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When developing a high court website, states should take usability and design principles into consideration to create a high-functioning, yet easily accessible website.
Navigation. While the tendency may be to build the site to appease attorneys and judges, courts must be mindful that the site must also serve reporters, litigants, students and the general public. Given these various audiences, a number of states have built user-based navigation into their sites. This approach gives users the ability to self-select the most fitting option and gives them quicker access to the information they need most.
Hawaii, for example, has made its user-based menu the predominant way to navigate the site. They offer the following menu options:
Although there are other ways to navigate the site, these options are the most prominent. These menu items are accessible on every page of the site and include drop-down menus for each:
Indiana also offers user-based navigation that’s available on every page of the site, but it is a secondary menu option at the top of the site:
Clicking on one of the user-based menu items takes users to a landing page with links to the pages and resources most applicable to that user group. The information is presented in a clean, simple format that makes it easy for the user to find the right information.
Tennessee also offers user-based options as a secondary navigation option, but only from the home page of the website.
Drop-down menus can be a tricky feature to implement properly. While they can help clean up a busy site, they can also be confusing, hard to read or difficult to maneuver.
The Indiana website does an excellent job of overcoming these hurdles, boasting a large, streamlined drop-down menu. It is well designed and offers plenty of space for the user to clearly see all of the options. The use of bold sub-headers for each of the categories allows users to quickly scan and find the desired option. Calling attention to three key items with images and larger fonts is also a nice touch.
Arizona also offers wide drop-down menus with plenty of white space between options. This makes it easy to read and find the appropriate menu item.
Search. Search functionality is another useful tool for users to quickly find information on websites. West Virginia has a prominent search bar on the home page of their website. They also include the search bar at the top of every internal page giving users easy access to this tool.
The search bar pulls in results from all content across the site – both web pages and content inside of PDF documents, such as opinions and forms.
Home page features. Featuring articles and images prominently on the home page is a great way to highlight important information and draw visitors further into the site.
Arizona does a nice job with this by offering four rotating story items with accompanying images. The stories scroll automatically or users can click on the numbers to scroll through the various items. For example, one of their features allows users to "Meet the Justices," linking to a page of profiles of the five justices and an explanation of their selection and terms.
Indiana uses rotating featured images on their home page and on each section front of their website. For instance, the Supreme Court section rotates through five different images that promote different features and content on the website. Not only is this visually appealing, but it also calls attention to important content and features that users may be interested in.
Instead of scrolling news items, Hawaii uses a static approach to feature three news items at the top of their home page. Each item is accompanied by a photo, which makes the home page visually interesting. The news items also include the first few lines of text of the article to give visitors a taste of what the article is about.