The BC Provincial Court’s digital communications have continued to reach an ever-widening audience. Its website www.provincialcourt.bc.ca had 1,414,853 page views in 2020, a 24% increase over 2019. Its eNews blog had 111,537 page views, an 18% increase. According to Google Analytics, the website had 372,261 users - 365,296 of them new users.
What did all these people want to know? Some of the information they sought was predictable but there were a few surprises.
The Court’s response to COVID
There was definitely interest in the Court’s response to COVID-19. The top ten web pages in 2020, ranked by the number of page views, were landing pages from which users can access more detailed information on other pages. While the new COVID-19 page had 107,474 page views, it still ranked third between the perennial favourites of Judgments & Decisions and Locations and Hours.
Because the need for information about the Court’s response to COVID contributed to 2020’s increase in website traffic, gains made this year may not continue at the same rate if the frequency of the Court’s operational changes declines in 2021.
Change in courtroom introductions
The ten most popular eNews articles posted in 2020 also show a high level of interest in plain language explanations of the Court’s response to COVID-19, including virtual proceedings and other procedures modified to protect public health.
However, the most widely read eNews published in 2020 described the Court’s change in protocol for courtroom introductions to include non-binary titles and pronouns. As a ground-breaking initiative welcomed by many for its inclusiveness, this announcement received international attention. The eNews describing it had almost 4000 page views in 16 days.
Demonstrating the enduring public interest in stories about judges, a whimsical eNews about the tradition of photographing Cariboo judges on horseback also made the top ten articles posted in 2020.
Website traffic peaked noticeably on two days in 2020, providing further evidence of the public interest in the Court’s response to COVID and in the courtroom introductions announcement. The Court’s website had its highest traffic on Monday, March 16 when the Court announced reduction of operations due to COVID, and on Wednesday, December 16 when it announced the change to courtroom introductions protocol.
On a monthly basis, website traffic increased substantially in March when Court operations were reduced, and rose slightly when operations resumed in June, and then again in October.
Traffic court, hearsay, robes
eNews articles from previous years continue to be popular sources of information on a variety of topics. In fact, A change in how parties and lawyers should introduce themselves in court was the only 2020 post to make the top ten list of all eNews articles viewed in 2020.
Despite the significant interest in COVID-related topics, two 2018 articles offering information on preparing for traffic court continued to be the most sought-after. Their combined page views last year totalled 20,720. Articles on hearsay and polygraph evidence, judges’ robes, oaths, and payment orders, all made the 2019 top ten list too. The top ten eNews overall were:
There were 285,441 downloads from the Court’s website in 2020, including 281,421 pdf document downloads. Consistent with other indications of interest in COVID-related topics, many downloads involved Notices and Announcements about operational changes due to COVID.
However, the Court’s guide, How to find Provincial Court Decisions on CanLII, was the third most popular pdf, with 10,644 downloads; its Guide to Disputing a Ticket ranked 7th with 6,021 downloads; and its Judicial Complement Report (providing monthly updates on judicial appointments, retirements, and elections to sit part time as a senior judge, in addition to the number of judges on the Court) came 8th with 5,406 downloads.
The 2020 metrics for the website of the BC Provincial Court attest to the Court’s resilience during this challenging year. While the metrics show significant interest in COVID-related topics, the page views and downloads of information on traffic and other areas of the Court’s work, and on judgments and court locations, reflect how the Court continued its work during the pandemic. They testify to the way the Court continued to perform essential functions while reducing in-person appearances to protect public health and, as soon as it could be done safely, resumed full operation with modifications designed not just to ensure court users’ safety but to make lasting improvements.