20 Years Ago


On the 2nd of September 1996, Statistics Switzerland published its brand-new website, www.bfs.admin.ch. It was one of the first (if not the first) of the Swiss Administration (www.admin.ch).


In three languages…

… and already with quite rich structure and content.


The Wayback Machine …

… shows the developments since 1996



Handmade with Frontpage as editing software



November 2004:
New layout, made with Day Communiqué as Content Management System and a database for file download


December 2007 ff
Layout adapted to the general layout of admin.ch. The same CMS now bought by Adobe and renamed Adobe Experience Manager AEM



The next one …

… must be based on a new technology:

  • CMS remains state of the art for content presentation
  • Assets come from databases
  • Web services (via a web service platform) deliver assets from databases to the presentation platform.

And with such a three-layer architecture the website will be able to display data from ubiquitous databases and also offering data to third parties via web services: Open data compatible.

Ahead of their Time

A picture helps understanding facts  – and this since hundreds of years. Investintech presents a (very) short insight in the history of data visualisation.


For visualisation of statistics, William Playfair is a very important pioneer.


More about William Playfair in this blog post:





More than just Numbers

The historical research uses statistics since ever.  And Official Statistics are a favourite source for quantitative historiography and digital humanities.

‘Statistics are more than just numbers’

Statistics New Zealand depicts the history of the capital Wellington with a popular format – an infographic.

‘In 1865, following a period of heated debate, an independent tribunal of three Australians selected Wellington to be New Zealand’s capital. Since that time a lot has changed in Wellington and Statistics NZ has been able to follow and track that change through the data it collects.’

How true!: ‘Statistics are more than just numbers, they can chart change, record history, and be a tool for decision making.’ (Source: Stats NZ)



100 Years

Comparing statistical visualizations over a period of 100 years is quite rare. The newly published Atlas of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office offers just this possibility.


100 years ago Statistics Switzerland published a Graphic-Statistical Atlas. It was a wonderful visualization of dozens of topics and developments. All the diagrams and maps were hand-made and of superb quality.



In order to honor this great work, Statistics Switzerland did it again. A facsimile of the old Atlas is now accompanied by quite the same diagrams and maps but filled wth data from our century. With this technique, a visual overview of changes during the last century becomes possible and gives fascinating insights.


The Atlas is available in Geman and French at http://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/portal/de/index/news/publikationen.html?publicationID=6327


1901-1910 original visualization


2001-2010 updated visualization



1901-1910 original visualization


2001-2010 updated visualization


Timeline of Statistics


In 2010 the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) launched the getstats campaign in order to bring statistics to various groups like general public, journalists or teachers and ‘to increase statistical literacy and … to raise the profile of statistics and its increasing relevance in today’s data-rich society’.

getstats offers a lot of interesting resources, One of these is …

The Timeline


Download the Timeline as pdf

‘Statistics is about gathering data and working out what the numbers can
tell us. From the earliest farmer estimating whether he had enough grain
to last the winter to the scientists of the Large Hadron Collider confirming
the probable existence of new particles, people have always been making
inferences from data. Statistical tools like the mean or average summarise
data, and standard deviations measure how much variation there is within a
set of numbers. Frequency distributions – the patterns within the numbers
or the shapes they make when drawn on a graph – can help predict future
events. Knowing how sure or how uncertain your estimates are is a key part
of statistics.
Today vast amounts of digital data are transforming the world and the
way we live in it. Statistical methods and theories are used everywhere, from
health, science and business to managing traffic and studying sustainability
and climate change. No sensible decision is made without analysing the data.
The way we handle that data and draw conclusions from it uses methods
whose origins and progress are charted here’ (in this timeline).
Julian Champkin
Significance magazine

Tufte’s Granddad

Are you in need for holiday presents in the office and on a tight budget? Why not go back in time and shop for books out of copyright. The Internet Archive is here to help. Check out Willard Cope Brinton: Graphic presentation (1939), and delve into an ancestor to the Tufte books.

You can read this book online through the beautiful web-based book reader or download in a number of formats that allow for high quality printing. For free.