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On Wednesday I had the pleasure of meeting with Tom Baldwin and Scott Preston to discuss LPM and general law firm challenges. One subject came up that triggered a repressed memory. Tom mentioned the importance of the users’ experience  – UX or UI (user interface) depending on your perspective – when seeking adoption of new technologies. Having a proper UI expert has proven to be so important that he has contracted to have some work not only on upcoming projects, but also review a few of their existing custom developed apps.

This comment triggered the release of a repressed memory from a recent software training I ‘experienced.’ The software in question is actually very functional. It may be the most functional in its class. However, the user interface is from 1990. One might argue that functionality reigns supreme, since that is what users really need form technology. But at a point in the training all of my frustrations came in to focus. For the umpteenth time, I watched the trainer go through the same 10 or so clicks to initiate a ‘new file.’ That task should really be one click. For the first portion of the training I was excusing the UI’s ancient look and feel, but then it occurred to me bad UI is also a significant productivity issue.

Add on top of that Tom’s note that user adoption rates are strongly impacted by UX and you have a compelling reason to employ a UI expert for every software project. I implore IT professionals to always make UI / UX a priority in your development efforts, even if it’s just a SharePoint update.

With that off my chest – I will re-engage my memory suppression efforts.

  • On target as always! The user experience is the difference between the best software functionality on the planet which no one will want to use and a less well designed application which entices users to adopt it. In LPM especially, there are numerous technology tools that are incredibly robust, but require a doctorate degree or its equivalent for a user to find its value. Without a UI that encourages adoption and provides tangible paybacks to the user, great software typically remains on the shelf and represents wasted resources.

  • I couldn't agree more with the sentiment in this post. The user experience is so much more important than the features and functions of a system. But most firms do not have the resources to develop their own software and hire an interface specialist. We are at the mercy of the limited number of software vendors that provide software for law firms. And I can attest to how many of them just don't get it. If you want to equate it to Apple, Steve Jobs would have run every single legal app developer out of town on a rail for putting out pure garbage.
    So what do we do? I think it is incumbent upon all of us in the legal technology world to push back against vendors who just don't get it – who don't make any effort to bring simplicity, elegance or ease of use to their products. Who’s with me?

  • Anonymous

    I am with Frank! After years of working with systems and products common in other information-heavy industries, I was, and still am, shocked at the antiquated and unusable interfaces in legal tech. It's 10 years behind…

  • Great post Toby!

    I fall back on one of my favorite sayings:

    Making it is easy… Making it easy (for the user) is not.

    But, making it easy (easier) for the user is what UX is all about, and is vital to the overall success of the resource.

  • Anonymous

    Great post! I agree with Frank, we need to push our software providers to delivery better products but it's going to take more than one firm to make an impact. It's time we demand proper value from our legal-vertical vendors.

  • I agree with Toby. As the owner of a marketing strategy and technology company, and the designer of software used by non-technical users (heck, I am a non-technical user), we have differentiated ourselves with the intuitive UX of our proposal automation, experience management and website CMS tools. No new feature or enhancement is deployed unless it meets the standard of our typical users: crazy-busy, multi-tasking, short-term memory challenged legal marketers and lawyers who must deliver something in five minutes or less.

    I didn't know how unusual that approach was until I dug into the tools of our competitors.

    Great job, Toby!

  • For those interested, here's a short article I put together for ILTA's Peer to Peer Magazine on the topic: