Danmarks Statistik, Formidlingscenter 7. januar 2009
IMAODBC 1-5 September 2008, Finland
Usable or useful? How to make users aware how to
manoeuvre through the databank?
By Annegrete Wulff, Statistics Denmark
Statistics Denmark carries out user satisfaction surveys annually as well as usability
tests now and then. The results do not differ a lot over time although the general
satisfaction tends to increase slightly.
One statement that we meet year after year is the trouble users have to find the
information they need. Another is a lack of “down-to-earth” definition of the
There is no doubt the StatBank is used by a lot of users, approximately 2,000,000
tables are retrieved yearly. The general satisfaction is quite high: 85-90 % finds it
satisfactory or very satisfactory. So we conclude that it is useful.
However, still one third are unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with the trouble they have
finding a table. So the usefulness should be further looked into.
I have listed the five functions that were evaluated highest, as well as the five
functions that got the lowest score. Total number of respondents is 1,100.
Satisfied and Very satisfied Don’t know
StatBank in general 85,6 % 7,2 %
Content 84,0 % 8,0%
Respons time 74,4 % 19,7%
Degree of detail 74,3 % 9,1%
Download possibilities 69,9 % 22,8%
Unsatisfied and Very Don’t know
Finding the right table 29,5 % 6,9 %
Documentation related to a table 19,8 % 14,6 %
Degree of detail 16,5 % 9,1 %
Help 12,7 % 54,4 %
Presentation on maps 9,6 % 43,0 %
We see two huge challenges:
1. Defining the concepts- and selecting the concepts that require
2. Making it clear to the user what the possibilities are, the functionality
and how to access the information the user was looking for.
Challenge 1) a project on improving the documentation for the non-
professionals started this year, and will not be further reported in
Challenge 2) how to guide the user through the StatBank will be
discussed. Possible solutions will be outlined as well as experience
from other organisations will be called for.
Some problems the user faces on her way to get statistics:
How to get an overview of the content? What can I expect to find?
Trial and error: using the subject area structure.
Terminology: using the search engine.
Selecting table a), b) or c)? What is the difference?
How to select parts from the large table?
Do I have to mark selections or can I key ENTER?
Is ALL really all or is it a sum of all?
How can I know it is the right table?
Someone to talk to?
Any online help?
Can I download?
Setting up a profile- how and why?
Saving and re-using queries
Experiences and proposed solutions
As a follow-up to usability tests of the StatBank improvements have
been developed over the years. However, we still experience that some
users are in difficulties when they are retrieving statistics. We do have a
context sensitive help facility. It is comprehensive but used very little. If
they did they would be able to find answers to questions like the above
mentioned. Many users do not even realize that it exists.
When a user calls Statistics Denmark to get assistance finding some
data we try to guide her through the StatBank. This seems most helpful
and usually results in comments like “Oh, now I see it. That is super-
just what I needed”. Of course in the long run we can not guide all users.
And my guess is that only very few of the unsuccessful users do call us.
So the question is what to do to support the helpless rest?
We have been considering different solutions:
Putting up a “task line” indicating the steps you need to pass to get a
table and highlighting the actual step you are in. It gives the user an
overview of what she has to go through. It is often used on sites were
you order a product, buy tickets etc.
Another possibility would be to add a voice explaining what the user can
do at each new page. It should be optional to activate it.
From each page there could be a link to a selection of screen dumps
A demo on You Tube has been suggested as well.
A possibility to activate a guided video tour, which is always available.
This is one of the solutions we plan to experiment with during the
autumn. The software Demobuilder is already at hand