Roger Smith, a UK academic, presented at the recent ILAG on his review of websites as a potential alternative to human advice. Here are his fascinating conclusions as to what is most important:
- Design is important.Too many websites are little more than digital leaflets: many legal advice websites are exactly that. Someone has put an existing leaflet on the web. They do not use the web’s interactive power: they just have pages of information. The best sites use the fewest words to the best effect – particularly important if you are using a phone to access them;
- The best sites take you on a journey, replicating what happens when you book an airline ticket – as you list places, dates, and times options are refined out and you are given only the core information relevant to you. Too few websites use interactivity, decision trees and what might be called an ‘app approach’.
- The best websites link to opportunities for assistance by other means. Websites are not a ‘fire and forget’ form of provision. The best websites are not ‘stand alone’ virtual resources.
- An advice website needs to work from the perspective of the person consulting it. Too many websites work from the advisers’ perspective;
- To get near to replacing a need for face to face interaction, the information on the website needs to be specific, relevant and useful. This is very hard to judge and really needs an expert from inside the jurisdiction to make a qualitative assessment.
- The very best websites raise the possibility of eliminating the advice from the dispute resolution process.
I highly recommend the whole piece.