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Finding a court or tribunal

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Digital services, User experience and research

Our ‘Court and tribunal finder’ tool is more than just a directory. More than 350,000 people look for information about courts or tribunals each month, totalling more than 1.5 million page views.

The information people look for covers a wide range of things, such as how to get to a court or tribunal, its opening times, its disabled access facilities and the types of cases it deals with. It’s also an important way for people to find out about the safety precautions designed to keep them safe when coming to a court or tribunal during the current pandemic.

While a significant proportion of these page views come from HMCTS staff, research shows that many of them come from external users, such as members of the public or legal professionals, for example when searching for information about the court they need to visit.

A mobile phone displays the Find a Court or Tribunal web page

User experience – research and insight

Research, insight and feedback shows that the existing ‘Court and tribunal finder’ tool has some issues. User research suggests the information it provides can be confusing, people can’t always find the information they need, and in some cases may even get directed to the wrong court. This places extra burden on our users and can create avoidable contacts with our Court & Tribunal Service Centres (CTSCs) and Regional Support Units (RSUs), which isn’t good for either party.

These issues can also be a problem for HMCTS staff working in these front-line teams, who rely on the tool to provide quick, accurate information when responding to customer queries. It’s also used by other internal teams, for example staff processing civil money and possession claims.

The current tool has an interface that allows individual courts and tribunals to place messages on their pages, for example urgent notices about a court closure. Our research suggested that staff would benefit from changes to the admin interface to allow them to update things like notices more easily.

What’s new?

An updated version of the tool, ‘Find a court or tribunal’, goes live to the public today and has been built by a cross-functional HMCTS team made up of people from Digital Technology Services, and User Experience and Insight.

The new tool is designed around user needs, for example ‘I need to find the nearest court which deals with money claims’.

It also reflects the introduction of CTSCs. They’re now listed as individual locations, making it easier for users to get an update on their cases by speaking to an expert advisor instead of trying to contact a court or tribunal directly.

The new tool is designed to:

  • Reduce unnecessary interactions with HMCTS by making it easier for users to find the right court or tribunal for them
  • Improve the search tool so users can use a single box to search for by court name, address, town or city, postcode or (for staff) court codes
  • Improve signposting to online services to encourage people to deal with us online rather than by post or in person
  • Direct users to contact CTSCs rather than individual courts and tribunals buildings
  • Simplify presentation, for example by grouping information for professional users together and making the ‘area of law’ section clearer with sub-pages and help text

Finally, the name itself is slightly different. When the team looked at what people searched for, they noticed that most users typed in ‘find court’ or ‘find a tribunal’.

There’s been a lot of research which suggests that an online service is easiest to find if its name describes the task people want to do. So the team changed the name to ‘Find a court or tribunal’, which also brings it into line with the government service standard for service names.

Next steps

Underneath the surface, the tool has been completely rebuilt on a new platform aligned to HMCTS’ technology choices. This makes it much easier for us to make improvements and respond to policy changes.

First on the list is an improved administrative interface for HMCTS staff to make it easier for us to update local information for court and tribunal buildings. This will address the issues identified by the research the team conducted with RSUs.

The team will keep improving the tool in line with users and business needs: adding links to more services and court types and introducing added functionality to cater for all users.

Further information

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions for improvement please email the Find a court or tribunal team. You can also use this email address to request a change for a specific building.

You can also get an overview of the new tool by watching the recording of the team’s session at the HMCTS Public User Event in November 2020.

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