Guided Interviews in Courts: Part 2

January 15, 2020 by Abhijeet Chavan

More Best Practices for Court Form Guided Interviews

Guided Interviews in Courts: Part 2

Part one of this series explored best practices for building online guided interviews. These interviews help self-represented litigants (SRLs) prepare court forms through a guided series of simpler questions that generate a completed legal form.

Tech platforms such as Tyler’s Odyssey Guide and File™ make it easy for legal professionals to author and manage guided interviews. The best practices are relevant to authoring interviews on most platforms and were compiled by Tyler’s team of licensed attorneys. These in-house experts have spent several years building guided interviews for more than 1,000 forms.

Here are more best practices and tips for building effective guided interviews:

  • Make the content easy for the user to understand. Use plain language throughout the interview, aiming for a 6th-8th grade reading level. Use your word processor’s built-in readability tools or consider a web-based plain language tool such as WriteClearly.
  • Use just-in-time instructional content to provide only the information relevant to the question at hand.
  • Only show the user relevant questions and pages. Use conditional logic to control the visibility of questions the user doesn't need to see.
  • Condense verbiage. Users scan rather than read online content. To get people to read even half of your words, limit your word count to 110 words per page. Use bullet points. Make the first two words of every sentence count.
  • Order questions from easy to hard. Start with basic personal information that the user will know immediately (name, address, phone, etc.). More complex questions that require extensive narrative answers should come later.
  • Group related questions together, even if they appear on different sections of the final form.
  • Avoid multi-branch questions; ask one question at a time. If there is an "and" or an "or," split the question up into two or more questions. Make multi-choice questions where each choice option is long and complex into a series of separate “Yes/No” questions about each choice.
  • Use validation to prevent user errors whenever possible (e.g., on date, money, number fields, etc.).
  • Don’t make the user enter the same information more than once, which gives them the opportunity to enter conflicting information.
  • Indicate which fields are mandatory. Make information the court requires to accept a filing mandatory. Questions that control conditional logic for the visibility of other questions or pages should also be mandatory.

To build effective online guided interviews, provide adequate contextual information before beginning the interview. Make the interview questions easy to understand using plain language and help the user enter accurate information. In addition to collecting relevant data, a well-designed guided interview can also make a self-represented litigant more confident about embarking on a justice journey.


Abhijeet Chavan is a Senior Executive Advisor at Tyler Technologies, Inc. He has over 20 years of technology consulting experience with public sector, higher education, and non-profit clients. Mr. Chavan was named to the Fastcase 50 list of global legal innovators in 2017. He regularly presents at conferences on access to justice and artificial intelligence. Mr. Chavan sits on committees of the State Bar of California, American Bar Association, and National Association for Court Management. Previously, Mr. Chavan served as chief technology officer of a consulting firm; co-founded a media business; and managed geographic data projects. Mr. Chavan has graduate degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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