Legal information is complex, and in our quest to simplify it for our visitors the first, crucial task is helping people find what they’re looking for. To that end, a lot of thought has gone into LawHelpNY’s navigation structure over its history. We are rolling out our latest attempt to make our materials more intuitive to explore by addressing a particular blind spot: while LawHelpNY’s site navigation provides a lot of guidance to folks who arrive at the homepage and begin looking for material from the top down, many people don’t arrive via the homepage. They jump directly into a subtopic page, following a link from Google or another search engine.
Over the last year, as part of work funded by a Technology Innovation Grant from the Legal Services Corporation, we’ve been doing user testing for a new subtopic page layout we hope will make it easier for these visitors to orient themselves on the site. This new layout makes two major changes to the layout of each LawHelp legal subtopic page:
1. The new layout provides a dropdown list from which visitors can easily switch from one legal subtopic to another subtopic within the same broader legal topic.
So, for example, a visitor who arrived directly into the page for the “Divorce” subtopic of the “Family and Juvenile” topic could quickly and easily discover other legal subtopics related to Family issues, and choose (for example) to look at Child Custody resources instead.
2. The new layout displays the subdivisions LawHelpNY has created within each legal subtopic more prominently, making them easier for visitors to understand and use.
Within most legal subtopics, LawHelpNY visitors will find materials divided into multiple tabs, based on the nature of the information. For example, in a given legal subtopic, such as Divorce, there might be information about what a person’s rights in a divorce are (“Know Your Rights”), as well as information about how to pursue those rights in court (“Going to Court”), and how to find a lawyer to help with a divorce-related problem (“Find a Lawyer”). Inside each of these channels, visitors will see information further grouped into different thematic categories. Lastly, off to the side, the new design makes LawHelpNY’s filtering options, which let visitors restrict the list of results based on language, file format, and other additional criteria, more prominent.
We’ve worked hard over the last several months putting our ideas for how to provide better guidance to visitors who arrive directly onto these legal subtopic pages to the test through multiple rounds of user testing, using a variety of techniques and tools. We hope the result will better serve all our visitors.
As you use this new layout, keep in mind that there will be more changes to come. In order to make the best use of this new design, we will be working to improve the way in which we group information—particularly when it comes to channels and categories (the areas written in green in the screenshot above). So stay tuned; this change may seem big, but we’re just getting started.