Online forms- they can be one of the most useful resources to self-represented litigants on your site.  But once you’ve passed the biggest hurdle- their actual creation- how to display them on your site?

There are several ways to effectively display these on your site, and most states have taken a combination of methods to give users a variety of paths to get to the forms they need. There are pros and cons to each, and not all of these will work for all states.  It will depend on how many forms you have, how much information is already on your homepage and other sites, as well as how often you want to update the page information.

This blog will show how some states have used widgets to highlight their self help forms.  A follow up blog (Beyond Widgets: Other Ways to Highlight Self Help Forms) will focus on additional methods of organizing and pointing users to these forms.

Whether this is a content widget (it dynamically pulls a list of forms from a content page you have set up) or it is a ckeditor widget (which you edit and update manually from the front page) having these widgets display on your homepage or sidebar are two of the most popular and effective ways to highlight your forms.

Home Page Widgets

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Homepage widgets appear exclusively on your homepage below your topics icons.  In this example from Montana, they selected a widget pulling directly from a content page.  When a new form is added, the content page is automatically updated and the widget refreshes with the title of the new form.

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When a user clicks on “View All” a listing of all the self-help forms appears.  You can also set up CKEditor widget to do the same thing, if you don’t want to create a content page as seen above.  It will look substantially similar to the widget above, but you edit it manually.  If your site has many forms and you choose to use the CKEditor, you may wish to enumerate the relevant areas of law, with links to resource or content pages that have a complete listing of these forms.

The homepage widget has the advantage of prominence on your page.   It does place more text on your homepage, and you will want to ensure that the titles of your forms are simple and short.

Side Bar Widgets

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A sidebar widget allows you to have your forms displayed on your homepage, and also across other pages on your site, since the sidebar does not substantially change from one page to another.

Just like the homepage widgets, you can add a content widget or a flat CKeditor widget onto your sidebar.  Minnesota has a side badge (or button) that links to a resource page listing their forms.  This links to a resource they created listing the relevant areas of law, and also contains instructions and directions.

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Our next blog- Beyond Widgets- will focus on using Categories and Tags to point your users to your forms, as well as using the Header/Footer or a site badge to display links to your form page.   If you have any other ideas, if you do it completely differently,or if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at xkarsten@probono.net or our support desk at support@lawhelp.org.