Supreme Court unveils new website: how does it look?

New website

Last year, we made suggestions about how the U.S. Supreme Court should redesign its website. Today, the Court unveiled a new website. The new website is a small but important step towards increased openness and accessibility, although it needs serious work.

Notable improvements include making recent Court decisions available from the homepage, a somewhat more logical design, and an interactive Court calendar that allows you to see what cases are scheduled for argument. According to the Court, additional enhancements include docket files going back to 2000, a new case citation finder, and enhanced search and navigation abilities.

Sunlight’s mock-up

There are several areas where important improvements should be made, all of which focus around providing context to the information it provides.

  • The webpage needs to provide more information about what the Court is doing, explaining legal terms of art, and grouping relevant information together (such as information pertaining to a particular case).
  • It should incorporate a user-friendly advanced search engine.
  • Use machine-readable formats (not just PDFs).
Old Site

We strongly encourage those redesigning the Supreme Court’s website to talk to members of the user community to get a better feel for the kinds of improvements that would be helpful. Certainly, we would be willing to engage in that conversation.

Additional Resources:

  • Blog of the Legal Times (3/18/2010): Supreme Court Unveils New Web Site Design
  • SCOTUSBlog (3/18/2010): Changes for Court’s website
  • SCOTUSBlog (10/1/2009): A proposed redesign for the Supreme Court
  • Sunlight Foundation (8/27/2009): The Supreme Court Website: An Updated Redesign
  • Sunlight Foundation (6/2/2009): Redesigning The Government: The U.S. Supreme Court
  • A compendium of resources from Sunlight (wiki page)
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  • Daniel Schuman

    I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will continue to improve its website — they are promising that “additional features and enhancements will be added over time.”

    The new design is more intuitive than the old, and I like the interactive court calendar. It’s a bit buggy (it takes a while to load, doesn’t always work, etc.) but I consider that a work in progress.

    Making the document available in a machine readable format, and not just PDFs, would be helpful both to the general public and those technologists who wish to automatically gather the data.

    So many of the state courts are way ahead on these and many other issues. I would love to see the U.S. Supreme Court start to show leadership on this.

  • Javaun Moradi

    Sorry, I just realized they now have an interactive court calendar! This is a big improvement, one that would’ve solved a problem we couldn’t solve yesterday.

    I like it.

  • Javaun Moradi

    Ironically, I was just on the old website yesterday, as my mother is in town and contemplated a visit.

    The new site is a needed improvement. It also seems faster than the old one. As you mention, they have work ahead of them.

    .NET? Hey, who am I to judge the court.

  • David Adamany

    Mr. Schuman: Thanks for the news that the Court has incorporated some of your suggestions into their web page.

    Among the still outstanding suggestions may I especially commend you for recommending that the Court post documents in machine readable format. The PDF format does not easily download to Word for editing of cases that are decided during a term and that I wish to provide (in suitably abbreviated form) to my students.

    Perhaps the Court will see it your way soon.

    David Adamany