Nineties-era ABS website to be refreshed

By Shannon Jenkins

January 13, 2020

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics is moving into the decade with a new and improved website.

The current format of the website has not been updated since the late 90s, and it shows. Users from government, media, businesses, not for profit organisations, and the education sector have found the site to be difficult to navigate and frustrating to use, according to the ABS.

To tackle this, the ABS has been working on a new website in response to customer needs, behaviours and experiences, set to launch in June.

It says the new website will “transform user experience”, with improved content accessibility, user-friendly language, clear and more immediate key findings, definitions of terms, interactive graphs and tables, and concise summaries of methodology.

The agency has developed a Beta website — a sneak preview of what’s to come — which has been used to test and improve the use of digital information and services. The ABS has encouraged individuals to visit the site and leave feedback.

The transition to the new website will occur from March to June, which will involve the shift of statistical information to the Beta site, as well as a move away from the outdated use of PDFs. The ABS notes various problems with PDFs, including accessibility issues on smaller screens, and difficulties with downloading large files in regional and remote areas.

Many aspects of the site will remain, including the availability of statistical content, and ABS dissemination products such as TableBuilder and DataLab.

Links and URLs will be changed, and catalogue numbers will no longer appear in the title of releases. However, users will still be able to search by catalogue number, and the ABS argues the new website will make finding information easier.

The agency says there will be new channels for accessing ABS data from June, including “machine to machine” Application Programming Interfaces.

“These calls return ABS statistics in a machine friendly format allowing users to integrate data into their own systems as they are released,” the ABS says. “This will remove the need to scrape the website or download the publication and manually enter the numbers into another spreadsheet.”

The most recent statistics will also “always” be returned once the set-up has been completed.

“One example is creating a spreadsheet with calls to a specific dataset or a selection of datasets. As the latest statistics are officially released at 11:30am, the spreadsheet will refresh with the latest statistics too,” it notes.

“This removes the need to download the publication from the ABS website and manually enter the numbers into another spreadsheet for analysis and decision making.”


Read more: Modernising our national data resources: a never-ending challenge


 

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