New ONS website launched

Today we launched the new ONS website. While the site has been available as a ‘Beta’ for several months the change will likely have been a surprise for a number of people so this blogpost seeks to introduce the new website and some of its features.

First and foremost the site has been built and designed in consultation with our users. More than 600 individuals representing more than 80 organisations have provided detailed feedback throughout the process, testing functionality and suggesting features.

There is no doubt that the wider exposure to the new site that the launch will bring will lead to considerably more feedback and feature requests — we are ready for that. A permanent team dedicated to continuous improvement is in place and processes and technology has been put in place that allows us to deploy changes quickly and safely. This will mean the site will continue to evolve. To misquote Martha Lane-Fox — the launch is the revolution, now we move to the evolution.

One of the biggest complaints about the previous website was the site search capability, or rather the lack of capability. Tim Harford, bestselling author and FT columnist, once referred to it as;

“It’s like Google on an acid trip”

We have spent considerable time working on this and believe it will provide a much improved experience. The technology behind the search service is the best the open source community has to offer and we have spent months tuning it to provide sensible results. This is just the first step though and the more feedback we receive about problems with search then the better we can make it. If you do not believe the results are correct or are poorly ordered please do let us know and we will make the necessary adjustments.

Talking of search, more than 60% of traffic to the ONS website comes from Google — not an unusual number these days. As such we have worked hard to ensure that the site design has been optimised to ensure that we get the best possible results on search engines in general but Google in particular. It is clear that ‘Google is our homepage’ and that we need to react accordingly.

The new site surfaces 35,000 time series with customisable charts and a tool for selecting and downloading up to 50 of them to create your own datasets (we know this isn’t enough for some users so are already working on increasing this.) For the more technical amongst you appending /data to any URL will reveal the underlying JSON which can be utilised in your own tools or applications.

We know that when sites re-launch people worry that content and data will be lost. The team has worked very closely with the web archive team at the National Archives to ensure that an up to date copy of the ONS site is available there and we have put in place nearly 150,000 redirects to ensure that no link is left behind. If you do follow a link that no longer works please let us know and we will sort it out.

The previous website was designed before the rise of the mobile internet and as such never worked well on mobile devices. Despite this by the time it was replaced 20% (and rising) of visits to the site came from tablets or phones. As such the new site has been built with this in mind from day one — it has a responsive design that should work well on any device.

We have worked hard to make the site accessible both via assisted technology browsers like JAWS or Dragon and on older browsers. This will be a continuous process and one where we will need to remain diligent but it is a priority and will continue to remain so.

So that is a quick, whistle-stop tour of the new ONS website — please do let us know what you think either via the feedback facility on the site, the comments on this blogpost or on Twitter to @ONSdigital

39 comments on “New ONS website launched”

  1. On the old site you could download all the datasets/reference tables for a publication in one single excel which was extremely useful when you regularly need many different data series and tables at once.

    For example the CPI at http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160204094749/http://ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/cpi/consumer-price-indices/december-2015/index.html

    I have found the ‘Time series explorer’ page but not a link to download all the data in a publication. Is this possible on the new website?

    1. Hi
      You can still download all data sets for a publication. The link is a green button on the right of the page titled ‘View all data used in this statistical bulletin’ (just above the contact details).
      Please see CPI example: http://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices/bulletins/consumerpriceinflation/january2016
      I’ve done a quick screen shot of the green button, please see here: http://blog.ons.digital/capture/
      Hope this helps

      1. Is there a way of getting the whole dataset in one .xls file. I am looking at labour market data and I can find my way to each of the individual sheets via the green button, but I cannot find the whole lot together, which was easy on the old website. It is quite laborious to open each sheet (for example hours worked, average earnings, employment etc) individually.

      2. Can I get the whole labour market dataset in one excel file, as you could on the old website? I can only find the individual sheets (eg hours worked) via the green button, which is quite time consuming compared to the old method.

      3. Please could you give the facility to download the old spreadsheet? I am not the only one who likes to find data in the same format as it was previously. The new site is pretty but where is the spreadsheet to download?

