Solicitors Regulation AuthoritySenior UX Designer • UR / UX / UI / Upskilling • 2017-18
The Solicitors Regulation Authority was undergoing a complete digital transformation from servers and hardware to processes and systems which were being rolled out in a series of “Waves”.
We were contracted for the “Wave 3” website redesign phase. The aim was to reduce the amount of support requests the website generated.
The goals of the discovery phase were:
- Identify users and their needs
- Identify problematic areas of the website
- Prioritise design work
We conducted a series of workshops and focus groups with internal stakeholders from the SRA in order to gain an understanding of key user groups to prioritise further user research activities and identify key/problematic user journeys.
The outcomes from the focus groups were used in interviews throughout the project with end users to delve deeper into their reasons for using the website, their needs and frustrations they have with the website which we documented in Personas.
Key findings from discovery
Solicitors could not easily find guidance information
The main frustration of solicitors and other members of the profession was that they found it difficult to find the snippet of information that they needed. If they couldn't find this information they contacted the SRA for support as how they acted on this information could have implications on their career or even the firm where they work.
The support requests fell into 3 clear categories
- Wanting to know how to act according to their situation after not being able to find the relating rules in the Handbook.
- Information to help understand how to apply a rule in the solicitors handbook to their current situation.
- Information relating to what form they need to complete and what information they need to have with them in order to complete the form.
Understanding why the problem exists
Having previously identified the users in the Discovery phase we interviewed a range of users from the profession to understand how they used the SRA website to provide guidance on how to act and comply with SRA's rules and regulations in various situations.
From our interviews we produced user journeys to document our findings and to start to identify common issues and opportunities.
Although there where many areas for improvement for specific personas we noted that the following problems were common across all user groups:
- Users weren’t sure where the information they required was located and often gave up trying to use the website and contacted the SRA directly.
- Users usually need further guidance/help in order to apply the rule to their situation and have to navigate away from the handbook to a separate guidance section to find relating guidance. Users wanted reassurance from the SRA that their understanding of the guidance and how they were going to act was correct.
- Transactions which required multiple forms to be completed generated ~70% of the support calls.
With this understanding we started to brainstorm various solutions. We framed the design challenge in "How might we" statements. These helped us to provoke meaningful and relevant ideas and have more focused brainstorming sessions.
How might we guide users to subset of rules which relate to their situation.
How might we assist users to understand how to apply the rule to their situation.
How might we ensure that users finds the correct guidance and provide reassurance that the action they will take based on our guidance is correct.
How might we provide information so that users know what form they need to fill.
How might we help users feel that the forms and process are straight-forward and simple.
As SRA already had a defined pattern library of common components and only wanted add and adapt if there was clear user need identified, we quickly created a design library of these common components and jumped straight into creating mid-fi prototypes. The objective was to rich prototype to test with end users, which users would understand as quickly as possible.
Our aim was to simplify the navigation and try to reduce the number of options for the user. Although we did manage to simplify the navigation structure we were still concerned that this would be overwhelming for users.
One option that we explored which could reduce the overwhelming feeling of having too many options on the page was to just show the links without descriptions. We ended up keeping the descriptions as we felt that it would be more beneficial to the user as it would increase the chances of the user navigated to the correct area of the handbook.
We gave the search more emphasis as this would ultimately allow users to find the rule or snippet of information they were looking for in a more straight-forward manner.
Example rule page
We used accordions to group rules for a number of reasons:
- It allowed us to condense content into a scannable list
- Previous usability tests run by the SRA showed that users reacted positively to information being placed within accordions
View more information (slide-out guidance)
From the ideation phase we had a number of solutions as to how we might we assist users to understand how to apply the rule to their situation. We decided to prototype the slide-in help solution as depending on the rule there could be various types of guidance, with each type having multiple links. This solution gave us the flexibility to design the guidance links without being restricted by the size of the rule. One important assumption that we documented to test is whether or not users would understand the interaction and would be able to open the slide-in help.
