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.    



  • The process of sorting victims, as of a battle or disaster, to determine medical priority in order to increase the number of survivors.
  • the determination of priorities for action:

             she began her workday with a triage of emails


Clearly, dictionary definition number one is not applicable here unless we want to refer to our website users as “victims,” which probably isn’t the best idea. So in our case triage refers more accurately to the second definition. Specifically, the triage technology prioritizes certain articles and references for the user based on information the user puts into triage.



For visualization of our work we have two kanban boards that are conveniently located right in the middle of our workspace! One is for general work on the website and the other is for triage. They were previously color coordinated for each attorney in the office, so we put our work on the board with an unused color of sticky note. Some of the attorneys here also use Trello, but we decided to stick with the board because we’ve never done it before and we see it every day regardless of if we’re using it or not. It’s useful for me because I quickly compiled a list of things to work on every day, and when I walk into the office I can take a glance at the boards and see what I need to do without having to think about it. Below you’ll see what they look like.



– photo by Dierdre


We have planned meetings for triage every other week, along with extra meetings before our user testing events. We also have a monthly meeting where we all check in and let Angela (our boss) know what we accomplished in the last month and what is on the table for the next month. The monthly meeting also functions as our sprint retrospective by providing a time to reflect and ask questions on what everyone has been able to do.


Our scrums are effective for triage because of how often we must pivot our thinking. It was especially effective during user testing because we always learned new things during that time period.

For example, on our first day of user testing we learned that testing triage was a good use of our time, but testing our new online intake was not a good idea. A lot of people didn’t have their glasses (even though they were at the library), or they didn’t have very many computer skills, which made the intake test particularly hard. Our testers were usually agitated by the time they got through intake. The next day our team met to talk about what worked and what didn’t, and we decided to cut out intake testing for our next user test.


One bottleneck that I noticed in our process is actually our lack of user testing. We did user testing basically all week last week, but in the weeks that I was here before that we never did. We spent a lot of time talking about, for example, the best way to guide users to triage. Is it through a banner at the bottom or is it through a pop up right in your face? Along with that we discussed how each should look and what exactly they should say to get people to know that by clicking there they would get help.

When we user tested we found that people didn’t notice the banner at the bottom and didn’t like the popup. Those were results that we Now-That-You-Have-That-Feature-Done-I-Want-It-To-Do-Something-Else-Instead-Web-Developer-Memecould have discovered weeks ago even without all the time spent debating exactly how the banner needed to look, because users didn’t notice the banner at all, let alone the diligence that we had put into designing it. Given those results, it seems that user testing earlier on would have been a more efficient use of our time, rather than trying to design a perfect banner and popup even when we knew that one of them ultimately wouldn’t be used.


I think that one of the great challenges with working on the technology side of the law is how disconnected we are from the people who we are serving. We have to think of them every day while trying to write articles that they will understand, or how to make the website appealing and easy to use. Despite that, it’s pretty rare that we can actually ask our users what they think of our creation. We always have to keep perspective on what we’re doing, and hopefully the process that we use will invite us to maintain that perspective. Our project management techniques insure that every time we come together we’re testing each other on what’s good and what’s bad about the website.