Publishing of statistical data is being renewed – finding data on our pages becomes easier
In many government agencies, the basis for web-based services has been created to serve time before the breakthrough of mobile devices, accessibility standards or modern usability planning, and Statistics Finland is no exception. The usability of our website has fallen behind the current requirements – and there is thus a clear need to upgrade it.
However, this involves quite a lot of work, as for an agency, we also publish an exceptionally high volume of data through our web pages: around 600 to 700 publications per year, each with separate statistical figures and appendix tables.
That is why we are now renewing our website one section at a time. The first changes concern the most central parts of our web service, that is, the pages under the Statistics section and the actual statistical data published there. The revised statistical data pages will be available fairly soon, on Tuesday, 5 April 2022.
The updates to the web pages at this point concern especially the publication pages, the home pages of statistics and the related figures, tables and database data as well as the release calendar of statistical data describing future publications. The layout of the home page of Statistics Finland's web service and the main navigation of the entire website are updated at the same time.
New pages of statistical data have been available for viewing already at the end of 2021 through the beta pages, and they are still accessible there. However, we will close the beta pages in March before the changes to Statistics Finland's actual web service.
By renewing the statistics pages we try to make the use of the pages and searching of data easier than before. The pages that are being renewed function better than now, for example, when browsed by a smartphone and we have aimed to make them more accessible, for example, by facilitating their use with screen readers.
Searching for data on the pages has also been made easier by clarifying the use of figures and tables and by presenting them more visibly. At the same time, we have revised the division of topics used for grouping data.
The 26 topics previously used by Statistics Finland have been reduced to 14 new topics that may overlap in part, unlike before. For example, the data of the statistics on consumer confidence have previously been found only under the topic “Income and consumption”, while after the renewal they can be found through the topics “Prices and consumption”, “National accounts” and “Work, wages and livelihood”.
Publication modes are also changing
In addition to the website, the renewal also concerns the ways and modes in which statistical data will be published in future. The present statistical releases are replaced by three new publication types: release, review and database release.
The releases are concise summaries of the main changes in the released statistical data. New data are always published in connection with them more widely in the database service. The release on the website always includes at least one statistical figure or table selected from the statistical data.
Reviews are larger articles than releases and they are not published equally often and regularly, but statistical data are analysed from a broader perspective in them. Thus, the reviews can be “cross-statistical” and comparative and they typically contain more statistical figures and tables selected from the data than releases.
In connection with database releases, new statistical data are released only as data from the database service and no separate text-format summaries are made on them. However, the latest key statistical figures and tables presented on the home pages of the statistics are also updated at the same time.
The last statistical release of the present type will be released on 1 April 2022, and from then on all new statistical data will be released in the ways described above. In April, we will first publish only new types of releases, and publishing of new reviews and database releases will be started later this year.
Up-to-date information about coming publications and their types can be followed through our new web pages.
Technical and basic changes in the releases
Key publishing principles will also change in connection with the renewal: in future, we will always publish new statistical data first in the database service, after which we publish summaries of them on the web pages in the form of releases, reviews or individual tables or figures.
The impact of the change is not large for everyday users as the delay in the updating of new data after the database service on the web pages is at most tens of seconds.
However, it is recommended that those users who wish to ensure that they receive the latest published statistical data as soon as possible search for statistical data primarily through the interface of the database service.
Database service and interface users should also note that the address of the database service and the location of data in the service will change in connection with the April renewal. We will publish detailed instructions for users on changes to database and interface use during February.
Even though the previous pages and database service concerning statistical data will be removed from active use after the renewal, any previously published data will not become unavailable.
On the web pages, old published data with their figures and tables remain in the archive of the website and can still be found through the same URL addresses so that their use can be continued, for example, in source notes of studies. The data published previously in the database service are transferred to a separate archive server if their updating is not continued as such.
Renewal continues over the rest of the year
Major renewals are challenging to implement, but we strive to ensure that the change does not cause disruptions to the publication of statistical data. Therefore, new features and contents will be introduced in different statistics at varying rates throughout the year.
In recent years, accessibility has also emerged strongly as a theme in legislation that challenges us as producers and publishers of statistical data. For example, technical improvements to the tables presented on our website are one-time jobs as such, but presenting complicated issues and information in an understandable and clear manner will require our continuous work for years to come.
Thus, the development of Statistics Finland's web service does not end with the April renewal but will continue one section at a time. Changes will be made in the near future to the web pages of data collections and a bit later to the internal search function of the website.
Smaller changes and improvements, such as expansions of the new features of figures and tables, will also be done in future in the now renewed statistical data section.
The author works as the project manager and product owner of Statistics Finland's web renewal project.
We always give advance notice on larger changes occurring later on our website, but information about minor changes and their schedules is also available by email email@example.com.