UK Law Search Engine

NiceUX worked with a prominent law search engine to upgrade the usability and provide a facelift of their product in the United Kingdom. The content and subject matter for a legislation, contract and litigation search tool is not only intensive, but add on top that is was for a country in which I was unfamiliar with their judicial and legislative system.

Problem

Unfamiliar Content Model

Understanding what content is valuable to your user’s at any given time in their use of a tool is tough work. It doesn’t help when the content model is a unfamiliar subject, like contract and case law. But pile on that this subject matter is for a completely different judicial and legislative system than you learned growing up. But you manage and utilize the subject matter experts around you to gain empathy and a necessary level of expertise with that content, in order to efficiently deliver valuable content.

 

Guiding Users to Important Content

The previous search engine, suffered from an inability to properly surface contextually relevant information for search results. Or, users didn’t understand what made one result more important than another. Moreover, for an individual search query, users needed to dig deep into individual search results in the hope that they will find the relevant content to their search query once arriving to a content page. This was one of the biggest pain points for users.

 

Streamlining the Design Process

The cost of producing applications at this company was astounding, astronomical even. Partly because stakeholders didn’t have proper guidance through the digital product lifecycle, and partly because the amount of documentation that was traditionally produced each and every project included hundreds of pages of annotated wireframes and PSD mockups.

 

Objective & Action

What needed to be done on this project was rather straight forward. The key components really came down to a few user experience design tenants of knowing your users, content, and business goals. And validating design choices to ensure you’re not only meeting the needs of users, but measuring the impact of those designs.

The project broke up nicely into four main parts: Project definition, Ideation, Prototyping & Usability, and Providing Supplemental Documentation.

Project Definition: For my part, the first phase of the project was pretty straight forward and fell into a few primary tasks:

1. Understand the users. Know what motivates them to act certain ways when using the system and what their expectations are when searching for law content.
2. Researching the content that user’s needed at any given time and how it can better serve their needs.
3. Take whatever I learn about the users and content, and creating a strategy to meet and exceed the business goals.

IdeationTo wrangle the stakeholders into talking and agreeing with conceptual direction, I facilitated conceptual sketch workshops that help flesh out ideas each member of the team had about what the end product looked like. Within a cross-discipline sketching workshop, we ended up not only identifying differences and similarities in how we were all thinking about the problem, but also opened up communication channels across everyone on the project. This gave everyone skin in the game, but also leveled the playing field from an org chart of roles, to a team with a common goal. Below is an example of a small number of the actual sketches produced during our sketch workshop.

IMG_6037 IMG_6038 IMG_6039 IMG_6040

 

Prototyping & Usability: I put together a few prototypes for usability testing. First, I focused on the quick and dirty feedback from my fellow UXers around me with additional refined sketches to round out the corners from the design workshop. Secondly, I modeled out the content in JavaScript and created a basic search tool in real code to get feedback on interaction between filters and content.  See the example below:

Finally, I took the previous prototype with the real content and extended it to make a prototype that felt like a wireframe in that it had low fidelity, but highly interactive.

Providing Supplemental Documentation: I couldn’t leave the prototype to stand on it’s own without describing motivation behind design decisions and how a component may need to interact with the back-end code. So I added a simple cover page to the prototype that talked through specific screens and UI components.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 10.51.06 PM

I also added a small button in the lower right hand corner of the prototype to allow anyone viewing the prototype to toggle pulsating annotation indicators. When clicked, the viewer of the wireframe/prototype could obtain more information about the individual UI component.

 

Results

Unfortunately, the company’s stakeholders dramatically changed the scope and strategy of the product after what I was tasked to complete and my contract ended. So there were no results.