Blog Content and Design

Best practices for information design on legal help websites

Are you in charge of creating a new legal help website? Or are you in the middle of a redesign of an existing one?

Then you are likely struggling with this big, unwieldy question:

How do we organize all of this legal information so that people can find it & use it effectively?

You’re likely have an information organization & design challenge. Your organization likely has a ton of content: guides, FAQs, clinics, hotlines, forms, document assembly tools, event announcements, intake forms, lookups, and more. How do you lay this all out so people can easily find what matters to them, and helps them move forward on resolving their problems?

After working on designing and redesigning legal help websites over the past decade, I wanted to share out what some of the emerging best practices are.

These benchmark ideals can help people who are either creating a new website or going through a major overhaul of their existing one. Many of the best practices for technology and discoverability are elsewhere on this website.

Here I wanted to focus in on the organization of information, and the user pathways through a website.

Thinking of legal help website users

First, orient the project around 3 frequent users of legal aid, court, and other legal help websites.

These 3 common users: the Expert Power User, Returning User, and Novice User should be at the heart of your design. I advocate for segmenting the Expert Power User off on separate channels — and then focusing most of your navigation, home page guidance, and flows towards the Novice and Returning User.

The Legal Help Website Funnel

How should you think of people’s paths through your legal help website? Especially if you are in a court system or other group with many different users, this can feel overwhleming.

For your focus on members of the public, I recommend a particular Funnel: Homepage > Problem Area> Scenario Pages. At this final node, a user gets a rich payoff of the orientation & task tools they will need to both understand their life problem in terms of the legal system, and to start taking action by either applying for services or doing tasks themselves (like filling in forms or looking up their case).

Your website should help them easily navigate down this funneled path:

  1. From the homepage, with its many offerings, signals of authority, and different value offers to users
  2. To the Problem Area that they are experiencing, with a landing page dedicated to that zone of problems
  3. Then to the Scenario Area that best corresponds to what’s happening in their life. This is a separate page, framed around the life problem they’re experiencing or the goal they have.
  4. On this Scenario-specific page, then presenting the 4 main kinds of content people need to get oriented, and start taking common tasks:
    • Bird’s Eye View definition and map of what the legal system has to offer to people in this scenario, including the phases of dealing with this problem
    • Step-by-step guide to going through these phases (most common version of people’s justice journeys, not including all of the detours and exceptions)
    • Service menu of which organizations (court help centers, legal aid groups, community justice workers, legal tech tools, private attorneys, etc.) can help them at which phase of their journey. What do they offer? Who is eligible and how likely are you to get served? What’s their contact info?
    • Forms & Form Tools for those phases of the legal process that require formal paperwork, so the Returning User especially can start doing these form tasks
    • FAQs, LiveChat, and Customer Service Line to get assistance for unique situations, more support if someone has limited capabilities and clarification about exactly what it all means.
    • If available, Case Lookup to go straight to one’s own case details and start understanding the current case process
    • If available, Sign Up/Intake Form for the person to apply for help services right then and there, as they are getting oriented into this space.

The website team might think about other things to feature on these Scenario pages, like videos, chatbots, slideshows, or other interactive features. But the above combination of information types & format seem to cover the main needs & intents that most legal help website users have.

Homepage strategy

Your homepage should do 2 main things. It doesn’t need to have a lot of information pay-offs (with guides and tools right there). Rather it should be about signalling authority & jurisdiction, and helping people navigate to the right zone of the website to go to.

1. Communicate the value to users

  • What jurisdiction it’s for (and what it’s not)
  • Authenticity, authority of the website

2. Quickly, clearly separate users into right path

  1. Novice users there for help
  2. Returning users looking for more info
  3. Power users there for expert content

Problem-Area Landing Page

Have a home-base for the broad category of problems a person might be having, and help them figure out exactly which scenario / process fits their life situation.

Start with broadest category: Family, Housing, Domestic Violence, Traffic, Money & Debt, Court Basics, Records, etc.

Bring the person to this broad Problem-Area Landing Page & present the most common scenarios within them

  1. Present the most common scenarios in any given problem
    1. Using legal needs surveys or past filing data
    2. For example, “Filing for a divorce” , “Responding to a divorce” or “I got sued for eviction” or “My rental home has bad living conditions
    3. State the scenarios in people’s phrases, to easily match to their search queries & mental models
  2. Provide links, forms, and shortcuts to expert content for Returning Users
  3. Direct Novice Users to a Scenario Page, where they can find guidance

Scenario-Specific (Payoff) Page

For this given scenario, provide the user with key information, categorized as:

  • Quick Bird’s Eye View of Common Phases of dealing with this problem
  • Detailed Process steps in each phase that are the most common sequence a person can go to, to resolve this specific problem
  • Service Menu — who or what can help them
    • Not a laundry list! 
    • Could be on spectrum of DIY to Unbundled to Full Service
    • Could be prioritized by most widely available right now
    • Make it easy for a person to see who can help them, for which process step, and which thing to contact
  • Forms & Form Tools laid out with both quick links
  • Intake or Signup form to get started seeking out human help
  • Case Lookup if available, to understand one’s own case details
  • FAQs and LiveChat to help a person understand if they’re struggling with this info

The visitors to this page are likely early in their journey & need help. Put prominent connections to LiveChat, help phone line, and more there.

In addition to this, a court help page or statewide law help page might also invest in another branch of pages: teh Forms Landing Pages.

Forms Landing Page

For any form or form tool, provide a webpage with context, instructions, and related tasks

  • Many people will reach this page directly from a Search Engine (or AI platform)
  • Explain exactly what this form is for (and what it’s not)
    • Have user-friendly, plain language description of form to make it more SEO-friendly
    • Have Schema Markup and metatags, so that search engines can find and link to this form more directly
    • Make jurisdiction very clear
    • Explain who/when they should use this. Link out to guide pages to give context
    • Provide instructions, videos, FAQs
    • Explain how to use it, how to pay for it/fee waiver, how to efile or file in person

This forms page should be a one-stop shop for a Returning User or a Power Expert User to find the right form, know the instructions on filling it in, seeing any tech tool to help them fill it in, and then knowing exactly how to file it in person or electronically.


I will continue to update this post as more data and anecdotes come in, about which kinds of websites best serve the different users in the public. Please let me know your thoughts, about what strategies for information design and overall website flow work best in your region.

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