UX Matters had an interesting article some time ago that recently came back across my desk. The article makes a number of points, but the one I want to highlight today is the challenge of creating a single design for two very different sets of users.
People engage with our legal system in the US to achieve some goal—usually one relating to some form of risk mitigation or conflict resolution. Because legal services involve both interactions and goal-directed behavior, one might expect the legal system to have been designed on principles of usability…
When we are starting any human factors design project, we have to understand the context of use. I suspect that legal documents get more use in the courtroom context than they do in front of the client. So does that justify designs that target that context over comprehensibility by the client user?
[Twitter “Do you read the #contracts you sign? @uxmatters, #legalese”]
Not too long ago, I was retained as a human factors expert to testify in a case where some retirees signed financial advising contracts that they clearly did not understand. The legalese was hard enough for me to plough through. I couldn’t imagine they did more than glance at how complicated the contract was and sign it based on their trust in the advisor’s honesty. Unfortunately . . .
I also wrote a chapter in Mike Wogalter’s Handbook of Warnings on this topic. In that chapter, I reviewed the types of challenges that hard to read documents generate and some human factors design solutions. That was almost a decade ago, but nothing has changed. The designers of these documents are the lawyers, so it is not surprising that they would design for themselves. If consumer product designers and software programmers fall into this trap, why would we expect the legal profession to be any different?
I am not one (of the all too common) HF practitioners who whines about HF never getting the priority that it deserves, but this is a case where it can really impact thousands of lives. Any suggestions?
Image credit: Brian Turner