Accessing Statistics Canada’s data and products – What do users need?

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Consultation objectives

In April 2012, Statistics Canada launched its three-year New Dissemination Model project with the goal to modernize the methods and framework for disseminating data via its website. The key objective is to create a user-centric website and to increase coherency, consistency and simplicity in dissemination activities.

This project builds on other Statistics Canada initiatives, including free data, unrestricted licensing (standard and custom products) and the "self-serve" availability of all standard products on the website.

Statistics Canada held consultations on the accessibility of data and products on its website from May to July 2012.

The main goal of the consultations was to obtain and develop recommendations on how Statistics Canada can provide easier access to its data and products by:

  • improving navigation and the organization of its website;
  • presenting wide-ranging information in a simplified, consistent and coherent manner; and,
  • delivering data and products in machine-readable output formats.

Consultation methodology

Statistics Canada's website visitors, clients, key stakeholders and partners, as well as media and the general public, were asked to participate via an online survey or in a moderated group discussion. The online survey consisted of both closed- and open-ended questions that allowed participants to provide comments.

Discussion groups took place in Québec, Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver in May and June 2012. Each 90-minute sessions had 8 to 10 participants.

Discussion group participants and online respondents had similar occupational profiles. Both groups worked in the same general occupations: economists, social scientists, researchers, analysts, professors and teachers.

However, there were differences between the two groups. Group discussion participants were more likely to be frequent visitors to Statistics Canada’s website, with nearly three-quarters visiting the website 10 or more times during the previous six months. They were also more likely to be highly proficient at using data with approximately half of group discussion participants being “highly proficient” at manipulating data.

By comparison, fewer online respondents were frequent visitors to the website, with less than half of online respondents visiting the website 10 or more times during the previous six months. One-third of online respondents were highly proficient at manipulating data.

How to get involved

This consultation is now closed.

Individuals who wish to obtain more information or to take part in a future consultation should contact Statistics Canada through the Contact Us page.

Please note that Statistics Canada selects participants for each consultation to ensure feedback from a representative sample of the target population for the study. Not all applicants are asked to participate in a given consultation.

Statistics Canada is committed to respecting the privacy of consultation participants. All personal information created, held or collected by the Agency is protected by the Privacy Act. For more information on Statistics Canada's privacy policies, please consult the Privacy notice.


In general, group discussion participants and online respondents liked several features of Statistics Canada’s website:

  • free data (including CANSIM data)
  • the new CANSIM interface
  • The Daily and its subscription service
  • the quality, scope and analysis of the data
  • the census portal and census data


Group discussion participants and online respondents agreed on the need to improve the website’s search engine. They found “Browse by subject” and the search engine useful as navigation tools. The “Popular picks” function was the least popular.

Data presentation

Most group discussion participants and online respondents indicated that increasing the use of single-number indicators, such as those in the “Latest indicators” feature, would be useful. However, experienced users tended to find dynamic tables more useful, preferring them to pre-packaged publications, which do not always provide them with the specific information they seek.

The majority of group discussion participants and online respondents indicated that downloading/saving was the most important function, followed by copying/pasting, customizing, manipulating and printing data. Fewer participants and respondents found mapping and graphing functions “important.”

Data delivery

Excel was the most popular software format among consultation participants, with 90% stating that the availability of the Excel format was important. Fewer participants considered Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Resource Description Framework (RDF) important.

All participants expressed interest in the development of a feature to embed Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) code and a web data service. This would allow the Agency to send, post and update data on clients’ websites and databases.

Data delivery

Consultation results produced the following key recommendations:

  • enhance the website’s search function
  • simplify the home page and the overall website (reduce clutter, use plainer language and simplify the organization of the site)
  • improve the visibility of the CANSIM link on the home page
  • increase the number of dynamic tables
  • use more single-number indicators (where users could drill down to increasingly complex or detailed tables on the topic)
  • provide as many data output formats as possible
  • offer a function to embed HTML code on users’ websites
  • develop a web data service

Statistics Canada thanks participants for their participation in this consultation. Their insights guide the Agency’s web development and ensure that the final products meet users’ expectations.

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