by Emily Good, Legal Projects Manager
Since the launch of LawHelpMN.org over a decade ago, State Support has worked to improve the site’s usefulness and responsiveness as part of our commitment to access to justice for all Minnesotans. The redesign of the site – currently in progress – takes that commitment further than ever before, with the adoption of a completely new platform that will allow State Support more control over the technical aspects of the site. Goals of the redesign include better user experience and search functions, an online triage system, and a pilot of an improved online intake system. By building our own site, we’re able to fully customize LawHelpMN.org to meet the needs of the Minnesota community.
Through legal aid technology networks and the annual LSC Innovations in Technology Conference, State Support staff learned about the Drupal web content management platform. States including Illinois, Michigan, and Connecticut use Drupal for their legal information sites, and their experiences helped inform our decision to use Drupal for the new LawHelpMN.org. The opportunity to leverage the work done by other states on the Drupal platform, and the existing expertise in the legal aid community, is helping make the transition to a new site more fluid.
Drupal is a free, open source software that grows and evolves as web developers build sites with it. The open source environment means a community of sharing and innovation, which reflects the values of both LawHelpMN.org and the Minnesota civil legal justice community. The continuing iteration within the larger Drupal community will benefit LawHelpMN.org with new ideas and options from a variety of sources.
Drupal sites use “modules” which are like building blocks. There are standard modules for forms, text boxes, search and other common elements of a site. Because of the open source nature of Drupal, modules created for one site and purpose are available and can be directly used or reconfigured to fit the needs of our site, saving time and energy in the development process. As developers create new modules, additional features and capabilities can be integrated.
Our hope is that by choosing to build the new site in Drupal, we can continue to make timely improvements and changes while making LawHelpMN.org more user centered than ever.