages from bad are clear. Look at the top sites and you'll see they spell out the following criteria.
  Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation

Sans-serif fonts

Does the Job  

Appropriate background color

Does the Job  
Appropriate color hues Does the Job  
Visual representation of the information hierarchy Undetermined/Not Exactly A few things combat the feeling that you "see" where you are overall... the inverse positioning of the logo(site name) and the top nav; the dynamic nature of the left nav; the competition of headings and typography of the page titles... lack of breadcrumbs. For such extremely techical information, these seemingly mechanical aspects are the main tools to work with. Icon graphics, while potentially gratuitous could almost be justified as page landmarks.
Conservative quantity of colors Does the Job  
Text sizes are "relative" Does the Job  
Anti-aliased graphics Does the Job  
Graphics' file size doesn't slow navigation Does the Job  
"Alt tags" used well Does the Job  
Links don't just say "Click Here" State of the Art, a Model for Others Very good pattern of including enough words on content links. Particularly liked
A style sheet (CSS) is used Does the Job  


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Part 3: Genuine Value: Useful Content & Critical Interaction Design

And now for the hard part. If all of good Web design were as clear-cut as parts 1 & 2, above, you wouldn't need much judgment and there would be a lot more good sites. But the easier the decisions are, the less significant the thinking and effort behind them... and the easier it would be to provide useful content. This section is where you make or break your rapport with the visitor. If you provide real value and give folks enough tools to get to it, they will push past the basic omissions and ignore even the most amateurish art.
  Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation
1. Questions are answered State of the Art, a Model for Others

Even corrected spelling mistake:

"There were no results for gasloine consumption.
Here are the results for gasoline consumption."

2. Search results get the job done State of the Art, a Model for Others

Automatic faceting of results:

Publications (14)
Summary tables in Canadian Statistics (9) Analytical studies (3)

3. Effective 'click tree' Does the Job This is a bigger topic than this quick review, but I think a lot of effort has been put into providing multiple paths into the tables and it works very well. Only perhaps the visual support/representation of it might have opportunities for improvement.
4. Conceptual flow from upper left to lower right Does the Job Mostly. Put the logo topmost.
5. Simple, outline-like site map Great Work! Excellent... one "page down" and I understand the scope of the site.
6. Primary navigation is obvious Does the Job  
7. Secondary navigation is obvious Does the Job  
8. Contact information easily accessible Great Work! Easily found and very available but I noticed two things: About doesn't appear in the site map, and it has the postal address, whereas the Contact Us doesn't. Probably a big-organization thing.
9. Links are clear Does the Job  
10. Intro panel or animation not excessive Does the Job  
11. Graphics used only for core message Does the Job  


Summation & Next Steps

Overall Rating: Strives / Survives / Great Work! Thrives


  1. Consider a more powerful left nav that keeps context (doesn't change/replace items) when the user drills down. More prebuilt options might be available since it was created.
  2. Study other sites' layout of site utilities (search, about, contact) and page utilities (print, save) and standardize.
  3. Put logo topmost.
  4. Improve typography and layout of page headers to orient the reader better.

Hope this helps and let me know what you think,
Jack Bellis,

"My interest in usability arose from the pain and tears of patching the wounds of suffering interface designs with the inadequate bandages of help files and user guides." — Daniel Cohen

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