Federal Register gets user-friendly

The Federal Register, the daily journal that tracks most regulatory actions of the federal government, got a facelift last week as the Government Printing Office (GPO) and the National Archives Office launched a new website designed to be more user-friendly. 

The beta site, which resembles any number of news websites, is attracting rave reviews from good-government groups.

Tom Lee, director of Sunlight Labs, a government watchdog, said the overhaul represents “a wonderful example of what’s possible when government stays open to the transformative possibilities offered by technology.” 

“It’s not uncommon,” Lee said in a statement, “for us to hear from people in government who say they’d love to improve their online offerings, but are hemmed in by the cumbersome acquisition process or other bureaucratic hurdles.”

“Those are real challenges, Lee added, “but the new federalregister.gov shows that they’re challenges that can be overcome.”

The new website — dubbed the Federal Register 2.0 — is organized to allow users to browse rules and regulations by topic, including health and public welfare. The site includes plain-language descriptions of the rules that accompany the dense legal language for which the Federal Register has become known. 

U.S. Archivist David Ferriero said the new summaries are the most significant feature of the website.