Innovations for Clients: User Feedback and the New LawHelpMN.org

by Jenny Singleton, Legal/Technology Projects Manager

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State Support is excited to announce that its new centralized referral portal has been named LOON (Legal Organizations Online Network), and is in the final stages of development. LOON will enable easier referrals between legal services providers and support the busy work of intake staff. Read more about LOON in our March blog post, and about the development of an Online Triage System for LawHelpMN in our April blog post.

Most recently, our developers have begun creating the blueprints (known as “wireframes”) that will be used to guide what the public sees when visiting the newly designed LawHelpMN.org

For all aspects of the new site, State Support is focused on making sure our users’ needs are addressed. To do that, we have made a conscious effort to get user feedback and perform user testing at various stages of the site’s development. Following are some of the ways we are gathering feedback and when we will use each method. If you are interested in learning more about user testing and other methods of gathering user feedback, Usability.gov and LSNTAP both have a wealth of information on the subject.

Planning Stage: Task Analysis
Task analysis is observing users doing the tasks we hope they will use LawHelpMN to do. Early in the project, we wanted to know how intake staff might use LOON, so we observed four different intake staff as they made phone referrals. Being able to see first-hand the different processes intake staff use allowed us to provide direction to our developer as we explained what LOON must be able to do.

Wireframe Stage: Focus Groups
Focus groups are moderated group discussions designed to solicit stakeholders’ reactions to concepts. State Support has conducted three focus groups to get staff feedback at the organizations that will be using LOON. We previewed LOON’s wireframes and were able to get valuable suggestions from staff members about how the site should be structured, what information should be most prominent, and which features would make LOON most useful.

Development Stage: Card Sorting
Card sorting involves asking users to put a topic into the category in which they think it belongs. In its simplest form, card sorting involves labeling index cards with different topics and categories, and having a user physically place each topic card with the category card where they think it belongs. State Support will use this method to answer two questions. First, how do users categorize their legal issues? For example, do users think that learning how to handle a deceased parent’s estate fits under “Family Law” or under “Seniors?” With this information we’ll refine our triage questions to reflect which legal categories a person might start with when looking for answers to their legal questions. Next, we’ll use card sorting to gauge our users understanding of different legal categories, and establish the best labels based on that understanding. For example, do users understand that the “Seniors” category includes topics like Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives, or should this topic be relabeled “End of Life Planning?”

Development Stage: Usability Testing
Usability testing typically involves watching a user attempt to perform defined tasks on a website. Experts typically recommend testing about 6 participants in order to obtain sufficient information. State Support recently completed observation testing on LOON. Six participants, all of whom will be using LOON in the near future, were given scenarios and asked to perform related tasks such as finding a referral for a caller. As the participants navigated the site, our moderator asked questions to illicit more information about what worked well and what was challenging. Based on this user testing, we created a prioritized list of issues to be addressed prior to the release of LOON. We plan to carry out similar user testing with a variety of user groups as the redesign of LawHelpMN progresses.

Post-Launch: A/B Testing
A/B testing is a feedback mechanism that will allow us to compare how two options impact a user’s behavior. With this testing, each user is randomly presented with one of two versions of the website. Metrics are then collected about how each user interacts with the site to measure the effectiveness of the two versions. State Support used A/B testing to help us make decisions about the style and placement of content on our current LawHelpMN site, and we’ll likely use this method again after the redesigned LawHelpMN has launched.

Great websites must be responsive to users’ needs. Our work on LawHelpMN and LOON will not end at launch. For these sites to progressively improve and evolve to meet user needs and expectations, we must continue to gather user feedback after launch. In addition to getting that user feedback, we need to plan for the staff time and expenses associated with responding to and implementing user suggestions. With this iterative approach, we hope to create resources for the community that will meet user needs long into the future.