By Prof Nomesh Bolia, Coordinator – Centre of Excellence for Law and Technology, IIT Delhi, and Surya Prakash BS, Programme Director, DAKSH
An increasing number of cases and the country’s advancement in technology makes it imperative for citizens to have easy access to judicial information. Court websites cater to multiple stakeholders, including litigants, lawyers, judges, law school students, researchers, contract bidders, and lay citizens. Each stakeholder uses websites to access various types of information, including case & general information, court business and notifications. Our study aims to improve access to this information through a rigorous study of the User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) of select High Court websites
With websites already the default means of interaction for many, and soon to be for many more, it is important to design them from a user’s perspective. This is even more important in the case of courts due to factors unique to their role as arbiters of disputes. There are many aspects to consider for UI/UX: for example, aesthetics, information access & retrieval, sensitivity to Indian languages and the differently abled. To make a beginning in this direction, the DAKSH Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Law and Technology at IIT Delhi studied the UI/UX of the websites of six High Courts: Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Madras.
To do justice to the diverse stakeholder expectations, the study consists of three elements: a user experience test, a task-based usability test, and a heuristic evaluation. The first determines whether the websites are structured ‘intuitively’ enough for users, the second element tests the task usability of the websites, and the third element determines whether the websites are in accordance with standard Interaction Design Principles (IDPs).
The user experience test is conducted through a survey of citizens on their experience: respondents rank each website on key factors such as accessibility, usability, and aesthetics. A more in-depth survey is conducted for the task-based usability test where respondents perform specific tasks on each website. These tasks include searching and downloading information such as case summary, cause list, court notifications and contact information. The ease of completing the task and their overall experience with the website is recorded for further analysis. In the heuristic evaluation, each website is assessed according to ten standard IDPs, with each having multiple attributes against which the websites are measured.
Several insights emerge: in terms of architecture, lack of user-friendly and advanced search tools on the website, multiple pieces of scrolling content, and cluttered navigation bars makes users dissatisfied. Multiple navigation bars and complex non-intuitive structures make it difficult for users to perform certain tasks as they were unable to effectively identify relevant sections of the website. In fact, on some websites, users find it difficult even to obtain contact details or full forms of case type abbreviations. The website of the High Court of Calcutta does not even contain a sitemap.
Further, none of the six websites provide clickable explainers for technical words, and many do not provide the option to change the language. Only two of the six websites provide a navigation path to indicate how users reached a particular page, and none provide auto-filled suggestions for users searching for information. Apart from Delhi, none of the other 5 websites provide a search function on every page of the website to help users find what they are exactly looking for. The study also accounted for the “speed” of the websites, and about 35% felt that the speed of the websites for the High Courts of Bombay and Karnataka does not meet their expectations.
Some areas where all websites performed well include assisting users who forgot their passwords, alerting users about an incorrect CAPTCHA, notifying users that no cases were found for the information they submitted, and not using technical jargon while pointing out errors.
Based on these findings, several suggestions are made for each website. While details for each are available in the report, suggestions applicable to all six websites from an overall analysis of the three components of the study include:
1. Task-based usability test demonstrates that some users find it difficult to retrieve details from judgments/orders and case information, the sections most used according to our survey. Heuristic evaluation corroborates this: the average score of all the websites for the corresponding IDPs is a mere ~40%. Suggestions for this include availability of information regarding case summary, cause list and judgements/orders on the same portal, step-by-step
instructions for the use of these sections, and several search options to retrieve case information.
2. User experience test reveals that a significant chunk (20%) are unsatisfied with both the quantity and variety of information, some others with the architecture and interface. Evaluation of the corresponding IDPs also indicates significant room for improvement in the design and structure. Accordingly, grouping of different sections and clear navigation bars, search function (including ‘advanced’ search options) on the top of every page are key
3. Both user responses and heuristic evaluation (overall average of ~50% on corresponding IDPs) reveal issues with aesthetics and readability. Possible improvements include use of appropriate font sizes and sharper colours.
4. Contact information of RTI officers is not easily accessible as highlighted by both user experience and task-based usability tests. Improving this is a low hanging fruit: information on RTI officers, filing RTI queries can and should be provided prominently.
The study report, to be soon launched and made available on the website of the Centre of Excellence (CoE: http://daksh-lawtech.iitd.ac.in/) provides more details, including methodology, evidence of all findings stated above, along with the corresponding statistics as well as detailed suggestions for each website. At the CoE, we believe that the recommendations of this study, if implemented, can help improve the experience of users and play and important role in enhancing citizen access to justice in India.
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