Usability is Free: Improving Efficiency by Making the Court More User-Friendly

Program for Legal Tech and Design - Usability is Free - User Friendly Courts

This article discusses the potential for making usable, user-friendly courts. It highlights this approach to refocus how court staff tackle the challenge of being overburdened with litigants:

Usability strategies involve more than simply dumping tasks online. We can identify seven new types of understanding that such strategies typically require of court managers:
  1. Understanding of the needs and desires of court users;

  2. Understanding users’ abilities—and sorting (or supporting self-sorting) of users into different service levels, each with appropriate supports;

  3. Understanding of the court’s processes, so as to build in foolproofing and safeguards that will ensure that users are guided in the right directions;

  4. Understanding of legal constraints, so as to choose which user activities are allowable, and which must be prohibited;

  5. Having a greater appreciation of options for where and when to deliver services (e.g., online, at the user’s convenience);

  6. Being able to redesign court processes to greater reflect the needs of court users, relative to court personnel; while

  7. Avoiding the ubiquitous temptation to fill in the usability gaps by hiring staff.

Some of the recent innovations in a more usable court system are:

  • clinics and workshops for self-represented litigants
  • broadcast of resources to litigants
  • online juror orientation

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