Leading up to Apple’s most recent new product announcement, there was a buzz of excitement about what new technologies the company would introduce. There was also a fair bit of reminiscing since this is the 10-year anniversary of the iPhone. It was the perfect example of the feelings technology should create: awe and gratitude.
When the court system announced it was re-doing its website, we felt a similar level of excitement. The old site was obviously outdated, and it was time for an update. Unfortunately, the new site did not deliver.
It is clear from the design of the new site that the court has a lot of different audiences it must cater to. It must serve the needs of the public, attorneys, and judges all at the same time. We appreciate and applaud that, so our comments focus only on the needs of attorneys using the site.
We have three major complaints: the site is not intuitive or easy to navigate; the search function does not work well; and the transition created a lot of broken links.
On the old site, many of the pages and resources most often used by attorneys had a link on the front page. Now, you must navigate to the attorney portal and guess and test different links until you find what you are looking for.
For example, the discovery-end-date calendar used to be accessible one click from the main landing page. Now, you have to click on the attorney page and then hunt down the right link.
Another helpful page that is now hidden on embedded links is the Directory of Judges’ Chambers page. One would think this page would be on the Courts tab, or even the Attorney tab.
The login for the efiling system would also be a good addition to the attorney page. We know the court heard our previous complaints about the efiling system, and appreciate that they reached out to us, but all the training in the world doesn’t fix the fact that bad design makes the system we want to embrace difficult to locate and use.
The court should look at user data from the old layout and compare it to the new layout and see what content has seen significant drops. Areas that have seen drops are probably difficult to find, or bad at interfacing with the search function. These could then be moved to a better location on the attorney page, or renamed to be more intuitive.
Using the search function on the new website is frustrating. It seems like the site pages and files are not named well or tagged correctly, so searching rarely turns up what one is looking for. It would be difficult to fix all of the old content so that it is searchable, but this is a problem that must be addressed for new content.
It would also be great if you could get back into the regular site from the search area.
We understand that switching to a new website means some links will be broken, but we have seen few organizations as large as the court care so little about how many links it broke.
It’s annoying, but not difficult to go through and switch all the links one has bookmarked, but it is impossible to go into old court filings and fix links there. Hopefully the court thought about the havoc it was wreaking when it chose to take the new site live.
Please Keep Trying
We applaud the court system for attempting to make the website more user-friendly, but the finished product missed its mark.
As we said above, our comments focus on the needs of attorneys using the site. We hope that the court will also ask some lay people who use the site (perhaps juries, people paying tickets, and pro se litigants) what they thought of the website and the information it provides. We have a hunch there is room for improvement. And further attempts to improve the court website would certainly be met with gratitude from all its users.•