CCCT Court Web Site Guidelines – Recommendations 5 and 6: Site Features (Keep It Simple) and Publication of Information (Make It Simple)
This post concludes with the last two draft recommendations of the CCCT IntellAction Working Group on Court Web Site Guidelines:
- Site Features – Keep It Simple
- Publication of information – Make It Simple
The previous draft recommendations can be found here:
- Court Web Site: Use a Web Content Management System
- Court Intranets: Use the same Web Content Management System
- Recommended content of court web sites
- Search, Navigation & Taxonomies – Keep It Simple
Grateful for any comments and suggestions that you may have – merci!
Recommendation #5: Site Features – Keep It Simple
Aside from content, search, navigation and taxonomies; the last puzzle piece to consider is “site features”. In other words, what actions should each category of users be able to perform on the web site (aside from searching which is considered separately above)? For example, should lawyers and other practitioners be granted elevated publishing rights and be able to comment on Notices to the Profession? Should practitioners and researchers be able to comment on court decisions? Should web site users be able to create personal annotations related to content found on the web site? Should they have the ability to subscribe to content according to category or keyword or both?
Amidst all the possibilities offered by modern Web Content Management Systems (WCMS), one can quickly get lost and overwhelmed by the range of possible features. Striving to implement a large number of features often carries an underestimated price in the longer term as the site becomes more difficult to update and upgrade. For this reason, the CCCT recommends only one feature available to users of court web sites in the first iteration of the site:
- subscription (RSS and/or email) to content based on categories (for example all “Notices to the Profession” in family law, authorship (for example all decisions by a particular judge)
Note: this feature list does not take into account e-filing (the electronic filing of court documents) which is a topic handled by another CCCT report.
Recommendation #6: Publication of information – Make It Simple
The timeliness, relevance and accuracy of the information published on court web sites will depend, to a large extent, on the willingness of court managers/administrators to implement a few changes in the roles and responsibilities of selected personnel. These changes are described in Part V.
In short, court staffs that currently have responsibility to prepare and finalize a given type of information should also be made responsible to publish that information on the web site without any other intermediary. For example, administrative assistants to judges routinely type and format court decisions before the decisions are “signed” and approved by a judge. The same administrative assistant should be given the necessary rights to log onto the site and publish the court decision as soon as it is endorsed by the judge, or after the decision has been sent to the parties, as appropriate.
Modern Web Content Management Systems offer a simple interface to publish content, and minimal training would be necessary to empower court staff to directly publish on the court web site.