  2. The presentstion of files uses up too much space. I prefered original tight listings to see as much as possible

  3. You new website looks very nice. But two fundamental things seem wrong. 1) no link (that I could see) to the archived website on the home page – and there is lots of stuff in the archives that you have not brought over. 2) If I click the “send feedback” button it tries to open outlook – and I no longer use that for email. Or have I missed something? Replying to this blog seemed to be the only practical way to contact you!

    1. Thanks for your feedback.
      If you are having problems finding content, please contact our Customer Contact Centre by phone (0845 601 3034) or email (info@ons.gsi.gov.uk).
      If you’d like to send feedback or comments directly to the web team, please email web.comments@ons.gov.uk

  4. For an organisation that puts so much stock by its accessability, it’s such a shame the basic pinch and zoom facility is beyond you.

    1. Crispinmerriman -

      Thanks for this comment. We will be deploying an update soon to enable pinch and zoom.

  5. I find the new format rather clunky and time wasting.

  6. The information you provide, makes community development projects meaningful.

  7. Roger Daniels -

    This is a disaster for serious users of local statistics. One can only assume that it is designed by the Government to restrict access to information. Where does one go for small area statistics?

  8. Dear Ons
    would you please return the opportunity to follow the updates via rss feed.
    The old feed has expired:
    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/hub/rss.xml
    I could not find the new rss feed. Can you please fix the rss feed?

    I tried to follow ons on tweeter but the amount of retweets and comments just makes it very difficult and unpleasant experience. Please help me to follow your updates without being forced to read all the junk from social media.

    Thank you in advance

    A

    1. Hi
      There’s an RSS feed link on the Release Calendar page: http://www.ons.gov.uk/releasecalendar … which links to this: feed://www.ons.gov.uk/releasecalendar?rss
      I hope this helps 🙂
      We also have an email alert system which you can sign up to: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/UKONS/subscribers/new
      Thanks

  9. Your new website is laborious to use. Instead of being “clever”, why not just look at other national data systems that work? Most of the US Federal Reserve data is reasonably well laid out (sorry if it’s “not invented here”).

    Whatever you do, set an objective of getting it right and NOT CHANGING IT FOR A MINIMUM of 10 years. I know it requires a bit of effort on your part, but the cumulative effort for thousands of users to research new web addresses and bookmark them and enter extra keystrokes every time they want to do something vastly outweighs any effort you might put in. I discover some of my ONS links now taking me to the National Archives – which don’t respond to searches for time series names – wasting more time while I went to the ONS home page and searched afresh for the data sets I use every month and bookmark them again.

    Talking of which, couldn’t you have data downloads for series and data sets which specify start and end dates and separate out yearly, quarterly and monthly series, instead of requiring us to scroll down past the yearly and quarterly data to reach the monthly data and then select the required data with a cursor?

    Incidentally, your Excel (XLS) downloads seem to produce numbers formatted as text – which is very unhelpful! Fortunately, the CVS downloads do recognise numbers as numbers.

    Your interpretation of why Google searches have risen is wrong. Professional users know the series ID they want most of the time and have it bookmarked. They only “Google” when all else fails!

    Even your “Let us know” link assumed that we are all social media crazy with Twitter and Facebook links, but no system-independent link. Twitter probably won’t exist in 24 months time at the rate it is losing money.

    I write this in the hope that some simple improvements can be made – once -and in fear that an “improvement programme” will result in a continuing random effort to upgrade the system. Analysis before coding should be the rule in any system development. Or, as people in the forces say, “Time spent in reconnaissance is rarely wasted”. It helps enormously if the people doing the analysis or reconnaissance understand what they are looking at and how their information will be used.

    I make no apology for this harsh assesment as I face researching and rebuilding all my ONS web links – a tedious waste of time.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to send us your feedback.
      This project has followed best practice as provided by the Government Digital Service and utilises modern development practices throughout. We will continue to work on enhancing the site based on user feedback.
      If you have problems finding any content, please get in touch with our Customer Contact Centre on 0845 601 3034 or info@ons.gsi.gov.uk.

  10. The links to datasets on this page https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/business/activitysizeandlocation/datasets/ukbusinessactivitysizeandlocation do not work. Would you be able to sort it out, please. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. The team are working hard to fix these links as soon as possible

      1. Thank you.

  11. I am retired but still want data on RPI, CPI and RPIX. Until now my access was by bookmarks in Google which took me to lists at the bottom of which I can see all the recent values which I needed. This facility seems to no longer exist. The Public Administration Select Committee in May 2011 concluded that the Government should not be locked into a supplier oligopoly yet it appears that now I cannot access the data I want without downloading a .exe file. Additionally I will have to download this file monthly to keep up to date. I regards this move as a disservice to users.

