Sunday, June 19, 2016

Need a website that sucks? The experts of the German Federal Statistics Office can help

From our The German Internet is a Desert series.

If you have read our post UN wants media to be more 'constructive' - here's some constructive UN website QA, you already know that the blogster can be excruciatingly constructive.

To get the snark out of the way, let's start with a tech question.

Name a country that loves to wax about Industry 4.0  without having mastered Web 1.0.

If you answered Germany, the blogster congratulates you.

Let's talk about the German Federal Statistics Office and their web presence. The good news is it is available in English. The bad news is illustrated below.

Originally, the blogster wanted to verify population migration data, but it* ended up on this screen of popular tables and decided to look at the motor vehicles stats. (Screen 1)

Clicking the first link brought up this screen: (Screen 2)
Since it said we don't need to select anything, the blogster clicked "My table".

Nothing happened. My bad. Maybe it wants me to select something?

Click the upper of the two "Select" buttons in the Attributes column. Ooops, this screen comes up: (Screen 3)
Okay, navigate back to the previous screen. Maybe "Preview"? Shucks, an empty table.
Go back, click the lower "Select" button.

Success! We get this screen: (Screen 4)

Again, we are happy with defaults, so we just click the "Accept" button at the bottom. Dang, it goes right back to error Screen 3.

Undeterred, go back to Screen 2. The icons in the Position column don't do anything, except for the last one, which flips the last two rows of the table.

Since Preview gave us an empty table, let's click "Value retrieval".

Success: (Screen 6)
There is a Diagram button! Click it and get Screen 7:
Not wanting to be too critical, we simply note that the y axis scaling could be improved. Out of the four items shown, the last two basically hug the x axis.

Unfortunately, the next click by the blogster was on the diagram display itself.

Which took us right back to error Screen 3.

The next events in our German eGoverment experience were much simpler:
1) Curse like a sailor
2) Write this blog post

Can it get worse?

Yes, like so.

To ensure it had the correct sequence of events (aka. they need to be reproducible), the blogster went back after writing the post and tried again. Once it got to Screen 2, it did not mess with any buttons but clicked directly on "Value retrieval" and was promptly bumped to Screen 3.

That, my friends, is what you call "sucks".

This is a good time to offer some constructive advice:
1) Never ever let database administrators define a UI for Joe & Jane Doe.
2) Managing events with a certain degree of randomness is only acceptable at live music shows.
3) You can try the excuse "we want to prevent automated scraping of our data" or the more political version "the Russians would just take our data". It will work with any upper echelon of government, i.e. those guys who determine your career.

[Update] I really hope no Russian hackers read this. If you think the blogster is too harsh, please remember that no Amazon picker, no trash collector, no construction worker etc. would keep his or her job with a similar performance.

* Gender neutrality rules.

[Update] Added missing "our" in "If you have read our post..."; changed "live music events" to nicer "live music shows".

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