IAALS is the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver. It’s a big name for a big mission: Facilitating continuous improvement and advancing excellence in the American legal system. IAALS’s specialty is the development and application of innovative solutions for the toughest problems facing our courts and profession, including legal education reform, family-focused and less-detrimental processes for divorcing, best practices for how judges are selected and evaluated, and court procedures that ensure just, speedy, and inexpensive outcomes.
The work IAALS does is complex, and translating it to the online world is a challenge. Everyone has a stake in our courts and legal system, but not everyone knows about the issues plaguing the system and the work being done to fix it. IAALS needed a better way to reach its audiences, showcase its recommendations online, and promote its successes that are taking root nationwide.
Enter NEWMEDIA. It was important for IAALS to not only develop a new online interface for the public but a new interface on the back end. Our website designers in Denver provided insight into the benefits of moving to a Drupal platform and the many doors this would open for IAALS moving forward. Additionally, IAALS had three different sites and, by merging the three existing sites under the IAALS umbrella, content management could be streamlined. It was clear NEWMEDIA was able to translate IAALS’s work into a visually appealing, compelling, mobile-friendly narrative to work with other organizations. NEWMEDIA provided a local touchpoint for the project as well as the consulting skills and expertise from start to finish to make the project a success.
Issues & Goals
This project presented many challenges due to the complex nature of IAALS’s content. The content needed to be presented on the website in a way that users could easily find material specific to their needs, which was a pain point with the current three sites.
Combining 3 Into 1
First and foremost, there was a convergence of three separate websites into one unified website. This required defining new content models and content structure while taking into consideration all three looks and scenarios from the existing websites. It also took a tremendous effort by IAALS to get all its divisions to work within one content structure.
To help solve this, NEWMEDIA and IAALS worked together on building out a new back to website in addition to the visuals and front end. For this, NEWMEDIA introduced IAALS to the Drupal platform and its many benefits.
Specialty, Custom Features
In addition to the determined content structure, there were still certain aspects of the site that were so specialized they needed to be brought in separately. For example, the Law Jobs Calculator required an iframe to present the data effectively, and the interactive Rule 1 map required special attention so it could integrate well with the other aspects of content.
The Looks and Design
Finally, it was imperative that the design and layout of the website presented the content in a cohesive manner, and this required significant time and attention during the wireframe and design phases. IAALS and NEWMEDIA spent months working on numerous wireframes in order to determine the layout and functionality of each feature of the site.
In the end, the new website utilized images and related graphics to aid in presenting the content in a way that met and exceeded IAALS’s expectations. The new website and its redefined navigation and content structure make it easy for numerous audiences to locate information quickly and efficiently.
Using a brand new Drupal back-end, IAALS was able to restructure its content into easy-to-follow projects presented in an accessible way for every audience. Issue-oriented structure and content quickly place users within the subject matter that means the most to them with visually-driven material to encourage deeper exploration into IAALS and its work.
IAALS’s many partners, including both individuals and organizations, take a more central role on the new website, and showcase IAALS’s grand reach and depth of expertise—and that its work is only possible by the support of countless dedicated stakeholders across the country.
Consolidation of online assets, including the IAALS blog and old, standalone Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers’ website, allowed for an expansion of content to match the initiative’s impressive growth.
This project required NEWMEDIA to shift its typical approach regarding the use of structured content. Trying to fit this project and its unique content into a box would never work, and it was determined that specialized methods were required to achieve the final outcome. It was challenging for both IAALS and NEWMEDIA to determine what content was most important and needed to be included in the final structure based on the constraints of the project budget and timeline. Through the process, both parties worked hard to create a cohesive content structure and design that provided the best experience for its users.
Working with IAALS, NEWMEDIA learned that projects with such unique and challenging content can require significant additional time in the wireframe and design phases. By taking the time early, creating multiple wireframes, and iterating with the client, the NEWMEDIA team was able to provide a website that solved IAALS’s problems.
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- Jo Hoffman – Project Manager
- Bryon Urbanec – UI/UX Designer/Developer
- Tanner Ferguson – Site Builder/Developer