What makes a usable govt website?

The city of San Jose has developed an 8 point usability scale for its government websites.

These 8 steps lay out simple criteria for key factors to make a website work for visitors. These principles can also apply to legal aid, court, and other law help websites.

Our Legal Help Dashboard 4 key categories (tech performance, discoverability, content, and user-friendly design) subsume many of these individual 8 points. But it’s very useful to see them laid out!

Here are the alpha standards they propose for public interest website quality:

  1. Easy to Use
  2. Easy to Understand
  3. Error-free
  4. Mobile-friendly
  5. Accessible
  6. Consistently Designed
  7. Fast
  8. Discoverable
Copyright: City of San Jose
Copyright: City of San Jose

Copyright: City of San Jose

For legal help, we might add a few key other things on:

  • Making jurisdiction very clear, so people aren’t relying on the wrong region’s laws
  • Using content presentations that will be scannable, presentable on Google, and likely to convey complex legal issues
  • Available in key languages other than English
  • Built for people in high-stress, panic modes — so constantly offering phone numbers & easy access points in addition to the legal information

2 comments

  1. Good afternoon, Thank you for your presentation for the Ohio Supreme Court today. I handle content for the Clermont County (Ohio) Common Pleas Court, General Division. Do you have any further suggestions for official court websites as distinct from legal aid sites? Are there things a court should NOT do that a legal aid site should?

    1. Hi, Thank you for your message. I would say that Court Self-Help Center website should be fairly equivalent to a Legal Aid site. THe main functions should be about starting people off on their justice journey in a good way:
      – Engaging people with messages & titles that assure them that they’re at a place where they can get help with their civil justice problems
      – Providing basic orientation to the topic, the process, and options they might have
      – Making clear handoffs to in-person services, whether that be in a self-help center, legal aid office, on the phone, or over chat.
      The court site might also have details about the court-related tasks that the person might need to know about on their justice journey:
      – court timings, locations, and support around parking/transit/childcare
      – options for virtual or remote proceedings (if they exist)
      – official forms & free services to fill in those forms and file them
      – suggestions about best ways to prepare for hearings & meetings at court

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