Estimated reading time: 6 minutes 29 seconds
UI/UX isn’t usually associated with practicing law. However, they are critical to running an effective and efficient law firm. Tune in to this bonus short of the Legal Helm podcast where Helm360’s Digital Producer, Shawn Read, and the firm’s Executive VP, Bim Dave, discuss UI and UX and how they’re relevant to law firms.
Bim Dave is Helm360’s Executive Vice President. With 15+ years in the legal industry, his keen understanding of how law firms and lawyers use technology has propelled Helm360 to the industry’s forefront. A technical expert with a penchant for developing solutions that improve business systems and user experience, Bim has a knack for bringing high quality IT architects and developers together to create innovative, useable solutions to the legal arena.
Shawn Read is Helm360’s Digital Producer. He has a hand in all aspects of Helm360’s digital media production, including videos, online advertising, and email marketing. His role includes working closely with company stakeholders to identify key storytelling moments, creating original content, and providing media coverage for Helm360’s many worldwide events.
Shawn: I want to ask you about the difference between UI and UX. Could you explain the difference and why it matters?
Bim: It’s a great question. User Interface (UI) is the way we build the on-screen experience from a visual perspective.
So imagine a law firm a client intake form. It has fields on it, like the client’s name, telephone number and all those kinds of things. Ultimately, these elements form the user interface; so all of the different buttons you click, all the different elements in the form. UI does exactly what you need it to do in terms of plugging in all of that information and then clicking a button to get it to the database so it gets recorded. That’s sums up UI.
User experience (UX) is the way you navigate that form from an experience perspective in terms of the smoothness of the transitions or the way a lookup works; how easy it is to navigate that form to the point you actually click on it.
When you look at user adoption at certain levels within a firm, particularly at the senior partner or senior lawyer level, you see a lot of those systems have poor user adoption. The reason is because of the UX. It’s either the a little disconnected or it’s not intuitive. It’s not fast enough. There’re too many clicks involved to get to the destination. There’re not enough proactive elements of the application design to enable their inputs to move the thing along in the workflow and that makes the biggest difference.
When we think about the law firm applications that are out there today, a lot of them are very sophisticated, very well designed in their own right in terms of being able to be very functionally rich. But from a UX perspective, they’re quite poor because they’re dependent on a bigger ecosystem in terms of the workflow that they live within.
Going back to that new client intake form as an example, that’s the first step of a whole flow of activity that happens. You bring in customer information which is launched into your CRM experience. It could also be launched into your practice management experience from client matter intake perspective. Then your conflict search experience, because you then need to make sure you can represent that client; your document management experience, because you need to create a set of documents associated with that client in terms of intake letters and all that kind of stuff. All of those things are fundamentally playing across different systems.
The way you interact with that experience is the key thing here. Being able to really have an experience that makes sense and is easy enough to adapt to as part of your workflow. That’s what it comes down to.
The user experience you have and what you want to achieve at a law firm is something that’s so simple and easy to use that it’s just baked in as part of your workflow. People shouldn’t have to think about going to use an application. It should just be the thing they need to do to move on in the same way you pick up your phone and go into the news app to check the news.
Shawn: Are you saying that an application could have a good UI but a poor UX and that that would decrease adoption over time?
Bim: Exactly. We’ve seen so many examples of that. We’ve seen BI applications being rolled out, which are very functionally rich, they serve amazing dashboards, give all of the numbers to slice and dice, but the UX is so poor in terms of the number of clicks needed because the dashboards haven’t been designed or built in the right way or the technology has been implemented based on an assumption. It’s what we think the user needs to be more productive or what we think the users need to deliver their job more efficiently.
It comes down to that interaction between your stakeholders, the end users of the system, and really understanding the behavior of how they interact with their data, how they interact with their clients, and how they interact with one another. Really painting the picture before you start implementing some of these solutions is key because if you get the right stakeholder input, you build an application or an application interface that makes more sense to those people.
That’s a big part of what we do at Helm360. We really try to get closer to the customer and the customer journey to understand how to build products and features into our product lines. Last week, we held a Termi virtual user group with a few of our client firms to help shape the roadmap for the next year ahead from a development perspective. We don’t want to build products in a bubble. We work with them and listen to their feedback to understand what they enjoy about the application, what they don’t like, what they think could be improved and what they see is key functions that are missing.
There’s always an element of innovation that comes from us, but a lot of the feedback around workflows and the different processes really come from the audience so we can build a UX that actually makes sense.
Shawn: Do you find that the feedback is consistent in terms of what the client requests?
Bim: In some cases, yes, but not all the time. Every law firm that we’re working with has a different problem or priority they’re trying to solve. It can range from the more simplistic scenarios, like needing variations of certain types of reports that can be built on the fly, redone easily, and distributed to certain people really easily. Whereas another firm may be more focused on a workflow and thinking, “how do I collect on monies that we’ve billed for in a more efficient way?” So it varies depending on the audience and where they are on their journey.
Like I said, a lot of firms we’ve seen over the last year or so are going on their own UX journey to explore ideas and ways to be more efficient. This has to be planned and needs to have the right stakeholder buy in. There’s a way to implement these types of project to ensure you get maximum impact. A lot of it ties to specific use cases that can bring a return on investment, because once you prove out some of those use cases using the technology, then it becomes a real solution to a real problem. Then you take that and build on it.
Want to continue the UI/UX conversation? Interested in learning how to improve your technology adaptability and efficiencies? Contact us! We love helping law firm run their businesses better.