Blog Design Reviews

Designing an Eviction Help court website

Our team at Stanford Legal Design Lab collaborated with a court, help center team, and community stakeholders in Cincinnati to build an eviction help webpage.

In this video, you can see a walkthrough of the choices we made to make the site as successful as possible in being discoverable, engaging, and usable to tenants and landlords.

It walks through our homepage design choices, and flags some of the important things other legal aid and court partners can do on their websites:

  • Make a clear brand and call to action that is about empowerment
  • Flag your jurisdiction clearly and often
  • Provide distinct pathways & options for the different parties in the case
  • Link to phone numbers and websites of financial assistance, legal assistance, and others who can help with the problem that’s related to the website
  • Give links to people who can help a person who decides they don’t actually want to DIY this legal process

Where do people start on your legal website?

Many legal aid and court groups build their website with the assumption that people will start at the home page. But that might not reflect people’s actual journeys through your website.

Where do people start on your website?

If most of your visitors are coming from Google Search, they are likely being sent to where your detailed content is. Google Search will try to match their search query with the page and content that has the substance that will help them. That means Google Search may be sending them to your pages with FAQs, guides, tutorials, and other areas with high amounts of specific, detailed substance.

Unless a person is searching for your organization by name, Google Search is likely not sending them to your home page.

So what does that mean for your website design? Of course, still invest in a great homepage with clear messaging, design, and support. But on your sub-pages, especially those with lots of detailed content, then be sure to have links, navigation tools, and other important resources there on those high-traffic, detailed pages. For example:

  • Putting other common documents and pages that people with this problem might have Google Search may have put them in the deep-end. Could you give them more context and links, that might give them other context and tools.
  • Adding in an off-ramp to Legal Aid phone numbers or intake processes
  • Emphasizing the jurisdiction of the site, so that the person coming to this page knows if it applies to them or not.
  • Signaling the authority of the site so that the user knows that it is trustworthy, free, and authoritative.

Even when people are starting at the “end” — by going straight to the detailed resource end-point rather than the starting home page — your design can support them wherever they land.