Bringing empathy to the California divorce system

User Research and Product Strategy for Hello Divorce

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Erin Levine runs a family law firm in East Bay that found huge success with its approach of addressing the personal and emotional aspects of divorce matters, rather than just simply the law. Generating more clients than her team of lawyers could handle, Erin created Hello Divorce, a concept for a platform that leverages her subject matter expertise to help guide people through the divorce process in California, making it more accessible, understandable, and less expensive.

Erin came to Yeti for a 2-week research and roadmapping sprint to explore how she might use the power of technology to grow her business, without losing the humanity and empathy that make her legal representation so special to her clients. My UX research design partner Jay and I worked with Erin to help define and explore her client-user experience, as well as provide recommendations on a future product development process.

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DISCOVERY

We started with a discovery workshop to ensure the best subject matter download between teams, learning as much as we could about the legal process and the hardest parts of the process for her and her clients, who were California professionals, straight and gay between the ages of 28–58. They were curious and actively involved in the process, making strategic decisions influenced by cost/benefit analysis and practical considerations.

Erin envisioned a truly modern divorce, fusing technology, design, thoughtful advocacy, and a good price point to create a human-centered online experience for getting divorced, from start to finish.

Problem Statement

Divorce is messy, painful, expensive and the legal process is rigid and hard to understand. We believe there is a segment of people who are smart and savvy enough to file their own divorce if they get advice as they go, forms are understandable and well informed, and they know the path they’re on, at an affordable price.

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User journey mapping helped us get a holistic and in-depth view of both the legal and emotional journeys our users would take. This exercise turned out to be tricky, since each user’s situation and divorce was so unique, but soon we started to see patterns in user behavior and how levels of conflicts affected the user’s need for more legal support.

By the end of the workshop and a series of design exercises, we were able to drill down on Hello Divorce’s Design Principles that would guide design decisions moving forward and ensure we stayed true to our mission.

Design Principles

Be the one constant in a sea of transition.

Understand the user’s journey, calm their fears, and guide them from start to finish with advice for where they’re at.

Everyone wants a Hello Divorce divorce.

Build a trusted and reputable brand that’s disruptive and for users, not lawyers.

Divorce doesn’t have to be the worst thing you go through.

Give users the confidence to take control of their divorce and future by being cost effective and demystifying the process.

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RESEARCH

Following the Discovery Workshop, Jay and I conducted a series of 10 hour-long generative user interviews with Erin’s current and past clients. Our research goal was to learn as much as we could about participants’ mindset throughout all stages of the divorce experience and to understand what they valued most of Erin’s client services.

Jay led the interviews while I took extensive notes and jumped in with additional questions. We organized all of our interview notes by color coded post-its for each of our 10 participants, before moving them around as we identified emotional themes and pain-points across the board.

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Me and Jay, having a good time reviewing interview notes

After synthesizing the interview notes, it was clear that our biggest challenge to creating an online divorce tool was maintaining the trust and confidence that Erin’s in-person services provided. Not only were participants dealing with traumatic, emotional, life-changing times, they were also faced with a complicated process and daunting legalese. Erin and her team projected warmth and calmness, along with competitive expert legal advice.

“There was trust early on — it was like talking to a family member.”

“I’m an attorney, and even I didn’t have the confidence to DIY this.”

User Journey Map

User journey map highlighting pain points and opportunities

ROADMAP

We rejoined with Erin to review the pain points and opportunities that our research yielded and ideate on approaches to solving for user needs. How might we give users the confidence to (mostly) DIY? How might we understand where the user is at in the divorce process, guide them through, and offer continued support?

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We ran design studio exercises to generate a bunch of solutions to these questions, then evaluated our favorites considering product impact and development costs.

For the remainder of the sprint, I created a product roadmap with prioritized user stories, getting input from Yeti’s tech lead to make sure the scope was within budget. 

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Mapping the MVP product flow

OUTCOME

Erin found tremendous value in our research insights and has been incorporating our recommendations into Hello Divorce as her resources allow.

© Elise Fung 2018