Feedback from testing
We initially tested the prototype with 16 users, we tested a number of journeys. The main assumptions that we had made were that the navigational layout and structure would work and that users would be able to open the side-in guidance. Both of these turned out to be true and received positive feedback.
Users still wanted to browse by themes which could span multiple sections of the handbook. We incorporated this feedback by implementing an Index which allowed the user to view the themes/topics covered in the handbook.
Highlight most relevant rules
From further rounds of testing we also discovered that there are rules which users are more likely to need to consult more frequently depending on the users role within a firm and the size of the firm where they work.
We designed an interaction which allowed user to highlight rules which are most appropriate to the role or size of firm.
N.B This is the final version, we did create a low/mid-fi prototype version, however the software I use to record this iterations wouldn't record the dropdown.
Guidance landing page
One common theme that we noticed in user research was users would say things like "the information is there and it's helpful, but its hard to find". So we used the same pattern from the Handbook with the aim of users interacting with the search more than the navigation structure.
Secondly, simplified the existing navigation structure and surfaced a number of links to types of guidance so they appear earlier in the user's journey.
Question of ethics
We focused on improving the visual hierarchy. In the current screens the primary piece of information was the date, this left users confused and having to really search for the article which is the most helpful for them.
It also wasn't clear when guidance was in effect, no longer in effect or due for a review. This was highlighted in user research as users stated that they could be potentially making decisions which could impact their career they want reassurance that the guidance is still considered relevant or aware if the guidance is due to change soon.
We added chatbots to guidance as the cost to support them for the SRA is lower when compared to other channels, but also gives the user the ability to seek assurance or ask for advice in a way which can be recorded in a transcript which we assumed who make the members of the profession more comfortable and assurance.
Feedback from testing
Topic based navigation
Although the 'grid' navigation structure proved a success as in previous tests, our assumption wasn't correct and the users found it difficult browsing by type of content. We reviewed the content of the section and created a topic based navigational structure which performed much better in later rounds of testing.
We also incorporated the above feedback in the filters.
Forms (Firm based authorisation) landing page
By surfacing all the transactions that a member of the profession can complete in one area we felt that this would reduce the frustration of trying to determine which form the user needed to complete as previously they would have to compare options on different pages.
Simplifying transactions with multiple form
We removed acquisitions and mergers from within the open and close transactions and created separate processes for each. As they were the only processes which required the user to complete 2 forms we hoped that by separating them it would reduce the support and would also provide us with the opportunity to provide separate simpler guidance for each process.
There was also some confusion the in the industry about whether a firm was merging or being acquired and what that actually entails, therefore we brought guidance for each to same level as notifying the SRA.
Notification of acquisition
We focused on providing key information to the user at this stage so that they have a clear understand of the process and what information they need to provide.
Feedback from testing
Right-hand side navigation
The feedback from testing this was extremely positive. The main finding was that users ignored the red sidebar navigation on the right-hand side. Through some questions at the end of the test sessions we discovered that they just saw it as a "big blob of red" and ignored it.
We used this as a justification to redesign the side navigation component in the SRA's pattern library.
What could we improve on
Research was mainly focused on interviews and testing, we could have used analytics to be more effective in our face-to-face research. We only really start to make good use of other methods as the project was starting to wrap up.
It would have been very easy for us to design in the browser as style guide had already been created, this would reduce the work load for the developers and forced us to think more about templates and designing for a CMS.
Global navigation and personalization and role base navigational structures should have been recognised as a viable solution sooner.
What we did well
One thing that I'm really proud of is we managed to include multiple stakeholders from the SRA throughout project. This meant that senior stakeholders understood the value of implementing a UCD process and we were invited to present the the project and our process to the board of directors.
Due to the nature of the Handbook and the its importance within the profession this solution is about to go through an extensive public Beta where we will continue to refine the solution.