New: Best practices for publishing legislation online

16 November 2021, by Greg Kempe

Laws.Africa has been focused on publishing African legal information for over three years. We have now published our best practices for making online legislation user-friendly.

These best practices reflect our experience and research in publishing legislation for desktop and mobile use. It includes:

Our goal is to help other publishers to provide high-quality, user-driven experiences that make reading and understanding African legal information easy.

Small choices have a big impact

Legislation is technical and can be long, complicated and difficult to understand. If the reader is visually impaired or not fluent in the language of the legislation, it can be even more challenging.

Small choices, such as a good choice of font, decent line spacing, and creating a visual hierarchy can greatly improve the reader’s understanding.

For example, the clear indentation makes it a bit easier to understand the details of this single sentence in the Constitution of South Africa that includes two sub-paragraphs and three numbered items:

Indentation example

Supporting African Governments

Part of our mission is to enable African Governments to provide public access to their own legislation. We know this takes expertise, time and hard work to do well. By following these best practices, African governments (and other organisations) can build upon our experience to deliver first-class experiences for their users.

We conduct ongoing research with users in multiple African countries to understand their needs and challenges when accessing and using legal information. We incorporate these learnings and feedback into our content offerings and into our best practices.

Re-usable stylesheets for HTML

Our indigo-web CSS library for formatting online legislation incorporates these best practices. The library is open source and free to use, and makes it easy for others to provide great legislation experiences on their websites.

If you’re using our Indigo Legislation Platform or our Legislation Content API, include the indigo-web CSS into your website and the content will be styled automatically, according to our best practices.

Read more in the indigo-web documentation.

Making great reading experiences easy

We’re working on a new open source web components library that will make it even easier for governments and others to add interactivity and other features to their online legislation collections. We’ll announce more details on this blog in due course.

(Photo of Painted Chameleon in Madagascar by rod_waddington on flickr)