    1. Hi,
      All the data is on the landing page now (RPI example: https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices), you can click ‘view this data’ to see the charts and data in the web browser, or you can download the data sets in .xls or .csv
      I hope this is helpful
      Jo

  12. Links are broken all over the place – tried some census analysis and the links didn’t work, the same with the background notes of the 2nd estimate of GDP, the new formal is clunking, unwieldy and a big step backwards from what was there before (which is saying something). Specifically, why is Regional GVA under the GVA heading and not the Regional Accounts page of which it is part? Why does it say that the next release of GDP will be on 25th Feb, which is in the past? Why does the December QNA publication say that it is the latest version of the data (when it is not)? Why are articles so hard to find? Latest GDP impact article is buried within National Accounts/UK Sector Accounts, rather than the logical GDP heading!! I could go on, and on, this really is not good enough.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. If there are specific links broken, please let us know and we’ll fix them.
      We’ll look into each of your points and check the site.
      If you do need help finding anything, please contact our Customer Contact Centre on 0845 601 3034 or info@ons.gsi.gov.uk
      Thanks

  13. Truly awful website redesign. Please consult some usability experts. Old website was not mobile friendly, but at least it was logical and thing could be found.

  14. Would it be possible to put a working version of the old site up, please, at least for the time being?

  15. Ed Swires-Hennessy -

    The new data visualisation available via the home page is good. The concepts behind and options with each of the graphics are good from a user perspective. It is a pity, however, that the data presentation is not even up to basic standard here: data are left-justified, dropping of trailing ‘.0’ in figures is disappointing and the population data lacks thousands separators. The implementation of concept is thus good but the attention to statistical presentation below even the basic level! The developers should have been made to read my book on Presenting Data before starting work!

  16. Your Reply from Joanna Goodwin at March 11, 2016 at 12:12 pm
    utterly failed to answer the question asked. The query wanted ALL THREE SERIES on a single page, which was previously available, not have to query THREE separate pages. I had five series on one page- and now have to look at FIVE separate pages. Inefficient.
    Data is possibly easier to find on the new site, but very much harder to use. Constant reorganisation is a known ploy for hiding information.
    The ability to add similar time series to one single page is necessary.

  17. Regarding the feedback, on the old ONS website one could easily download an entire dataset. Also, you could easily select series from the dataset and see to which table they belong. This function is really a must have. To illustrate, see http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160105160709/http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/naa2/quarterly-national-accounts/q3-2015/tsd-qna.html

    On the new website, this key feature was replaced by “view all data used in this statistical bulletin”; however, the functionality was greatly hindered. Further, I find the size of the letters and visual elements as redundantly huge. The old website is much more visually cleaner and easier to navigate in.

    Lastly, it is quite a shame that the old webpages were archived but the search engine is no longer working. In other words, if you do not have the page saved there appears to be no way how to access the data on the old website.

    I appreciate ONS’ willingness to constantly improve the design and quality of the data but for now I am rather skeptical with the new design.

  18. I sent mail to the bugherd.com address on this already, but I’ve heard nothing back.

    The old site had stable URLs for dataset current downloads which have worked for years (or decades?!), such as:

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/datasets-and-tables/downloads/csv.csv?dataset=lms&cdid=MGRZ

    These links now do not work. I can switch from http://www.ons.gov.uk to web.ons.gov.uk and get a partially working view, but, for example, it is giving stale rather than current data after today’s labour market update.

    Can you restore a simple interface for getting CSV (or JSON, or XLS!) by the old dataset and series id?

  19. Have all the fantastic visualisations, including those of the 2011 Census results, been lost? Those on the National Archive don’t work.

  20. Accessing raw data is still very difficult, not an intuitive layout.

  21. The redesign has certainly improved the ease of navigation and searching for myself as a visually impaired user, but the site’s content still heavily relies on inaccessible PDF documents and datasets in a proprietory format. Nonetheless, keep up the good work and I hope that the conversion of all information on the site into open and accessible formats remains on the agenda.

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