Goal: User experience design of cloud-based civil litigation management tool
Role: UX Designer at Globant, India
Team Size: Three (Myself, a team lead, and a visual designer)
Duration: 12 Weeks
Scope: User Interviews, Information Architecture, Navigation Flows, Wireframes, Visual Design
Tools: Apple Keynote, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop
Outcome: Over a million records and 10k+ matters were managed in the first year since launch. Platform saw 40% volume growth in incoming clients.
As a user experience designer I had the ownership of this cloud-based civil litigation platform. I worked with a team lead who handled client communication, and a visual UI designer who crafted the mockups. We designed and built for a New York based civil litigation business. The client’s goal was to build a unique application that unites the benefits of cloud based service with CRM approach, and offer it as an everyday tool to the law firms around NY, NJ, and CT. Being a unique application catering to the needs of an extremely specific industry, the project demanded thorough understanding of litigation practices. I started the process by acquiring domain knowledge through a series of user research activities. I focused on three distinct users and their daily activities in litigation landscape: Managing partners, Lead attorneys, and Paralegals.
Through our client the team was able to meet with a few attorneys and paralegal staff members. This gave us a good exposure to users’ real life scenarios, activities, and tools that they then used. Following artifact is a sample from initial whiteboarding exercises:
Interesting observations came through as I and the team lead studied these users. Among all three personas there were stark differences in daily work activities and motivations and goals; but common themes emerged in their pain points, choice of tools, and daily needs.
For example, all three users heavily relied on using traditional notepads to scribble down their quick notes and important schedules. This almost always instilled the fear of loosing or misplacing information. Another example is all of them had a constant feeling of overwhelming schedules with focus on multiple matters, handling multiple critical dates allotted for court appearances, filings, submissions etc., and too many documents to access. Summary of these overwhelming schedules is well captured in what this user told me in a study:
“A good lawyer is not the one that wins arguments in the courtroom, but the one that makes sure that a matter never goes to the courtroom. And that requires immense attention to details in documents, timely filings, and timely communications with all other parties.”
Following persona representations were drafted from initial exercises:
These representations gave me a constant overview of who I’m designing for, and the details of their routines. This step was important and helped me throughout the entire process up until delivering final mockups.
We defined key objects and activities performed by these three users across various channels. This helped in understanding and solving for patterns that are common across all three professionals. Commonalities were mostly focused around delivery, production work, and scheduling.
Key Objects and related Activities
- Add, close, archive, search matters
- Update matter status, details, expenses, tasks, documents
- Refer out a matter
- Accept/ reject a referred-in matter
- Import a matter from a legacy system
- Export, print, share individual matter or a list of matters
- Schedule events/ tasks/meetings with clients, witnesses or opposite parties
- Add/ modify critical dates to a matter
- Maintain a personal calendar for ‘my next day’
- Import events from Outlook, Google Calendar etc.
- Share calendar with others in the firm
- Delete, update, print, share events
- Create tasks for self or others
- Reassign to self or others
- Tag tasks to a matter
- Mark as completed
- Print tasks list, search for a task etc.
- Add, edit, update contacts
- Link contacts to matters
- View contact details and history
- Conflict check
- Search, share, print individual or list of contacts
- Upload and tag documents
- Indexing and daily mail scan
- Create and use templates for digital documents
- Share, email out, print documents with coworkers or external parties
- Create notes for self
- Tag notes to a matter
- Share, edit, delete, print notes
- Search notes based on contents
Based on these key objects and activities I was able to draft and iterate through a few versions of holistic information architecture. Note that as observed from persona study, for the three users– the managing partner, the attorney and the paralegal– although these objects and activities were common, the entry points were much different. Thus the information architecture was drafted to be flexible in terms of the ‘starting point’ based on the profile that a user logs in with. For example the paralegal staff’s daily goal is to take care of all incoming documents, scan the bunch of mails, and upload each document with a link to the corresponding matter. Whereas managing partner’s primary goal is to globally monitor activities across the firm with a zoomed-out view. Following is an example of how information would rearrange itself to offer an abstract view to the managing partner, where he/she can start at a high level and then dig down into details of any particular matter.
Next stage involved mapping of these objects and activities together to offer a navigation flow. The disparities observed in the working styles of the three personas were really interesting at this point. A paralegal, because of the nature of their job, may not always know how a given document maps to a certain matter. Their sole objective is to capture it in the system and only map it if possible. On the flip side, an attorney must always know the relation between a document and related matter. That mapping is crucial to their knowledge and eventually to their success. This led to an interesting exercise that aimed at solving floating documents, untagged objects and ‘orphan’ tasks.
Based on findings from this exercise I was able to draw some tenets of global objects versus children objects. As an example, a document always has to be tagged to a matter or a contact. Whereas a task or a note or an event could be independent of any matter. This and many more insights helped in shaping the initial wireframes at this point.
Wireframes: Moving from Lo-fi to Annotated hi-fidelity mockups
Based on iterations and design reviews I finalized a complete set of wireframes as deliverables to the client. I offered annotated versions in the demos that I presented to the client’s team. It not only helped in better explaining my ideas with important references, but also offered a scalable way to communicate and exchange suggestions and more reviews beyond our in-person meetings.
Great amount of detailing and iterations were performed into designing detailed components for the screen, such as breadcrumbs, menus, sidebar, and contextual bottom navigation. An example of how it takes insights from previous exercises is the sidebar to the right. It offers a quick and always-visible access to the global objects. For example the user can add a quick note or an event at any point, irrespective of where they are inside the application. Another example is starting point upon signing in is different based on designation, yet it could be all visible to all users via navigation.
Design reviews with client and end users served a great deal of detailing. As a designer I had to be aware of my biases and keep myself aware of the persona representations. A good example is explicit confirmation actions and dismissals are crucial in their profession, and that helped me in covering detailed design specifications. The “New task added successfully” notification has to be explicitly dismissed by the user, it does not timeout.
Outcomes of the design process
Within a year after first release from fall 2015 to fall 2016, the platform had over a million records and more than 10,000 matters. The organization not only successfully migrated all their existing clients to this new cloud-based platform, but also saw 40% growth in incoming clients. With small yet powerful features such as firm-level calendaring, proactive matter management with conflict checks, and firm-wide task allocation & tracking etc., users mentioned that the experience established a great amount of ease, trust and integrity.