Legal Spotlight: Top Website for Legal Information
Where do you go to get your legal questions answered? Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO) understands that many of Illinois’ lower-income communities don’t have a reliable, easy-to-understand, and user-friendly source for accurate legal information, especially if they can’t afford a lawyer. To help those looking for answers, ILAO just launched a new website - IllinoisLegalAid.org - that provides immediate access 24/7 to free legal resources and information. The new IllinoisLegalAid.org, launched on August 1st, completely transforms the way that people identify, understand and resolve their legal problems when a lawyer is out of reach.
ILAO has been providing free online legal resources and tools to those who need it most for the past 15 years, and with a new website that is feature rich and intuitive, finding resources to help answer tough questions just got a lot easier. We sat down with Samantha Kyrkostas, Development Director to understand a bit more about how people with legal questions can leverage the new IllinoisLegalAid.org
1.What are the best parts of the website for those looking for legal help?
The new IllinoisLegalAid.org has a ton of really great new features designed to make it easier for people seeking legal information to identify and solve their legal problems. For non-lawyers like me, there are definitely some features that I consider to be game-changers, in particular, our uber-simple navigation taxonomy. Instead of using legal categories like those traditionally used to define a legal problem (e.g. “consumer debt,” “eviction,” “small claims”), we created an intuitive and simple 8-category dropdown menu from which visitors can choose.
These 8 categories - Family & Safety, House & Apartment, Health & Benefits, Business & Work, School & Education, Citizens & Immigration, and Crime & Traffic - were user-tested many, many times to ensure that they were useful. For the elderly man trying to figure out what kind of help he can get to cover his medical costs, or the single parent trying protect their kids from an abusive ex, simple navigation means more time finding answers and less time searching.
2. What has been the most popular part of the site since it launched?
It’s hard to say what has been the most popular part of the site since it launched. But one of features that I can’t stop raving about is our “Get Legal Help” triage tool. “Get Legal Help” is a single, globally-accessible point-of-entry that guides users to the best available resource to help them with their problem or question. It’s a really great tool for people who don’t know what category their legal problem falls into or who want a specific type of help - e.g. a lawyer, a court form. The system asks a series of plain-language prompts to help users narrow the scope of their issue until they are presented with the right resource for their problem. For visitors looking for a lawyer, this tool plugs into Illinois’ statewide Online Access system, which lets income-eligible users apply for legal help from one of our legal aid partners online.
3. What is your favorite part about the new site?
Truthfully, my favorite part of the new site is the fact that it consolidates all 5 of our former audience-specific websites into a single IllinoisLegalAid.org. The new site is a one-stop source for not only members of the public seeking legal help, but also the legal aid advocates and pro bono professionals who represent low-income Illinoisans, and the courts that serve them. Not only does this help us work more efficiently and collaboratively as an organization, it also helps us ensure that members of the public seeking legal information don’t end up on a website developed and written to serve lawyers.
4. How has the website changed the way you interact with users/members?
One of the biggest changes is that everyone can now sign up to be a member of IllinoisLegalAid.org. In the past, this feature was only offered to legal professionals. Now, anyone can become a member and sign up for events, bookmark favorite pages, get a personal dashboard, post comments and get updates on the law. Membership allows us to build relationships with our users, offer them tools that we think will be useful to them, and better understand their needs. We’ve also got an awesome new rating system that allows people to rate the resources on IllinoisLegalAid.org similar to the way that you might rate a product on Amazon. Once the site is up and running for a few more months, we will be able to use these ratings to highlight top rated resources and address issues with resources that have received low ratings.