Focus On

Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench revamps website

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 1:33 PM | By Carolyn Gruske

Legal professionals in Alberta who have been on the Court of Queen’s Bench's public-facing website since its redesign was revealed earlier this month have been given a sneak peak of what the court’s internal site will be like after it is revised.

The new look and feel of website, which hadn’t been updated since 2007, was created to reflect the court’s new emphasis on open courts, said Michelle Somers, executive legal officer to the chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta.

“We’ve always had an open court policy, but now we are using new technology to make that more real and more contemporary,” said Somers. “This was a huge part of it. We have both an external website and an internal website. We started with the external first in order to serve the public and the legal professionals.”

Work is underway to revise the internal website that is used by judges and the judicial staff, with the goal of launching the new version of the site sometime within the year, depending on funding and human resources. Both judges and staff members will be asked for their input on what changes they’d like to see and what content should be available.

“We would like to have the same look and feel as our external site. They are two different platforms. One [the internal one] uses Microsoft SharePoint and the other [the public one] uses Sitefinity so we are going to do our best to make them look and function similarly,” said Keri Stevenson, director of technology and court co-ordination.

The public website redesign, which took two years, and involved the use of an outside web consultant in addition to an internal committee and input from judges and judicial staff, came about when the province’s courts were given the opportunity to build distinct websites (that are linked by a common landing page) after content for resolution and court administration services was moved to the province’s main website.

Stevenson said that functionality such as the ability to submit adjournment confirmation forms, was a part of the old site, but is easier to find in the new version, due to improved navigability.

“We’re hoping more people will use it,” she said.

Other changes include giving sections for rules and official forms more prominent placing, granting visitors the ability to browse the notice to the profession entries by area of law or through a keyword search, and allowing court staff members to post directly to the site “so there is no lag between when we need an announcement to go out and when it actually gets posted. So we are able to communicate more efficiently now,” Stevenson added.

The site is mobile friendly and responsive and offers a robust search engine. It also gives lawyers the ability to subscribe to e-mail alerts.

“We think we have a very modern site that will carry us well into the future,” said Stevenson.

Somers added that for litigants and the general public, the site includes not just information available from the court but external links to additional content.

“It’s a conduit to educate the public and make it easier for them to navigate the justice system,” said Somers.

So far, the site seems like a success.

“Hits have gone up since we launched. On the old site, traffic was very, very low. We were directing people primarily to access the forms,” said Stevenson.

For the internal site, the court is mainly looking to improve the functionality and available information for the judiciary and the judicial staff.

“We want to simplify how our judges are receiving information — information that is critical for them to do their jobs,” said Stevenson adding that along with the website redesign project, there is currently an e-court planning project underwayl.  

“Our goal is to have an electronic case management system and allow for e-filing. I know the Court of Appeal already has an e-filing capability so it’s definitely something the court is involved in.”