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Recent Improvements

Recently we made some changes to the way we display Federal Register documents in HTML on FederalRegister.gov. In particular, we wanted to improve the display of regulatory text by adding a variety icons, shading, and spacing to make these complex documents easier to comprehend.

Rules published in the Federal Register can be a tough read, as they usually include a series of changes to the dense, technical language of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). So we developed enhanced visual cues and improved navigation tools to help readers understand the structure of our documents and move around the text. Here is a roundup of our changes:

Amendatory Instructions

Agencies often introduce each change to the CFR with a specific amendatory instruction. We made those instructions more prominent to help you move between them more easily. They are already sequentially numbered, so we visually increased the size of the number and bolded the instruction text.

Example: www.federalregister.gov/a/2012-21984/p-amd-2

CFR Tables of Contents

Alternatively, in some documents agencies set out all the segments of regulatory text being modified, and simply post the modifications in their entirety. In those cases, we provide a table of contents of the changes to the CFR, with jump links that take you down to the individual sections.

Example: www.federalregister.gov/a/2012-22204/p-amd-2

Topics

Most rule documents include a “List of Subjects” associated with each CFR part affected by that rule. Those subjects are used to compile the subject index of the CFR and feed the topics browse page on FederalRegister.gov. We added our topic icon to identify the List of Subjects, and linked each term to its corresponding topic page on FederalRegister.gov, where you can find various other Federal Register documents related to the same topic.

Example: www.federalregister.gov/a/2012-22207/h-15

Signatures

As part of our improved HTML format, we now identify the signature block of the document with a pen icon. Signatures most often follow the regulatory text, but sometimes they appear before it. The signer is the official who exercised the agency’s legal authority to make/propose changes to regulations, or issue a notice document.

Example: www.federalregister.gov/a/2012-22207/h-15

Words of Issuance

The “Words of Issuance” precede the regulatory text. They provide a transition point between the preamble of the rule, and the itemized changes to the regulatory text of the CFR. To make the Words of Issuance stand out more clearly, we highlighted them with a megaphone icon.

Example: www.federalregister.gov/a/2012-22207/h-15

Begin/End Regulatory Text

Rules and proposed rules contain discussion in the preamble as to why an agency is changing or proposing to change regulatory text. The analyses and justifications in the preamble portion of a Federal Register document can be quite extensive, and they are important. But those explanations do not contain the actual changes to the regulatory text as they would be codified in the CFR. So we are making it easier for readers to identify where the explanation ends and the regulatory changes begin. To accomplish that, we separated the regulatory text from the rest of the document with a horizontal rule and icon.

Example: www.federalregister.gov/a/2012-22207/h-15

Icons for Chapter, Part, and Section

To make it easier for readers to understand the CFR’s structure, and pinpoint how an amendment affects the CFR, we’ve added icons to the chapter, part, and section headers.

Minor Improvements

  • The paragraph level toolbar (identified by a ribbon icon) was adjusted to reduce the chances that an errant click will expand it.
  • U.S.C. links no longer point to the now-defunct GPO Access or top level pages of GPO’s FDsys.gov. Now the links go to the appropriate section level of the U.S.C. on FDsys (e.g., 5 U.S.C. 601).
  • Federal Register documents cited by FR Document Number (e.g., “FR Doc. 2012-22207” are now linked).

3 Responses to Recent Improvements

  1. Why can’t we (Federal Agencies) post FR notices electronically, istead of delivering three paper copies and a CD?

  2. Federal agencies can submit digitally signed Federal Register notices electronically under our regulations and drafting guidance.

    The Federal Register Act requires all Federal Register documents to be authenticated with an original signature. As legal instruments that affect the rights and obligations of citizens, the documents must be created with care so that they can be accepted as evidence in courts of law. Digital signatures qualify as original signatures.

    Section 5.3 of the Federal Register Document Drafting Handbook provides:

    “You may submit electronic original documents via e‐mail or the web. These must be signed with a medium assurance level digital signature certificate, cross‐certified by the Federal Bridge Certification Authority. Because this electronic file is the original document, submitting in this manner eliminates the need for paper copies.”

    “You must agree to comply with OFR’s procedures for submitting electronic originals and your agency must acquire appropriate digital signature certificates. For up‐to‐date information, contact OFRʹs Technical Services Staff at (202) 741‐6020.”

    “OFR only accepts MS‐Word files as digitally signed originals.” (http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/write/handbook/chapter-5.pdf)

  3. I am a huge fan of federal register. Whenever I visit your site it gives me lots of information and your website’s look is also very standard. Recent improvement to the website is also very fruitful, just keep it up!

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