The Office of Victims of Crime (OVC) approached us to help rewrite the VictimLaw website. VictimLaw.org is an information portal where users can search for laws concerning victims of crimes, federal or for any state or tribe. The site serves lawyers, attorneys, students and of course, victims of crime. One thorough look at it and we realized it was the perfect challenge. The website was structured and content-rich, but had a very early-age HTML look and feel, felt cluttered and disorganized, lacked modern process flows and interaction patterns and was neither responsive nor 508 compliant. There was a lot of work to be done.
I was tasked the role of a UX Designer / Information Architect for this project and the first approach was to run a thorough heuristic evaluation on the current site to:
The complete heuristic evaluation document can be found here. You can see how much we could capture by simply self-studying the site.
Our clients showed us how they use the current website and were critical of the way it was designed and provided us with a lot of feedback on how it could be fixed. However, we wanted some raw feedback from the actual users of the system and hence, we planned to interview the 8 participants - 2 of each persona stated above.
Each interview had 3 think-aloud tasks. Based on the feedback, the participants were asked follow-up questions.
The combination of a heuristic evaluation and user interviews is really powerful. It helps you speak for both the experts (designers) and the users and helps champion your findings and design decisions while presenting to your clients.
In our case, it helped us also design journey maps for all use cases and search types. There's a sample below bit if you'd like to see the complete document, feel free to touch base. (because it's 55MB !!!)
A good designer learns from what already exists out there, understands the challenges and then goes out to create the next big thing.
I planned to do a comparative analysis to understand what systems already existed, how did they organize and handle data and did they present oodles information while delivering a good experience.
I identified areas we needed to focus on in order to create the best law-searching experience - Search, Content organization and User experience. We also asked our client to demo a system they were used to using - Lexis.
I must admit, this analysis gave me many more ideas than I had thought we'd get. It inspired me to think out-of-the-box.
We had a lot of data now, full of patterns and it was slowly becoming clear where this was heading. The team got together every day for 5 days to brainstorm and plan the road ahead.
I'm a huge fan of Brad Frost's atomic design and here's a handy tip for fellow designers - When you plan your product (after research) - start with the organisms first i.e. start with the process flows. When you design, start with the atoms first i.e. design the styling guides, then the components etc.
We followed the same approach and here are a few screenshots of the process flows we created.
The biggest pain point with the current website was that it followed a wizard experience which would take users down a crooked road of selecting the right, jurisdiction, state, persona in that order and would many a times lead to 0 results if no results were found, adding to their woes. We wanted to change this.
Also, the website had 4 types of searches which was an overkill. In our interviews, we saw that lawyers, attorneys searched for laws by citations since their knowledge of law was excellent while students of law and victims of law searched using keywords. So the next big decision was to limit the search to only 2 search types - keyword based and citation based and allow further funneling of results through filters.
My role as a UX designer doesn't end here. This is an ongoing project and I've been busy helping the team design the new site. Here's a quick glimpse of what we're working on. To learn more, you know what to do.