The date in this footnote is correct — we really did check this section earlier today. In addition to rolling out the Texas statutes, we’ve made Texas the first state in our new “Cloud”-based statute processing pipeline. This new platform retrieves, scans, and publishes changes to statutes on a daily basis. It finishes up by creating links to the sources so readers can “trust but verify”.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be migrating California, New York, and Oregon over to this new system. One note: although Texas is online, we have a lot more work to do for it to meet our standards for a usable, modern reference site. Coming soon are internal hyperlinks, an error checking review, “semantic” searching, and more.
I’ve been re-evaluating fonts for WebLaws.org, and one issue that caught my eye is the style of the numerals. In running text, these proportional oldstyle numbers (font: Buenard) are perfect: they visually flow with the text. The wide variations in figure height and positioning help the reader unambiguously read the number.
But in a vertical navigation bar, I’ve chosen Georgia for its monospaced oldstyle numbers: the monospacing enables the reader to easily compare numbers while scanning vertically. Best of all, the font is already installed on all platforms.
It’s interesting that although the navbar numerals are in an entirely different font (Georgia vs. Buenard), the contrast is not jarring due to the sizes and positioning.
I spent a couple of hours today looking at web fonts for legible reference text. After reading the New York Times experiment finding that Baskerville is “the king of fonts”, I thought I’d give it a try, comparing it with a couple of others for legibility.
The sidebar is Trebuchet because I found that it’s more legible for small numbers. I like the way this looks, simply visually. But legibility-wise, I believe the text (“The presidential…”) is harder to scan with the eye than it ought to be.
Font of the Baskervilles?
While looking for Baskerville web fonts, I found Buenard via Google Web Fonts. It’s very close to Baskerville, and I find it amazingly legible:
My take: In Buenard, the words hold together the best. The letter spacing is tight and the font is heavy. I feel like it’s super-easy to read. In comparison, in Caslon and Helvetica Neue, the words don’t hold together as well. The fonts look good, but for web text to be read on a screen, I think that Buenard is the best here.
I’m working on getting the California Codes online, focussing on the user’s experience: reading, searching, and accessing. This weekend I thought I had found an error in the numbering in the state’s online version, and so I headed to the law library to open a real book and see what’s going on. I was surprised to see that the printed text is the same. (West’s annotated and non-annotated editions.)
Here are three examples from the Code of Civil Procedure. The first, sections 676 et. seq. are the way I’d expect, in so-called natural sort order:
But here, a mathematical decimal ordering is in use:
Weirder still, both kinds are used in this group of codes:
I’ve run into the oddest problem as I add the California Codes to WebLaws.org. The Sections, the actual statutes themselves, are not given any kind of name as they are in other states. Here are the basic burglary statutes of Oregon and California:
These screenshots show one problem this creates. For starters, there is no reliable way to provide a good table of contents for a group of California Code sections.
Now, in the legislative business, these names are called leadlines, and they’re usually not part of the actual controlling law. But their usefulness should be obvious: leadlines help everyone write about, talk about, and research the law. And it turns out that these names are important enough that publishers like Westlaw and LexisNexis have created their own for their customers’ use.
California Burglary Statutes — would you have guessed?
From an economic perspective, California is not performing this part of the legislative process, delegating it instead to private companies. And so, the only people with access to this part of the code are those who pay for it. In other words, instead of the cost (of naming their statutes) being distributed across all tax payers, it’s paid by those acutely needing access to the law.
There’s an additional cost to this scheme that all Californians bear, however: inefficiencies resulting from a lack of standardized names. I mentioned that Westlaw and LexisNexis have leadlines for the code. They do differ, of course.
Caveat: I’m new to California law. Is there something I’m missing here? Let me know.