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Planning your time

Planning out your app

Spend some time mapping out the process. Decide where your app will intervene, and how you will help locate your users in the process. I.e., making sure they use your app at the right point in their journey and they have clearly communicated next steps to complete the full journey. Rarely can a legal app complete the full journey for a user.

The time required for this phase varies depending on the scope you select for your app. Plan to spend several hours at a minimum. Depending on how you involve stakeholders, you may spend several weeks here.

Read more about planning.

Gaining comfort with Docassemble

If you are a completely new Docassemble developer, we recommend getting familiar in two steps:

  • Get familiar with the Docassemble playground and the structure of a YAML file by completing a Hello, World exercise. Use the Docassemble Slack or our Teams channel when you get stuck.
  • Get familiar with the Weaver by following the exercises in our Bootcamp

Give yourself 2-3 weeks to become familiar with Docassemble basics.

The Weaver is a guided process, but it may still take a few weeks to familiarize yourself with its options. Start with a very simple, already labeled form for your first experience.

Getting your first prototype

To produce your first prototype, you must:

  1. label your template and then
  2. automate it in the Weaver.

This first prototype will be very rough. It will not ask questions in the order that you want. You may have extra questions or extra fields, or questions may be asked using our default question library format and may need customization.

Plan to spend about an hour in the Assembly Line Weaver.

Refining and testing

Almost all of your time will be in the refining and testing stage. You will take your draft output from the Weaver and start to customize the output. You should then share your work in progress regularly with subject matter experts to check your assumptions and to refine the content.

You may spend several months here, even for a small project. You should be able to get to a useful prototype stage within a few weeks, however, focusing on:

  1. asking just the questions you want, and customizing stock questions
  2. getting the order of questions right
  3. refining the input style choices, such as adding multiple-choice options
  4. adding navigational elements

Expect to have a lot of back and forth with your subject matter expert about the language of your content. That is where most subject matter experts will have experience and expertise. Be ready to push back where needed to address our guidance on asking good questions.

Launching your product

An app that nobody uses is not a good investment of your time. Plan your launch strategy early, and budget at least a few weeks here.

Our work has a built-in landing page: courtformsonline.org.

Think about your landing page. A Docassemble interview is not indexable by Google, so you should have a static site, perhaps in Wordpress or another technology you already use, to highlight and direct someone to your app.

Excellent examples include:

Also consider building relationships with peers and organizations in control of content. For an access to justice project (non-commercial) you will want to build relationships directly with your regional legal help website, courts, cities, and governmental partners to get direct links to your landing page on their relevant self-help guides.

Consider direct outreach to potential repeat users of your app. For a tool focused on domestic violence, building an ongoing relationship with victims advocates in the police department, legal aid, and domestic violence shelters, for example, will lead to many more users of your app than any approach to reaching consumers directly. Hopefully, most of your consumers will be one-time users. Advocates will use it again and again.

This direct outreach should be sustained over time. You can monitor analytics and referrals to understand where your users are coming from and where to concentrate your outreach.

Consider if you have a budget and willingness to experiment with direct acquisition of consumers via:

  • paid advertising
  • creating and sharing a promo, bus ad, or other materials that may be free advertising sources
  • posting flyers
  • gaining earned media (it helps to have a partner like a city or university here!)