Developing a Mobile Strategy to Reach Our Clients summary
Hello everyone! This past Wednesday was LSNTAP and Pro Bono Net’s joint webinar on “Developing a Mobile Strategy to Reach our Clients.” It was a great session with many helpful insights shared by our presenters, who included:
- Mike Monahan, Pro Bono Director at the State Bar of Georgia Pro Bono Project,
- Raquel Colon, Director of Development at Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV),
- Gwen Daniels, Director of Technology Development at Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO),
- Tony Lu, CitizenshipWorks Project Coordinator at Immigration Advocates Network,
- Liz Keith, LawHelp Program Manager at Pro Bono Net, and
- Moderating, Xander Karsten, LawHelp Program Coordinator at Pro Bono Net.
To kick off the session, Karsten talked about the goals of the session: basically, a review of what organizations should consider in planning mobile projects. Karsten then talked about why mobile was important, citing in particular the statistics below (most notably, that the percentage of households earning less than $30,000 per year and using smart phones has nearly doubled from 22 percent in 2011 to 43 percent in 2013).
Karsten then defined a few key terms related to “mobile:” SMS (text messages), apps (downloadable applications), and Mobile sites (websites optimized for viewing on mobile devices).
Karsten turned the presentation over to Monahan to discuss SMS Text Messaging Campaigns. Monahan talked about the goal of the text messaging project he worked on with the State Bar of Georgia’s Pro Bono Program: to get the resources on their website into the hands of the people who need them. To do this, the Pro Bono Program has a TIG in partnership with Pro Bono Net, Georgia Legal Services Program, Illinois Legal Aid Online, the Northwest Justice Project, and the LawHelp/NY Consortium.
They will find and isolate specific legal problems, figure out how to package a campaign around that issue, and contract with a marketing organization to get the word out via text message. For example, a user could text the phrase, “protective order” to a 5-digit code and receive tailored information based on responses to a set of questions. He says that it could be particularly helpful in disaster situations when information needs to get out quickly to a large number of people.
Monahan also plans to create an “Outreach Tool Kit” to aid with replication of the project.
Next, Colon talked about LSNV’s appointment reminder system TIG. Essentially, the system is designed to notify clients via text message, email, or voice message of their upcoming appointments or court hearing dates, and is integrated with LSNV’s Kemps CMS. The goals are to reduce no-shows, increase the efficiency of the intake staff’s and case handlers’ time, increase utilization of the cloud-based telephone system to reduce the number of calls regarding missed appointments, and to minimize the amount of time that applicants have to wait for new appointments.
To create the system, LSNV will work with a developer, most likely Twillio Cloud Communications. Twillio provides a cloud API for voice and SMS communications that integrates notifications with existing software. The system will track its calls and feed into a database. LSNV’s Kemps CMS is also an important part of the project as it serves as a bridge between the API functions and the database, so LSNV will merge the messaging system to mapping fields in the Kemps Clients tables. They’ll pay specific attention to victims of domestic violence so that the system will not leave them messages at unsafe phone numbers.
The project is currently in its first phase – planning – but should be moving forward soon. Colon hopes to make the system available in multiple languages, as LSNV currently offers intake in English, Spanish, and Korean.
Before moving to the next presenter, Karsten drew the audience’s attention to a conversation going on in the chat regarding whether people would answer calls from unfamiliar numbers. He brought up that users have to send a text to the number to “opt in,” so they should recognize it, but that it was currently being considered at Pro Bono Net.
Then Daniels discussed Illinois Legal Aid’s smart phone app, available for Android and iOS. The app was a part of a 2010 TIG in partnership with Pine Tree Legal Assistance, and launched in September 2011. So far, it has 7,500 iOS downloads and 6,000 Android installs.
To begin, Daniels and her coworkers created prototypes using Axure RP (similar to Balsamiq Mockups, free to nonprofits). These pieces of software allow the creation of a mock-up that can be used to demonstrate use of the app, before any code is written.
A few considerations before getting started were what platform to use (iOS vs. Android vs. both), whether Apple would approve it (take a close look at their guidelines!), who would build it (development will likely have to be outsourced), and how it will be maintained (to keep up with new versions, etc).
In terms of content, Daniels said some considerations included what content was already in existence, creating something “mobile friendly” that makes sense in terms of an app (as opposed to a mobile website), and using only a limited amount of content.
After development was complete, Daniels conducted usability testing based on a series of scenarios, which she emphasizes is very important.
The lessons learned included to set the scope of the project early on, expect continuing maintenance after the project is completed, expect to do a lot of testing, and that outreach is really important. Finally, decide whether the time investment is worth it. There have not been a huge number of downloads of ILAO’s app, but it has been useful for PR and outreach purposes. You can see Daniels’ documentation on ILAO’s website under research and development.
