Lakitutka Web Service: UX/UI Design with Accessibility in Mind

Lakitutka is a web service developed by the Faculty of Law at the University of Turku. Founded in 1920, the University of Turku is the oldest university in Finland, offering a diverse range of educational programs and research opportunities. Renowned for its strong academic tradition and high-quality research across various fields, including humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and medicine, the university comprises eight faculties and four separate departments. With over 22,000 students and approximately 3,400 staff members, the University of Turku is committed to academic excellence and innovation.

“Collaboration with Hurja was effortless, and the design project was smoothly completed. Particularly impressive was how well the designer grasped both the essence of Lakitutka and our expectations regarding the new user interface. Communication with the designer was easy, and they seemed to easily understand and incorporate the modification requests we presented throughout the project. Hurja’s expert particularly emphasized accessibility, which aligns with our future focus in Lakitutka. We appreciated that the proposed design solutions were clearly explained to us, providing valuable insights into implementing an accessible web service.”

Marjaana Sjölund, Researcher, University of Turku

Goal: Enhancing Accessibility for the Lakitutka Service for All

The University of Turku’s Lakitutka service aims to increase transparency in legislation, promote influence in legislative processes, and support civil society. Initially designed exclusively for researchers and law students, Lakitutka assumed a user base already familiar with legislative processes and the significance of associated documents. As Lakitutka was not initially designed with other user groups in mind, its use demanded a deeper understanding. Additionally, Lakitutka featured complex functionalities that weren’t universally applicable to all user groups.

For these reasons, the decision was made to expand the service in the two-part LakitutkaKaikille project. The focus in designing the new user interface was to ensure accessibility for everyone and provide a clear and user-friendly pathway for monitoring legislative preparation. The goal was to maintain the existing Lakitutka and its functionalities for researchers with minor updates targeting improved user interface clarity and visual appearance, considering the complexity of the original interface.

In addition to the existing Lakitutka, a new LakitutkaKaikille section was designed to represent a simplified and accessible view of the same dataset. The aim was to create a simpler view that is open to all citizens, approachable with a low threshold, and easily understandable. All views were required to adhere to AA accessibility standards.

Lakitutka mockup.

Solution and Implementation

The project commenced with a collaborative kickoff meeting, where detailed information about the project and service was discussed, including the client’s wishes, visions, and needs. The kickoff meeting placed particular emphasis on understanding the challenges posed by Lakitutka’s user interface. Following the kickoff, UI/UX design was initiated, focusing on the development of the new LakitutkaKaikille view. Some of the client’s desired functionalities could not be directly implemented due to accessibility requirements. Alternative accessible solutions were developed to preserve the client’s original vision.

The LakitutkaKaikille view was designed to be easily approachable and more colorful compared to the view intended for researchers. Design considerations included adequate contrasts in both text and color, a clear hierarchy through recognizable header levels, and ensuring a logical keyboard navigation direction for users. To ensure accessibility, the design prioritized responsivity, and a “mobile-first” approach was adopted, considering various display devices.

Proposals for the LakitutkaKaikille view were always submitted to the client in advance for review and feedback before the joint review. During the review, the planned user interface solutions were discussed, and the client had the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. As digital accessibility was a relatively unfamiliar topic for the client, most questions pertained to accessibility and how it is integrated into the service. A detailed walkthrough was conducted to explain why specific solutions were chosen, outlining the accessibility considerations for each decision and justifying why alternative approaches would not have been suitable from an accessibility standpoint.

A photograph of people in an office.

After the review, the LakitutkaKaikille view underwent a few minor adjustments based on shared development ideas. Subsequently, the focus shifted to redesigning views tailored for researchers, enhancing the current service. The essential functionality for the researcher-oriented view was a precise document search function with effective filtering options. The goal was to make information retrieval and discovery more effortless, ensuring that the search function was logical and quick to use. The logic and layout of the functionality were slightly modified to create a more functional whole from the accessibility perspective. Besides an effective search, presenting search results to users in a clear and easily understandable manner was crucial, considering the wealth of information displayed at once. The information was visually organized for easy scanning of extensive datasets, enabling users to quickly find the information they were seeking.

Once all plans were finalized, they were collectively reviewed with the client in an review. Following the client’s approval, necessary materials were prepared for the client’s developers and handed over for further implementation.

Benefits

The University of Turku gained accessible and visually functional user interface plans for the development of the Lakitutka service. The new user interface design, with a strong emphasis on accessibility, allows the service to be accessible to all citizens. In the future, LakitutkaKaikille will provide an open, user-friendly, and easily accessible pathway for monitoring legislative preparation, supporting democratic participation.

The updated Lakitutka tailored for researchers retained essential functionalities while significantly improving user experience and visual appearance. This enhancement streamlines researchers’ information retrieval and analysis, advancing the efficiency and precision of research. Ensuring that all views adhere to AA accessibility standards also guarantees that the service is accessible to all users.

The developed views offer an excellent combination of user-friendliness, accessibility, and efficiency. Considering accessibility requirements not only opens the service to a broader user base but also ensures that legal researchers can effectively and effortlessly utilize the service. Thus, the LakitutkaKaikille project represents comprehensive progress towards a more open, accessible, and user-friendly legislative monitoring service.

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