Chief Statistician’s update: improving our website for users of statistics and research

Darllenwch y dudalen hon yn Gymraeg


For many of you who want statistics or research GOV.WALES is where you go to get that information. In fact more than 30,000 of you come to our pages each year to find the data and information you want, making it one of the most used areas of the Welsh Government site.

After months of development our Corporate Digital Team (who are responsible for GOV.WALES) will shortly be ‘flicking the switch’ to launch the new ‘GOV.WALES’. The launch will see users being directed to a new homepage when they follow the URL

The change opens the door for users to a new and improved way of finding Welsh Government guidance, services and information.  It will also bring news and statistics and research onto the new site.

Although not all content will initially be available in the new look site, users will still be able to access content that hasn’t yet been moved.

Our pages function quite differently to the rest of the site. For example we have an upcoming calendar, a concept of a ’series’ of reports and we publish a range of additional information such as raw data and background documents that allows users to understand the methods and quality of our information.

This blog describes how the site will be different, the improvements it will give you and what our future plans are.

Your feedback helped to develop our site

Last summer we asked you, as users of our pages, for your views on them. Fifty of you gave your thoughts on what was good and bad about the current site. Using that information we started to design how the site would function, drawing on what GOV.UK and the Office for National Statistics have done to date.

As part of the development we carried out in-house testing of the site. This helped us to understand how people interacted with our pages which meant we could improve the user experience as needed.

The journey to help you to navigate our pages easily and be able to find the information you want quickly is something which isn’t finished yet – more on that later.

How will the site be better for you?

The new site offers you so much more than the old one. It is responsive (changes size depending on the size of the screen you are using), is built on current technology and allows us to publish as html if we want to.

There are some major improvements which we have made:

  1. Helping you to know you are looking the most up to date information. As with the ONS, we will be including a banner to tell you if what you are looking at is the most up to date information. To do this we now have ‘series’ – that is a group of particular reports on a topic (for example key economic statistics).
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    The page will display ‘this is the current release in this series’ or ‘this is not the latest release in this series’.
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  2. Making finding information easier. One of the biggest frustrations of users was that it was hard to find information on the site. On the new site the search function is much smarter and will also look through text on the pages (the previous site just used the publication name). The new site is also much ‘flatter’ so you won’t have to click through so many links to get to what you want and we can cross reference our reports much more easily.
  3. Grouping information together. The new site allows us to bring series together into ‘collections’. They will allow us to help you to find information that is related more easily (eg poverty). We plan to look to how we can best use those as our development of the site progresses.
  4. Less is more! The old site had several banners at the top of the screen and several side banners. It was cluttered and you needed to scroll down so far before you could get to what you wanted. The new design is much cleaner and far less cluttered which should make finding and using the site much easier.
  5. Future proofed. In the last 10 years since our current site went live, the world of web design has moved on significantly. Not just in terms of technology but also user experience which is also at the core of what we do now. The new platform allows us to do so much more including moving to publishing as html rather than pdf.

A lot of content doesn’t make the move easy

One of our strengths is the range and frequency of the information that we publish. Unfortunately all of that information also needs to be migrated to the new site! We undertook a review last year looking at usage of our site and reports. That information helped us to slim down our site so that we just have content that is relevant and current on the site. All old content is either available through the national archives or it can be requested from us.

Streamlining what is there

The old site had around 900 release pages and over 11,500 documents (pdfs, spreadsheets, word documents etc). Of those only half had been viewed by a non-WG user in the last year and a further quarter had been viewed less than three times. So we had a significant amount of content which was having very little use.  Once we had reviewed those we removed 150 pages and 3,500 documents.

Not everything will be on the new site from day 1 and there will be broken links

Our priority was to ensure that all current content, the ‘about’ pages and those pages which were the most viewed are ready for when we go live. Due to the scale of the task we will have a few months with all current content on the new GOV.WALES and some older content (which we know some of you do use) on our old site. This is also true for the wider site with some content being on the old site for a short period.

Many of our pdfs include links to our statistics and research pages and our documents. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be easy for us to simply go through all 3,000 or so and fix the links in them. So we are ensuring that those pdfs which are heavily used (eg National Survey for Wales headline results, Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation and Well-being of Wales) will be updated around when we go live. However with many of our other publications we will only update the links when we come to publish next – this does mean that older publications will always have broken links within them.

We know that broken links are a real frustration for our users (and they are for us too – we are often a user of our own releases), however the approach we are taking reflects that many of our pdfs have a limited number of views a few weeks after they have been published. We would encourage you to contact the email address at the front of the release if you want something but you can’t find it due to a broken link.

Helping you to know where current content is

It is really important that we help you to understand where content has been moved and what is current. We are going to:

  1. Have a banner at the top of the new site explaining it is now the main site and some content may be on the old site. The old site will have a similar banner explaining that it is no longer updated and any new content will be on the new site.
  2. Remove the upcoming calendar from the old site so there is no confusion over where the latest information can be found.
  3. Finish migrating all the old content before the old site is removed in June 2019.

 Going live doesn’t mean the work is done

The new GOV.WALES really does have user experience at its heart. Working with our Corporate Digital Team we will continue to improve the site based on the feedback you give us and ideas we have.

We will also be testing some of the new functionality. The new site means we can publish our reports as html first rather than pdf. This has many advantages, accessibility, responsiveness and user experience. We plan to start testing some of our reports being published in html (rather than pdf) this summer and speak to users to see what they think.

During the next year we are also going to be improving how we produce our statistical reports. This includes making key messages clearer, understanding better who our users are, how they use what we do and bringing related statistics together.

We are here to help!

Many of you may have already contacted us about specific statistics, to give feedback or to ask where information is. Please do contact us if you can’t find the information you want or a broken link directs you to something you can’t find.

John Morris
Deputy head of profession and statistical dissemination lead


4 March 2019