Next, Lu talked about the CitizenshipWorks mobile app. To begin with, he discussed the brainstorming process and the importance of avoiding “scope creep;” that is, to define the goals clearly so that you don’t try to do too many things. Features, he says, can always be added later.
Once you’re done brainstorming, assess your team. CitizenshipWorks used a company called American Eagle to build its Android app, so defining business requirements and completing a thorough scenario map was critical. You can use programs like Dia and MindMeister to create your diagram.
Lu and his team created “wireframes,” the app’s “skeleton” in PowerPoint and Keynote. This allowed the team to spot a lot of user interface issues in advance – it helps to envision how the app will look on a small screen.
It was important to Lu that the app look similar to CitizenshipWorks’ website, so they used the same color scheme, typeset, imagery, and icons. To maximize limited screen real estate on mobile devices, the team also turned some design elements (like the logo) into buttons to accomplish tasks like returning to home.
Lu noted that although his team tried to prepare content ahead of time, they couldn’t avoid having to go back in and change things, which was a little difficult since they were working with a contractor. However, he also said that having wireframes and mock-ups helped to reduce the need for this, as well as with keeping content brief and minimalistic. They also developed a “staging feed” to allow them to preview the app before it was made live, as well as an API to pull content from the Pro Bono Net directory.
In the building process, regular communication with the developers was critical, so Lu instituted a weekly check-in call. That and flexibility were crucial to the process, and can even result in a better app. Like Daniels, Lu emphasized the importance of testing early and often on a variety of devices. You can also use online emulators, though they aren’t perfect.
To wrap up his presentation, Lu answered some questions. He mentioned that the app is updated using Immigration Advocate Network’s CMS – an .xml file is created, which the app checks against an old version to see if there are updates. This prevents the team from having to write a new app every time they update something.
Finally, Keith talked about the 2013 TIG at Legal Aid Services of Northeastern Minnesota called “Pro Bono to Go,” still in the planning phase. It will be developed in partnership with Pro Bono Net, Legal Services State Support, and the Minnesota State Bar Association. The app is meant to provide support for advocates in situations where they might otherwise not get it by developing a mobile version of ProJusticeMN.org featuring settlement checklists and client interview guides.
Keith then talked about those two types of content, checklists and guides. She said that because settlement opportunities can arise quickly and unexpectedly, often in court, and because they can provide tremendous benefits to the client, it’s important to get them right – but there are nuances that the inexperienced pro bono attorney may overlook. Overall, Keith stated, the use of checklists can make attorneys more comfortable with taking pro bono cases.
Likewise, mobile client interview guides provide support on-the-go support during field work (for example, at walk-in clinics). They help practitioners to get better and more complete information from clients, and therefore help them to provide better advice. The guides also help to speed up issue-spotting, so that sessions are more time-efficient.
On the technical side, Pro Bono Net is developing an HTML5 mobile website app (as opposed to a native app like CitizenshipWorks’) for the ProJusticeMN CMS and a mobile-specific user interface. The tools to publish the content will be integrated with the ProJusticeMN interface but support cross-publishing between the main site and the mobile version. Resources for replication of the project will be made available on probono.net once the project is completed.
Back to content, Keith talked about the content priorities survey just conducted last month among attorneys. Asked what types of settlement checklists and interview guides have and would be useful, the most popular answers were those relating to divorce and child custody. Based on these results, the project will develop ten guides and ten checklists for the app.
In terms of functionality, that survey also found that most volunteer attorneys want to work with the resources in a few ways: they want to be able to download and print the resources for use offline, they want to have an “email to myself/a friend” option, and they want to be able to read them on a phone or tablet. These responses will help to guide the choice of features included in the end product.
Karsten wrapped up the session with a discussion of other technologies to consider. First he suggested geolocation, which allows you to crowd source mapping data, provide maps, and deliver services interactively.
He also talked about mobile video considerations, like video format (YouTube is a great universally-accessible option) and types of shots used (close ups vs. landscapes; keep in mind the small screen size and stick with close-ups!), and length of video (the shorter the better). Interactive videos and user-generated content are also great options on the mobile platform.
Finally, Karsten talked about integrated voice response, which allows a computer to interact with humans through voice. The technology allows users to select options to receive specific information in a variety of languages on either landlines or cell phones. It’s a great way to get out information in emergency situations or to remote regions.
With that, the webinar wrapped up. Be sure to join us for our next webinar on Cloud Security on August 7th, 2013!