Introducing Govinfo: A New Source for Federal Government Documents Online, 0217 COBJ, Vol. 46 No. 2 Pg. 73

Author:Erik Beck, J.
 
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46 Colo.Law. 73

Introducing Govinfo: A New Source for Federal Government Documents Online

Vol. 46, No. 2 [Page 73]

The Colorado Lawyer

February, 2017

Legal Research Corner

Erik Beck, J.

Since 2009, the Federal Digital System (FDsys.gov) has provided free online access to legal publications from the three branches of the U.S. government.1 Until now, it has been the only place on the Web where researchers could obtain official government documents that had been certified as authentic.2 Last year the Government Publishing Office (GPO) launched "govinfo," a new, upgraded platform for accessing federal government information. Though still in its beta release, govinfo (www.govinfo.gov) already offers a number of improvements over FDsys. This article examines the upgrades introduced in the govinfo beta release, with special focus on interface design, search capability, and document cross-referencing. It also examines the extent of coverage for legal material and gives researchers a sense of how govinfo might be best used for legal research.

What's New?

Govinfo replicates the functionality and content on FDsys, but surpasses its predecessor with enhanced usability and design. Responding to feedback collected over several years from FDsys users, GPO has tailored govinfo to match the common researcher's needs. It corrects many of the problems that have dogged FDsys since its initial release and inaugurates a few new features that users have long requested.

Design

The most noticeable difference between govinfo and FDsys is the new, modern-looking interface. Extraneous text and links have been eliminated from the home page and the text size is larger, to improve readability. The new layout distributes content farther down the page, away from the site's search tools. Information is much easier to assimilate from govinfo than it is in the FDsys interface, which crowds content into narrow columns and hides higher-priority items amid a clutter of less important features and text.

Resized browser windows demonstrate govinfo's responsive-design[3] accommodations for phones and tablets. GPO designed three distinct interfaces that optimize for different-size screens. Flow between the three layouts is seamless, and little to no functionality is lost for smaller-size formats. (See Fig. 1.)

Searching

When FDsys was released in 2009, it presented major advances in search...

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