One of the most important parts to putting together Michigan Legal Help is user testing. We get so familiar with the website that we are hyper-sensitive to any changes, and because we know how we want it to work it always works, even if it doesn’t work for others. As we build triage we have to get feedback from those who will use our site in order to have the most effective and easiest to use site possible. So what does user testing mean for us at Michigan Legal Help?

User testing means staying out in the sun for eight hours on the two hottest days of the summer, recruiting sometimes unwilling testers from the library patrons, and for one of us it meant getting hit on by an overly zealous tester.

User testing means eating ice cream (only after we’re done testing!) and getting to know your co-workers in ways that perhaps you never imagined. User testing is trial and error – learning that testers hate testing online intake so much that it might not be worth that $20 Kroger gift card we drew them in with. User testing is also trial and error with our own equipment. As in figuring out the quirks of technology in the middle of user testing, like when you guide a user to a place in the website only to find that the popup you expected doesn’t actually pop up when it’s supposed to! So it goes…  

Oh, and user testing is of course about improving Michigan Legal Help! The website is meant to be accessible from the way the articles are written to how people find help for their legal issues. After all, we’re designing the website for our users so it needs to work for them, not us. Finally, just because we’re working doesn’t mean that user testing can’t be any fun. Yes, I’m talking about the picture from the Coney display…


In a job where we are researching, writing, and working with technology all day, user testing is the one place where we can interact with those who actually use our product; the people who are the closest thing that we have to clients for the summer. That in itself makes user testing fun for me. I have a passion for helping people and I am enjoying what I’m doing this summer because of how much I know it helps people. But seeing the product in users hands and seeing people light up when they learn how good the website is (yes, that happens), is a joy in itself that can’t be matched by any other work we’re doing.    

Project management swing

The Project

One project that LaDierdre and I are working on throughout the summer is the new system for Michigan Legal Help called triage. It is designed to guide people through the site to get the most relevant information for them without them having to manually search for all of it. This is a summer-long project because the new version of the website is due to go live in September! It makes for a very exciting time indeed at Michigan Legal Help.     Continue Reading Triage for the Win


This summer for my Access to Justice Technology Fellowship I am working with Michigan Legal Help (MLH). I am also glad to say that joining me at MLH is my Michigan State University classmate LaDierdre McKinney! MLH is a website that operates under the wider-reaching Michigan Poverty Law Program. MLH gives legal information to people in Michigan who want to represent themselves in court or simply know more about the law. It covers simple civil matters including family law, housing, public assistance, taxes, and education, among many other subject areas. If you need help with a matter that requires forms, then chances are that we have the form. All you have to do is go through a simple interview process and at the end you will get a completed form ready for filing or mailing.  

Currently there are 47 “Do-It-Yourself” tools offered, and users can generate 138 different forms from those tools. Additionally, there are over 150 articles and over 700 common questions and answers for all of the legal issues we cover. In the first quarter of this year there was an average of 338 forms generated per day through the website, helping make Michigan number two behind New York for most documents assembled on LawHelp Interactive. The website also has 8 videos to help clients, one of which you can watch below if you need to know how to serve divorce or custody papers. The scope of MLH truly is great, and it is expanding practically daily to help more people. That is part of the reason why I’m excited to be part of such a great program and help improve our ever-growing website! Continue Reading Introduction to Michigan Legal Help